In 1979, a handful of Nevada state officials sparked a movement to transfer the large unappropriated domain to the western states. For two years what became known as the Sagebrush Rebellion swept across the American West like brushfire, engaging westerners of all stripes in a heated dispute over the question of the public lands. In Utah, as elsewhere in the West, public officials, rural ranchers, miners, developers, academics, environmentalists, and concerned citizens joined the debate and staked sides. This episode underscored western relationships between people and nature and featured contests over competing ideologies in the West. But it probably did more harm than good in solving the problems of the West and even further polarized westerners against themselves. After just two years in the limelight, the Sagebrush Rebellion unspectacularly faded into public memory, partly as a result of environmental opposition but mostly because Ronald Reagan's administration steered public land policy in a new direction. Interior Secretary James Watt took steps to appease disgruntled westerners by loosening federal regulations on the public lands, but he opposed any efforts for a large-scale transfer. Thus the Sagebrush Rebellion ultimately failed; but still today the sentiment and conflicts that propelled it persist, continuing to color the panorama that is the American West.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Rogers, Jedediah S., "Land Grabbers, Toadstool Worshippers, and the Sagebrush Rebellion in Utah, 1979-1981" (2005). All Theses and Dissertations. 601.
Sagebrush Rebellion, Utah, West, American West, public lands, federal government, states' rights, rural, environmentalism, anti-environmentalism, political movement, Ronald Reagan, James Watt, Orrin Hatch