a New Millennium
For hundreds of years, Americans have claimed the right to use and abuse their land for pleasure and profit. Whether aided or opposed by government, individuals and corporations have vehemently and at times militantly asserted the prerogative to exploit natural resources. In the late 1970s, a collective assertion of such rights arose in the western states. It came to be known as the Sagebrush Rebellion. Fostered chiefly by energy companies and wealthy public lands ranchers, but significantly supported by grassroots westerners, the Sagebrush Rebels set themselves the goal of having most if not all federal lands, including national parks and wilderness areas, turned over to the states. The idea was that these lands would subsequently be made more easily available for private exploitation. In support of the rebellion, a number of western states laid claim to federal lands in court. The Sagebrush Rebels pitted themselves against the national government in its role as the caretaker of public lands. To a lesser extent, they also pitted themselves against environmentalists who advocated the further regulation and better caretaking of public lands. Identifying himself as a Sagebrush Rebel, Ronald Reagan set in motion the quick sale of federal public lands to private individuals and corporations.
The Sagebrush Rebellion petered out rather quickly. This was largely due to the fact that rebels found so many allies in the White House and the Interior Department. The federal government was giving ranchers and resource extraction industries open access to its lands at bargain