Return of the Sagebrush Rebellion

Fake outrage over memo on national monuments being used to gin up grab of our public lands-

I’ve been meaning to write something about this because it is as plain as day that they are up to this. However, RLMiller did it first on the Daily Kos, so here it is.

Return of the Sagebrush Rebellion. by RLMiller. Daily Kos.

Kos is a Democratic Party oriented web site, but you don’t have to be a Democrat to see this same old crap argument coming up again after putting it back in its grave (again) in 2006.

Yes, they mean to steal our lands and sell them off under the guise of state management. They are peddling a version of the same old talking points they have used since the 1940s. They say they will keep the “important lands” in federal ownership. They always say this. They assume we are bunch of damn retards who think the national parks are the only public lands with anything of interest on them.






  1. Virginia Avatar

    Ralph – thanks for posting this. I did post it on your other thread, but every week RLMiller posts a wildlife/environmental article on the Dailykos. Yes, kos is a Progressive site – not just Democratic as they attack the do-nothing Democrats in Congress as well as the Republicans. It is a great source of what is going on in politics as well as other issues, such as healthcare, etc. They also have a great posting about every other day of cats, dogs, gardening, a bird blog every weekend that has fantastic bird pictures taken by bloggers. Nuclear, climate, astronomy and other issues are discussed. Of course, I read first – then Dailykos!

  2. JB Avatar

    Same old story in Utah [yawn].

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I need to post a longer story on this “rebellion” from the top.
    I’m pretty busy right now, but their tactics need to be pointed out such as local flattery.” Oh, the people of Utah will manage these lands so much better than bureaucrats in Washington.”

    They will not say, of course, that actually federal management of these lands is not from Washington, but the ranger district office down the street and not saying that the state will quickly turn the lands over to real estate developers, mining companies, and large livestock interests. Many will be sold to foreign entities.

  4. JimT Avatar


    That is what these folks are counting on…the Yawn Factor, been there, done that, why bother paying attention?

    It is no different than the mentality of the Gold Rush, or the land rush, or any other greed-based movement. We live here, we should be able to use these lands as we sit fit, and if they get played out (mines) or ruined (grasslands, forests, rangelands), well, hell. let’s go after the wildernesses.

    I would have to check the Earthworks website…they work on mining exclusively…but I am betting, Ralph, that most of the mining entities that are active right now are foreign corporations. It is, or should be, criminal the profits they take from federal lands, and pay no fees on them, and then when it comes time for reclamation, well, hell, bankruptcy, and form a new corporation that has no legal obligations from the old one.

    Why the large percentage of these western states don’t see this pattern…same thing happened to logging towns in the Northwest and the Northeastj….is beyond me. Their main resource… the land is trashed for all practical purposes forever as far as they are concerned..and yet the same old “FED–BAD, INDUSTRY=GOOD” mentality we have seen throughout Western history still persists.

    I would love to see a longer story or essay on the current folks, as well as a brief but essential reading list on the Sagebrush and the Wise Use movements to let folks make up their own minds about the true agendas of these groups.

    1. mikarooni Avatar

      You might be able to make use of some of this information, from another website, referring to the antics during the original “county movement” down in Catron County.

      “I remember when you were burning UN flags on the courthouse steps. No, that wasn’t in the 1950s when Joe McCarthy was doing his thing; it was in the 1990s when we were trying to negotiate arms control agreements.

      I remember the county ordinance that required every adult male in Catron to carry a gun in case the UN or even just the local forest service law enforcement personnel tried to invade. That’s taking the NRA-style thinking a bit far in my opinion and, no, it wasn’t just street talk. That ordinance was the subject of lengthy and serious discussion by your illustrious County Commissioners, Curly, Larry, and Moe. Was that ordinance in play in the 1890s? No, it was in the 1990s along with the talk of the black helicopters and the cattle mutilations.

      Then, I remember the ordinance to require every “environmental activist” to register with the County Sheriff upon entering the county; evidence of being an “environmental activist” didn’t need to be to strong for this one to take effect. I remember the corollary; you were forbidden to speak publicly about the condition of any public lands grazing allotment in Catron County until you had been through a mandatory three-day “education” arranged through the County Government. That was also in the 1990s and not exactly ancient history; but, you don’t tell people about that do you, Tom?

