Forty years of Sagebrush Rebellion

The Oregon occupation, the 2014 Bundy standoff and many other stories are all related to a long-simmering movement.


The Sagebrush Rebellion has roots that go back to the early 1900s, when the federal government first started reserving public lands and developing water for early settlements. It took off starting in the 1970s, when the environmental movement pushed Congress to pass The Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air and Water acts, and others. It appeared again during the Clinton Administration, as it took on public land grazing, mining, and logging, while creating new controversial monuments under The Antiquities Act.  Finally, the election of President Barack Obama brought on the latest iteration, with renewed calls for public land transfers to the states and rising anti-federal sentiment, such as that exhibited by the Malheur occupation.

Malheur occupation, explained (Jan. 4, 2016)
The deep history behind the Bundy brothers’ takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon.

In eastern Oregon, a protest over imprisoned ranchers becomes an occupation of a wildlife refuge (Jan. 4, 2016)
Photos from the Burns, Oregon, protests, the latest iteration of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

Modern sagebrush rebels recycle old Western fantasies (Jan. 4, 2016 op-ed)

Public-land transfer proponents may have violated lobbying laws (October 2015) 
Colorado puts the American Lands Council on "notice" for ethical missteps.

Dispatch from White Hope Mine dispute in Montana (August 2015) 
The constitutionalist group Oath Keepers is defending a mine that the Forest Service says is out of compliance.

Counties use a ‘coordination’ clause to fight the feds (May 2015) 
An obscure provision in two environmental laws is the weapon of choice in a bureaucratic Sagebrush Rebellion.

The taxpayer money that fuels federal land transfer demands (May 2015) 
How the behind-the-scenes lobby group American Lands Council gets funding.

Oath Keepers show up for a public lands dispute in Oregon
Plus a Cliven Bundy supporter is charged and BLM emails about the Nevada standoff were released.

State bills to study federal-to-state land transfers (April 2015) 
A rundown of the legislation in each state and a look into the motives behind them.

Dispatch from Cliven Bundy's latest gathering (April 2015)
Who showed up at the one-year anniversary of the BLM standoff? Most of them weren't ranchers.

An update on Nevada scofflaw Cliven Bundy (March 2015) 
The rancher still has influence in some circles, and has seen zero repercussions for trespass cattle and unpaid fees.

Cliven Bundy (April 2014)

Defuse the West (October 2014)

Western states eye federal lands—again (October 2014)

A reluctant rebellion in the Utah desert (May 2014) 
For ATVers at Recapture Canyon, realpolitik meets out-of-town zeal.

How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho (May 2013)

One Sagebrush Rebellion flickers out -- or does it? (September 2012)

Fearful of Agenda 21, an alleged U.N. plot, activists derail land-use planning (February 2012)

How Arizona's culture helped shape the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords (February 2012)

Looking past Joe Arpaio (December 2011)

Utah's Sagebrush Rebellion capital mellows as animal-lovers and enviros move in (January 2011)

A dark moment, a glimmer of light (January 2011)

Pillaging the Past (April 2008)

Rebels with a lost cause (December 2007)

The Sagebrush Rebels ride again -- and again (December 2007 op-ed)

Taking Liberties (July 2006)

The West’s Biggest Bully (September 2003)

Change comes slowly to Escalante country (April 2003)

Road warriors back on the offensive (February 2003)

Showdown on the Nevada range (August 2001)

Shoveling vs. sniveling (March 2000 essay)

The last Celtic warlord lives in New Mexico (March 2000)

The Forest Service sets off into uncharted territory (November 1999)

Nevadans drive out forest supervisor (November 1999)

Nevada rebellion ends with a whimper (October 1999)

Idaho stubbornly remains what America used to be (March 1998 essay)

Founding father challenges his movement (March 1997 op-ed)

Wise-users try to whip up a recipe for their own salvation (October 1996 op-ed)

Utah counties bulldoze the BLM, Park Service (October 1996)

Catron County's politics heat up as its land goes bankrupt (June 1996)

Nevada's ugly tug-of-war (October 1995)

Nevada's most rebellious (October 1995)

To save a Utah canyon, a BLM ranger quits and turns activist (October 1995)

County commissioner courts bloodshed (April 1995)

Armed, crazy and lost in the Wild West (May 1995 op-ed)

Waaaaaaaaaaaahh! The West refuses to be weaned (February 1995 essay)

Land-use plan is disemboweled (December 1994)

Ranchers arrested at wildlife refuge (October 1994)

'Wise use' plans abhor change (September 1994)

Home, home on the range ... where neo-Nazis and skinheads roam (June 1994)

The Not O.K. Corral (May 1994)

Landowners turn the Fifth into sharp-pointed sword (February 1993)

Trying a "Bold" landswap (February 1982)

The Sagebrush Rebellion: misdirected dynamite (February 1980 op-ed)

Environmentalists, backlash, and the 'New Right' (May 1978)

David W Hamilton
David W Hamilton Subscriber
Jan 10, 2016 12:48 PM
RE: 400 Years of White Male dominance that has culminated in the Sagebrush Rebellion!
These Yallqaeda dudes in parading around in their full cowboy drag represent the latest...and, perhaps, the last... manifestation of the privileged white male supremacy who emerged on the world stage with the rise of the imperial nation states of Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Bringing a reign of rape, rapine and exploitation to the New World, Africa and Asia.
The first impediment to the free and unfettered rapine in North America was in the form of the Proclamation of 1763 (AKA: The Intolerable Act) which precipitated the War for Independence...not actually a revolution strictly speaking. By the time of Shay's Rebellion, it was clear the new country, as then constituted, was not actually governable under The Articles of Confederation....hence the Constitution designed to provide a strong central government to better manage a somewhat unruly and willful populace. Attempts to harness the population under the terms of the Constitution led to early conflicts like The Whiskey Rebellion.
Through all this....and on into the 19th century...the unquestioned rule of white males continued through its dominion over women, people of colour and the environment (women as chattels, slavery and the genocide and marginalization of Native Americans ). Institutionalized abuse of private and public lands ensued throughout the West without respite...Until carnage became intolerable and the federal government began to intervene....beginning under TR....and the outraged resistance began to escalate accordingly through the 20th century....and here we are.
If we, as a species, are going to survive on this will require a highly restricted use of fossil fuels, a judicious use of water resources, a smaller population and a lot less meat!! If we can't see to this Gaia will!!
Mr. Ian Zabarte
Mr. Ian Zabarte
Jan 19, 2016 02:58 PM
1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley is in "full force and effect". Nevada Organizing Act prohibits including Indian country into boundaries or jurisdiction of any state or territory. No story is complete without undetstandin who ownes the is not the state or the federal government. We proved this by ending Yucca Mountain after $10 BILLION taxpayer dollars were spent and Obama withdrew the license application for a nuclear waste repository.
Doug Smith
Doug Smith Subscriber
Jan 19, 2016 07:29 PM
Jan 19, 2016 10:27 AM
Now, the protesters are going a step further, asking local ranchers to sign their names to documents rejecting the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's authority.

"When you commit to stand, I promise you the angel of heaven will stand with you," occupation spokesman Robert "LaVoy" Finicum told the crowd.

Finicum announced earlier in the day that the protesters had recruited two ranchers – one from Oregon and one from New Mexico -- to stop paying grazing fees, but he and the other occupation leaders spent more than three hours in Crane trying to convince more people to join the cause.

The signing ceremony – now set for Saturday -- is "a once in a lifetime opportunity," Ammon Bundy said. The next time such an opportunity arises, he said: "It'll be war."