From the beginning, the heart of the rebellion was the belief that excessive federal control and regulation of the western public domain stripped people and states of their rights – rights to graze cattle on the public domain, rights to mine it, water rights, rights to generate tax base from it, rights, echoed Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, to control their own “destiny.” To reverse the trend, to regain lost “rights,” the Sagebrush Rebellion attempted two things: in the short run, improved, “fairer” federal management of the public domain, and long term, cession of federal lands back to the states in which they lay. In the end, it got neither; the question of rights remained as unresolved as before, and the rebellion ultimately flared out and died. In its brief life, however, it stunned all who witnessed it, and it set all its observers to wondering from where it had come. www.foresthistory.org
Western states were admitted into the Union at a time when the federal government still honored the law, the history, and its own longtime policy of disposing of the federal public lands to private owners and the states, with the expectation of equal sovereignty with the other states and the opportunity to chart their own future. However, early in the twentieth century, the federal government unilaterally began to move away from the policy of federal land disposal to a policy of “retention and conservation.” Initially, “conservation,” as used by federal land managers, meant sustainable resource development. For many decades the resources developed on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) generated substantial net revenue to the federal treasury, second only to the IRS. In response to environmental interests, however, Washington – again unilaterally – turned “conservation” into near-absolute “preservation.” www.americanlandscouncil.org
Time and time again, the Federal government has breached its promises with respect to the public lands. Western states are moving to compel the Federal government to honor the same promise it made and kept with all states east of Colorado: to timely dispose of the public lands so they can be managed by those whose lives and livelihoods depend upon the wise management of those lands. www.americanlandscouncil.org
Nationally, the United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land — nearly 30% of its total territory. Here’s a list of the percentages of the top ten states where the land is owned by the Federal Government:
New Mexico: 41.8%
SO – enter the current Sagebrush Rebellion – and this is where our story starts getting good!
Let’s begin with a hero cowboy named Wayne Hage, husband of Idaho’s beloved late Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth Hage, champion of the west. Per Ramona Hage Morrison, his daughter, Wayne wanted an “open range” ranch similar to ones he had worked on as a young man in northeastern Nevada and southern Idaho, and he realized his dream when he bought Pine Creek Ranch in 1978, 60 miles north of Tonopah, NV. Cattle summered on meadows on the 12,000 foot Mt. Jefferson and 11,000 foot Table Mountain, and wintered on the rich browse and desert grasses in Ralston Valley. Best of all, the cattle work was accomplished almost entirely by horseback.
Wayne had been told by the previous owners of Pine Creek that the BLM and Forest Service were becoming more and more difficult to work with, but he was confident that he was more than capable of cooperating with the local bureaucrats. After all, he had never had a problem in the past. Boy, was he wrong.
Wayne and his family worked endlessly to comply with ever-changing terms and conditions of permits, keeping cattle numbers within permitted limits and moving his stock on and off land allotments at designated times.
Government harassment became intense. Ramona states that in one 105-day grazing season, Wayne was “visited” 70 times, usually by an armed employee, and received 40 certified letters containing various citations and notices. The Forest Service executed two armed raids and confiscated over 100 head of cattle (any of this sounding familiar?) which were quickly sold at a private auction. Wayne quickly gathered and sold his remaining 2,000 head at fire-sale prices to prevent further theft by the Forest Service. The ranch was essentially shut down, and 22 years of court battles ensued, all won by the Hages against the abuses of government, including contempt charges filed against the hot-shot Justice Department attorneys Their landmark precedent-setting court victories are summed up by the comments of Chief Federal District Court Judge Robert C. Jones in 2012: “Sometime in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Forest Service first and then BLM entered into a conspiracy – a literal, intentional conspiracy – to deprive the Hages of not only their permit grazing rights, for whatever reason, but also to deprive them of their vested property rights . . . but the intent to deprive them of their preference is abhorrent and shocks the conscience of the court and constitutes a basis for an irreparable harm finding.” From Eye of the Storm in Range Magazine/Winter 2013. Written by Ramona Hage Morrison
Most recently, we have the Cliven Bundy story. As in so many other cases, the root cause of the problem is an arrogant federal government that is imperious, overbearing, and has ceased to remember that it exists as a servant of the people. www.redstate.com