      As far as people who “still cling to their guns and their religion” go, my favorite story is when some conservationist friends of mine went down to Reserve to meet with some USFS personnel and, upon leaving the building, were greeted by the usual guntoting, intimidating, Catron County mob. As they pushed their way through, one old woman ran up and, holding her hands in prayer, told them that God gave the earth to mankind to use up and ruin. When the earth was used up and in ruin, that was, according to the logic of your society down there in Catron, going to be the signal for the return of Christ. She told my friends that, by trying to conserve and protect the earth, they were standing in the way of the return of Christ and thus doing Satan’s work. Again, this didn’t happen in the seventh century; this wasn’t Cotton Mather presiding over a witchcraft trial; this was in Reserve, in your shining beacon of what you want America to be, in the 1990s.

      Finally, I recall the proposal to surrender all the public lands surrounding Catron County, federal and state lands straddling Arizona and New Mexico and including the Indian Reservations and unincorporated hispanic settlements that have been there for centuries, to be rolled into an “autonomous celtic racial/cultural homeland.” This wasn’t a proposal floated by some rebel leader in ancient times. No. this idea was championed by the duly appointed and taxpayer paid County Attorney for Catron County in the 1990s. Seizing public lands to create an “autonomous celtic racial/cultural homeland” is an interesting way to embody all that we should cherish about America in my book…

      I could go on about Allan Savory and the white-controlled government of Rhodesia and how he jumped ship and left to reinvent himself when he saw the writing on the wall about the end of apartheid-style colonial thievery in Africa; but…”

      Go to the High Country News website, do a search on “catro” (for some reason, it will respond to “catro” rather than “catron”), and then go down and hit the button marked “search all.” It gives you a good picture of the bad and that’s just the sugar-coated High Country News version; the reality was much, much, much worse.

    2. JimT Avatar

      I remember that story from HCN..been members now for over 30 years. Tried to get friends in the East to subscribe…limited success, but then, New England has always had a history of inward focus and a yearning to return to the days of whale oil lamps and hand harvesting of hay. Don’t ask me why, and I grew up there.

      There must be a book or two on this whole mess that is still going on there. Would make for fascinating reading. If there isn’t a book…Tim Egan, are you looking for a new project. If so, bring a bodyguard…;*)

  5. JimT Avatar

    I just did some Amazon and Google searches and didn’t find a book on the history of the grazing and Wise Use controversies in Catron County. Anyone have any good historical books to recommend?

  6. JimT Avatar

    Good economic analysis of public land grazing….I put it here since the “new story thread” is getting crowded..

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Just a point–I’ve traced the Sagebrush Rebellion back to 1943 and the local, Teton County/Wyoming protest against FDR’s declaration of the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming. That means the Sagebrush Rebellion actually began here. What an honor.

    Another point is that the Sagebrush Rebellion has never disappeared at any time during the last 67 years. What has ebbed and flowed is media attention. But believe me, it’s always been there,and has always been bad.


    1. JimT Avatar

      I agree. First Sagebrush, then Wise Use, now some sort of revival in terms of level of hostility going on now, but don’t know if it has an official label yet. I did find a book on Wise Use, but I really would like to find a history of the mess in Catron County.

    2. Devin Avatar


      Egan talks about the Catron county history briefly in “Lasso the Wind.” I’m with you though, I’d love to read a detailed historical analysis of the county’s history and resulting mentality.

    3. JimT Avatar

      Great book, like most of his books are. I think there is great potential for a book on Catron, especially with this resurrection of the Wise Use paranoia and delusions about being owed federal public lands, and he would be the perfect person to write it…if he survived the interviews. The only books I can find are by the crazy ranchers who think they own public lands.

  8. Devin Avatar

    As much as I disagree with the premise of the Sagebrush Rebellions, I can see some value in their existence and validity of their concerns.

    As federal policy has shifted from traditional conservation to a new form of conservation, it has forced change down the throats of those who don’t want it. Any deviation or perceived deviation from the status quo will cause conflict.

