Memories Of The Sagebrush Rebellion
The occasion was a fundraising dinner for the Prayer Breakfast Network, a wonderful Christian ministry that helps organize prayer breakfasts nationwide -- offering their expert help as long as a PBN speaker is there to deliver an unfettered gospel message. Hodel and his charming wife Barbara are frequent prayer breakfast headliners.
We spoke of incoming Interior Sec. Dirk Kempthorne, of whom Hodel spoke highly, and of perhaps the most famous Interior Secretary of recent history, James Watt.
"President Reagan gave him responsibility for stopping the Sagebrush Rebellion, and it was just that, a rebellion," Hodel recounted. "Throughout the West, people had had it with the federal government encroaching on their freedoms."
Was Watt successful in his mission of containing the West's simmering rage at federal interventionism? In a word, no -- not if Reagan's assignment was really to stop the rebellion. Watt quieted it down and got a lot of line-toeing accomplished, but the fundamentals of the battle -- heavy-handed federal intervention into property rights vs. Western freespirited independence -- are more rebellion-inspiring today than they were in the Reagan years.
More land is under federal control than ever. Endangered species, water rights, wilderness access, "monumentalization" of formerly private land -- all these continue, even with the Bush Administration's periodic efforts to turn back the extremist accomplishments of the Clinton Administration.
Meanwhile, planners have continued their successful occupation of local governments throughout the West, muting opposition to federal heavy-handedness, and regulators and enviros have become even more adept at using the courts to further their objectives.
In short, the rebellion has moved on to the Culture Wars, and as we focus on religious rights, forced tolerance (as long is we don't have to tolerate Christians, Jews or conservatives) and protection of Judeo-Christian values, the Sagebrush Rebellion has taken a back seat in the public consciousness. Frankly, we need a bit more Sagebrush Revolution. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity are the ACLUs of the outdoors, and conservative America has not yet stood up to them effectively.
Ticked off people of the West, unite! A two-front battle against those who would turn America into socialist Europe is a good idea, so some skirmishes over property rights would be an excellent counterpoint to our ongoing battle to defend America's moral core values.
Related Tags: Sagebrush revolution, Property rights, Public affairs, ESA, Hodel, Prayer