Rebellion Turns to Insurgency: Behind the Discontent in the West


Paonia, CO - Events like the January 2016 standoff at the Oregon Malheur Wildlife Refuge are becoming more commonplace in the West, amid hidden connections between the economic downturn, anti-government sentiment and a sprawling network of organizations, actors and movements.

For the past six months, High Country News has been investigating this broader network, and has now issued a special report, Inside the Sagebrush Insurgency, along with a new App and e-book. The special report includes several investigative pieces on the West’s growing and changing Sagebrush Rebellion, detailing the rising prominence of the Oath Keepers in Western public lands disputes, especially the Sugar Pine Mine, in Josephine County, Oregon.

“Whether it’s the Bundy Ranch stand-off, Operation Gold Rush, or the Malheur occupations, today’s Sagebrush Insurgencies are ‘radicalization nodes,’” Daryl Johnson, a domestic terrorism expert and former Department of Homeland Security employee, tells HCN editor and writer Tay Wiles.

The Sagebrush Insurgency comprises militia members, rural law enforcement officials and local and state politicians, who gather at events or as members of organizations, forming shifting alliances around ill-defined aims. While the insurgency has not fully resolved into a single movement, it is becoming stronger and more organized.

Perhaps most interesting of these actors are self-proclaimed “constitutional sheriffs,” senior editor Jonathan Thompson writes, who have align themselves with the radical right to “fight environmental regulation, run federal officials out of their counties, and, in some cases, break the law themselves.”  

The Sagebrush Insurgency remains an inchoate movement, but, as the occupation at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge demonstrates, it is a movement that won’t, and shouldn’t, be ignored. 

You can view the full issue online by downloading HCN’s new app, available through iTunes, Google Play or Kindle Fire.

Interested in more on the Sagebrush Rebellion? HCN’s new EBook, Sagebrush Rebellion: Evolution of a Movement provides a timely and in-depth look at the decades-long political movement underpinning the occupation. Interspersing commentary with more than 30 articles and excerpts selected from 35 years of Sagebrush Rebellion coverage by the West's trusted news source, High Country News, this collection examines the roots and development of the ill-fated battle to return the West's vast, federally managed public lands to state and local control.

For more information about High Country News and the Sagebrush Rebellion, contact Brian Calvert, HCN managing editor, at 970-527-4898 or [email protected].


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