News Analysis
Second-Class Citizenship Stimulates
Rise, Again, of the Rebellious West

by Tim Findley
Hatch [N. M.] Courier

The season is rising again, driven on a storm of resentment of federal arrogance, political corruption, and a manipulation of public rights and opinion unprecedented in American history.
Some have called it a desperate last struggle against one-world domination, others darkly war of a surrender to socialism, and still others suggest the foe is nothing more than gangster greed that has seized control of government.
But the sense of it, the spirit for it, can be found simply in the American experience, something poet Carl Sandburg described as, "The marvelous rebellion of man at all signs reading 'Keep Off.'"
"I am less a citizen of my country than is a man from Connecticut," says Nevada rancher Cliff Gardner. "When I may make decisions about 87 percent of his state, as he does of mine, then we will be equal. Until then, I am a second class citizen."
Gardner is not alone in his feeling. All over the West, common people and wealthy capitalists, angry malcontents and ensconced political leaders share that same sense of disenfranchisement

-- the helpless notion that what they thought was their birthright has been sacrificed to second class citizenship.
It shows itself in so many ways: on a lonely country road where a ranch hand encounters a freshly-armed federal agent, or in a rural mailbox jammed with legal threats to established water rights.
It's there in the condescending smile of a senior bureaucrat from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sitting before the Natural Resources Committee of the Nevada State Legislature and telling the committee chairman, Senator Dean Rhoads, "There's a land rush in Las Vegas. People want federal land in the south in exchange for private land in other parts of the state."
As if there is nothing Rhoads or the state legislature can do about it. As if they are second class citizens in federal manipulations to control the population of their state.

The citizens of Connecticut, or New York, or even Las Vegas itself don't know about it. They don't know, and would not believe, that an obsequious bureaucrat acting in their name would sneer in disrespect for some remote Western legislator, and put rebellion in his heart.
To them, the rebellion in the West is defined by their finely-tuned media describing irrationally armed men and women dressed up like kids playing at war. Dangerous, unpredictable people limited by their own ignorance and their fantasies about what freedom should be.
But at least as much as people from Connecticut, Westerners have served and sacrificed for their country, fought in the wars, campaigned for civil rights, paid their taxes and taught their children with the same pride they themselves feel in liberty.
America's problems with crime and drugs and the economy and the environment are their problems too. The aspiration for peace and equal opportunity has been as much a part of their dreams as of any American's. Far better than most, they understand the heritage of public lands in the West.
Yet what sets them apart is a form of social prejudice and bigotry that makes assumptions about their place in new age society and presumes to tell them that their time has passed.
It's not just in rules and regulations like those introduced by the BLM this year that seem to taunt and dare a

confrontation. It's not just the arrogance with which they are ignored by politicians who declare their lands and their livelihoods to be expendable [insert graphic of Harry Reid].
It's an attitude, a contempt for even their quiet objections. It's the federal government that has erected the 'Keep Out' sign on the West, knowing and not caring what that will mean.
Gardner, the third-generation Ruby Valley rancher whose personal dispute on grazing rights may reach the U.S. Supreme Court, following a negative 9th Circuit Appeals Court ruling early this week, equates it to the mid-century struggle for racial equality.
"People marched in the streets then, they demonstrated in Washington," he reminds a Nevada legislative workshop meeting on public lands. "This, too, is a civil rights question."
Aaron Russo, a noted Hollywood producer now living in Nevada, declares, "I don't believe in cooperating with the federal government. Come the year 2000, I have no idea what will be happening in this country. I'm frightened."
Indelicately, he draws a comparison between federal law enforcement attitudes and a heavily accented film cliché: "show me your paperzz."
Constitutionalists like T. David Horton cite the stances taken on behalf of private property and state's rights by such romantic historical figures as

Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett.
But there's no frontiersman like Crockett in Congress today, and the best-known politician from Tennessee is a vice president probably more distrusted in the West than any who have held the office before him.
Even despite their increasingly threatening methods, federal agents still cannot be compared to the murderous Nazi SS or Gestapo.
And even if there were enough people willing to follow Gardner's new cause for civil rights, the government would sure roll out just as many who are convinced the cause is ecology.
Rebellion is certainly brewing in the West, but all that is certain about it is that it will be different than any rebellion before.
"I don't know what they're thinking. Maybe it will mean Abrams tanks in our streets," says Ed Presley of Elko, Nevada. "I don't know, but I'll tell you this, it's going to stop. It stops right here."
That's Presley -- and Elko -- both of them out of patience with federal duplicity and implied force that refuses even to acknowledge the legal authority of a county grand jury investigating their actions. Now Elko County threatens to

