The Sagebrush Rebellion

Essay by FerenczCollege, UndergraduateB+, June 2008

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Since the 1970's, ranchers throughout the west, and particularly in Nevada, have been fighting the federal government over land rights. The rebels have been trying to transfer control of the land to state and local authorities. The federal government claims ownership of a large portion of the land, asserting that the land was ceded to it via a treaty. The rebels claim that the federal government does not recognize local and state law regarding the land. Primarily, the rebels are seeking more grazing rights. Limits on grazing, rebels say, are hurting business, but environmentalists and the federal government believe that overgrazing is harmful to the environment. The federal government is retaining control of the land, and requiring that ranchers obtain permits for grazing, pay grazing fees, and adhere to restrictions on when and where cattle can graze.

Grazing permits come with "annual unit months," or AUMs, which are each equal to one cow and one calf grazing on public land for one month (Cox, 2002).

Influenced by such factors as beef prices, the cost of a single AUM can vary from year to year (Cox, 2002). In 2001, Nevada's ranchers paid more that 1.6 million dollars in grazing fees. The federal government, however, only kept 37 ½ percent in the federal treasury. 12 ½ percent went to range committees, and half went to range improvements (Cox, 2002).

Bob Abbey, Nevada State BLM director, once stated, "I do not consider those people trespassing on public land to be ranchers. We have 700 authorized to graze on public lands. With one or two exceptions, they work closely with us. These people are paying their fees and complying with the grazing system" (Cox, 2002). In September of 2002, the BLM impounded 227 cattle that were grazing on seriously degraded rangeland, and soon after...