West Obsessed: What the heck is a Sagebrush Sheriff?

Behind a lot of anti-fed sentiment, you’ll find ‘constitutional’ peace officers. Here’s why that’s worrying.


Some of the most powerful figures in Western states are county sheriffs. They are elected officials, armed, with deputies and the ability to wrangle posses, and they can be hard to unseat. In this episode of “West Obsessed," Managing Editor Brian Calvert, Senior Editor Jonathan Thompson and Online Editor Tay Wiles discuss what makes county sheriffs so fascinating when it comes to public land issues, like those that led to the occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. 

Photo: Former Josephine County, Oregon, Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, who questioned the federal government’s authority on federal land, lost his bid for re-election in 2014. Bob Pennell/Mail Tribune via AP

“West Obsessed” is an occasional audio series produced in collaboration with KVNF community radio in Paonia, Colorado, where the editors and writers of High Country News discuss stories about the American West and why they matter.

High Country News Classifieds