arrest and jail any BLM agent who dares to believe he has law enforcement powers beyond clear federal property.
It's nearly the same in Eureka County, Nevada, where local authorities will not even acknowledge that the federal government "owns" public lands at all.
Soon enough, if they have their way in their proposed new regulations, the BLM will try to fine someone $100,000 and put them in jail for a year for violating some aspect of the Federal Land Policy Management Act.
If things continue to go in West as they have been going, the BLM and the federal administration knows as well as anybody in the West that sooner than later, something will trigger it. They seem, in fact, to be inviting it.
It is genuine worry and concern for what may happen then that helps define this period of rebellion in the West.
Nevada, though by its legislative initiative the "capitol" of the Sagebrush Rebellion in the '70s, is today in a far more complex situation created by astonishing population growth over the last 20 years in Las Vegas, and, to a lesser extent, in Reno.
The two urban centers define -- and divide -- the state more than ever before.

Senator Rhoads, himself a northern Nevada rancher and one of the authors of the original rebellion, seems for example, almost reduced to an appeal for mercy when he tells the BLM bureaucrat that rural counties in a state where only 13 percent of the land is federal control simply can't afford to sacrifice any more of their tax base in exchange for federal lands around Las Vegas.
Rhoads has introduced legislation that will require approval of both counties before such swaps are made and that could open federal land for sale at public bid.
But he will need the support of land-hungry legislators and their big money developer and gaming-interest backers to win. He may even need the tacit assent of the state's most powerful politician, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who has actively promoted the rape of rural tax bases through previous exchanges.
Rhoads' colleague on the Natural Resources Committee, Senator Jack Regan, has introduced legislation requiring the BLM to be more cooperative with the state in reducing the glut of wild horse herds plaguing ranchers. Regan, who is from Las Vegas, has also called on the federal government to revise procedures for designating endangered species.

But BLM Staff Ranger Blaine Heald sits before them in a tedious posture of bureaucratic indifference. The horses are on federal land, he says. Endangered species are Fish and Wildlife's problem, and as for the controversial proposed new authority for the BLM, "There's nothing in the new regulations that we can't do now."
The message is clear: enact whatever state laws you like, but don't expect the federal government to obey them.
It's that attitude that really motivates a meeting like the Legislative Workshop on Nevada's Public Lands which brought some 50 delegates from across the state to the state library in Carson City in the middle of a flood two weeks ago to launch their own agenda.
Starting with Elko County's declaration of authority over managing its public lands and threats to arrest any out-of-bounds federal agents, the group presented a seven-point series of legislative proposals, all of which effectively declare that Nevadans intend to take back their public lands and cease being treated as "second class citizens."
Freshman Assemblyman Don Gustavson will even introduce a resolution requesting that Congress eliminate budget appropriations for the BLM in Nevada.

Taking BLM out of the federal budget, Gustavson said, would result in "saving the American taxpayer a billion dollars a year, while increasing the production of new wealth from the public lands under State management."
There is plenty of proof for the latter part of that statement, some of it research done by Eureka County's Public Lands Director, John Balliette, himself a former Forest Service bureaucrat. Balliette's detailed documentation of financial advantages to the state in managing its own public lands has, however, been largely ignored or rejected by the state administration.
And therein is featured yet another major problem for the rebellion this time. Both Governor Bob Miller and State Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa are Democrats with close and ambitious ties to the Clinton administration. Miller has vetoed anti-federal legislation before, and Del Papa has opening sided with the federal government in declaring state claims to federal land to be unconstitutional.
Federal officials can perhaps expect to be criticized by action in the state legislature. But the legislature, still on an agrarian citizen-lawmaker schedule,

only meets every two years. Between sessions, the state's business is up to its full-time administrators.
Russo, the film producer with Oscars and Emmys and stars like Bette Midler and Eddie Murphy in his past, told the workshop he is giving up his film career to run for Governor of Nevada.
So goes the setting for the new rebellion, with Presley calling up the spirit of Thurgood Marshall in overturning the doctrine of "separate but equal," and Horton harking back to the "Sockdolager" realizations of Davy Crockett about constitutional limitations, and simple honest country people nodding when Gardner calls them "second class citizens."
But not a word was printed or said about it in the major media of Reno or Las Vegas.
People in Connecticut don't know about the rebellion.
It's an unspoken truth known among those involved in it that they probably won't until the government gets the confrontation that nobody else really wants.

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