1980 Sagebrush Rebellion

Shortly after he was elected in a landslide over President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan sent a telegram to the "Sagebrush Convention" in Salt Lake City.

In the telegram President-elect Reagan sent "best wishes to all my fellow 'Sagebrush Rebels'" and gave the conventioneers some hope for a successful campaign to turn federal land over to more local control. Reagan wrote, "I renew my pledge to work toward a 'sagebrush solution.' My administration will work to ensure that states have an equitable share of public lands and their natural resources. To all, good luck and thanks for your support."

The Sagebrush Rebellion first came broadly into view during Reagan's run for the White House. In 1979, Nevada and four other western state legislatures passed bills that called for state control of many lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. With support from the in-coming President and his controversial Secretary of the Interior James Watt, Sagebrush Rebels seemed poised for success and many observers expressed concern that the states' rights movement would reach for other federal lands, including national forests.


Forest Service Daily News Digest, December 1, 1980.