Is ALEC behind the recent “Sagebrush Rebellion?”

by Jason Schwartz

April 17, 2014

If you haven’t heard the name Cliven Bundy yet, you must not be paying attention to conservative media like Fox News.

That name, only now beginning to filter into the mainstream press, is associated with a standoff over land and grazing rights in Nevada. Bundy, a rancher, has been illegally grazing his cattle on government land for years. He has claimed all the while that he does not believe the US government is something that exists.

And for years, the federal government, which does in fact exist, has given Bundy warnings and levied fines, but shown remarkable restraint in not pushing the issue too far.

Until recently that is, when the government impounded Bundy’s cattle. The full background can be found here. Suffice to say, the impoundments led to a standoff between Bundy’s heavily armed supporters and federal rangers. The standoff finally ended when cooler heads prevailed (i.e. the rangers recognized pushing the issue was not worth risking the lives of many people).

There is a lot more to come with this story, but we just wanted to take the time to mention that this “Sagebrush Rebellion” may not actually be the impromptu event it has made out to be by the conservative press. Brendan Fischer over at the Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch has tracked how a series of state bills and initiatives have sought to undermine federal authority of its own lands. These bills have been largely supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which any reader of this blog will know about already.

In fact, Arizona representative Ral Grijalva has already asked the US Dept. of the Interior to investigates ALEC’s role in trying to chip away at federal authority of lands. Why would ALEC be interested?

According to Fischer:

“For decades, ALEC has pushed legislation to transfer public lands and national forests to state control — likely for the purposes of oil, gas, and coal extraction, which would benefit ALEC members like Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, and others.

For decades, it has pushed”model” legislation like the“Sagebrush Rebellion Actfor states to introduce and adopt to seize control of federal lands.As far back as 1978, ALEC wasboastingof its role in helping spur the Sagebrush Rebellion(as well as its “victory” in pushingmandatory minimum sentencing),and included Sagebrush Rebellion legislation in its 1980“Energy for the Eighties”briefing book, which was developed thanks to “ALEC’s fine working relationship with the American Petroleum Institute.'”

Read more over at PRWatch. It’s pretty wild.

Jason Schwartz

By Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based in New York City.

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