    I think it is good having two powerful voices on both sides these public lands issues. With both sides politicking, we see the democratic process working in the way that it was intended. I think that as long as both sides are dissatisfied about the current policies, the process and management are functioning correctly.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Only if both sides come to the conflict and debate with equal power access, and that surely is NOT the case in the West for environmentalists. I would settle for adherence to and enforcement of present laws and regulations and permit conditions. I would prefer we export all the cows to India where they can live charmed lives…;*)

  9. Angela Avatar

    Great comments, and now I must find that HCN article! The Sagebrush Rebellion seems a lot like the Tea Party movement, with both presenting themselves as grassroots, anti-government movements while being promoted and supported by corporate greed. I remain mystified by those who are attracted to these philosophies. I can’t even imagine the landscape that would result from the deregulation of land use, except that it might resemble the current state of the economy.

    I remember when Denzel and Nancy Ferguson were managers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and they wrote Sacred Cows at the Public Trough, which was published in the early 1980s, about the time I began doing field work in the region:

    They subsequently received death threats and left the refuge, largely due to local hostility if I remember correctly. “Environmentalist” was a dirty word in the local watering holes back then, and it probably still is.

    1. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Angela – what corporate greed is supporting the tea party movement?

    2. JimT Avatar

      Murdock money and Fox….both big corporations.

    3. JimT Avatar

      And where the hell were these Tea Party folks during the 8 years of out of control Fed spending under Bush, the trashing of the surplus, the unleashing of all regulatory oversight over Wall Street and the Banks? Hmm?? Seems pretty damned convenient to me to rediscover fiscal responsibility when a Dem is in office, and HAS to try and get an economy going somehow that a Republican Administration put in the toilet? And let the record reflect that the bailout was a Republican creation-giveaway, and yet now somehow, conservative revisionism is blaming Obama…

      I will give the conservative pundits and activists one thing…they never let facts get in the way of some good old fear mongering and lying.

  10. JimT Avatar

    Legislation has been introduced in Congress to eliminate the President’s power to name monuments without Congressional approval…guess which state’s senators are sponsoring it…

    I am really getting fed up with the Republicans. Dems are not distinguishing themselves, but at least they are trying to get things done. The Repubs do this kind of crap, whining about “locking up OUR lands”, and then you have a Republican Senator putting a hold on a bill for unemployment benefit extensions,etc. to prove a point, and since he isn’t running for reelection, what does he care about angry repercussions. And on and on and on….

    1. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      JimT – the Republicans are only tools to address the immediate need – to stop and out of control Federal Government. This is not about “political parties” anymore, this is about saving our country for US – all of JimT. Both parties need to go and if I have my wish they both will or will become so obscure as to not matter. Everyone can see it disgusting corruption and self serving from the TOP to the BOTTOM. Over 80% of the American people say Washington is broken and 70% of the Political Class say it is working fine – any guess as to who the system is working for?

  11. JimT Avatar

    I guess I would respond that the days that a third party would be successful are basically done, especially with the Supreme Court ruling on corporate giving. The big boys will never gamble tens of millions of dollars on a third party candidate; they have the wheels greased too well with the two party system we have now. And since it was Republican judges that made up the majority, I feel justified in laying the blame at their feet primarily. Face it, until we address the issue of money in campaigns, and amend the First Amendment to allow for controls, we are stuck with what we have…unless you want to start a movement to go to a parliamentary system.

    As far as the Feds go…that is a discussion for some other forum, really. That is a deep political discussion that could take up days of conversation. And if you are counting on the Republicans to stop the allegedly out of control Federal Government, you are ceding control to the already too powerful corporate oligarchy that rules campaign financing and lobbying on K Street. And those folks are even less accountable than the so called Political Class you keep alluding to, whatever that means to you. Do you think you can affect Wall Street, or Big Oil because that is the Republican Party right now. They after one thing…to gain control of the Fed system to continue the Regan Bush policies of favoring the very rich. Period. Anything else..Tea Party, populism…all puffery and BS.

    And the Republicans GREW the Feds during the 8 years of the Bush Administration, took a surplus and turned it into the biggest debt and economic mess we have seen in this country in 70 plus years.

    You are right in one thing..the Republicans ARE Tools…;*)


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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