The Sagebrush Rebellion crackles on in Nevada in a nasty and unfortunate manner. The latest incident involves an effort by a citizens brigade, rebelling against federal land management practices, to rebuild a remote road in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest that was washed out in a 1995 flood. Forest Service experts opposed the project, insisting it would threaten an endangered species of trout. The rebels, led by GOP state Assemblyman John Carpenter, threatened to rebuild the road anyway but were restrained by a federal judge who feared violence against federal workers.
In reaction to the civil disobedience, Gloria Flora, supervisor of the huge Humboldt-Toiyabe, quit her job, decrying an atmosphere of “hostility and distrust” toward federal employees in the state. “Fed-bashing is a sport here, and I refuse to sit by quietly and let it happen as many others are doing,” added Flora, a reformist forester.
She was supported by Jack Blackwell, director of the Forest Service’s inter-mountain region, who said the degree of acrimony against the Forest Service in Nevada is extremely troubling. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is trying to broker a negotiated settlement of the dispute, in an area near the Idaho border north of Elko.
Assemblyman Carpenter likened the rebellion to the Boston Tea Party and said that a lot more tea will be thrown overboard if “the feds do not change their ways and begin to listen to the local people.”
The frontier spirit dies hard in places like northern Elko County. But Carpenter and his rancher constituents must recognize that this is 1999, a century after the first “sagebrush rebellions,” which pitted Western settlers against the government over land rights. The Forest Service is charged by Congress with administering its lands in the interests of all Americans. Disputes can no longer be settled with rifles and bulldozer blades. Sen. Reid has our support in trying to suppress this modern-day version of the Sagebrush Rebellion.