Sagebrush and Wise Use

The Sagebrush Rebellion and the Wise Use Movement were two related conservative movements that emerged in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. Both movements focused on limiting the power of the federal government over public lands in the Western United States and promoting the interests of extractive industries, such as mining and logging.

The Sagebrush Rebellion emerged in the late 1970s as a response to the federal government’s increased regulation of public lands in the Western United States. The movement was led by a coalition of ranchers, miners, loggers, and other rural interests who were concerned about the impact of federal land-use policies on their livelihoods. The Sagebrush Rebellion advocated for the transfer of control over public lands from the federal government to state and local authorities, arguing that local officials were better equipped to manage natural resources in a way that balanced conservation with economic development.

The Wise Use Movement emerged in the 1980s and was an offshoot of the Sagebrush Rebellion. The movement focused on expanding access to public lands for resource extraction and other economic activities. The Wise Use Movement argued that environmental regulations were stifling economic growth and that private property rights should take precedence over environmental concerns.

The battles over public lands and wilderness designations in the West helped to shape the New Right in several ways. First, the movement reflected a broader conservative backlash against the expansion of the federal government. Second, the movement reflected a growing concern among conservatives about the influence of environmentalism and conservationism in American politics. Finally, the movement helped to promote the idea that private property rights were sacred and should be protected from government intervention, a key tenet of the conservative philosophy that would become known as the “property rights movement.”

One thought on “Sagebrush and Wise Use

  1. Hi, Lauren, great post! I specifically like the part where you talk about how the Sagebrush Rebellion is seen as a conservative movement led by miners, ranchers, loggers, etc against government regulation of public lands in the West. I like the feel and flow of your writing which makes it really enjoyable to read. What you might want to add is the idea that the Sagebrush Rebellion was also a medium by which conservative philosophies and principles were put into action, the article talks about this (Turner, 2009) and I think it might be interesting to explore this idea further.

    Turner, James. “‘The Specter of Environmentalism’: Wilderness, Environmental Politics, and the Evolution of the New Right.” The Journal of American History 96, no. 1 (June 2009): 123–48. Accessed April 23, 2023.


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