The federal government holds a vast domain of American land. Does it hold these acres in trust for future generations and for the planet itself? Or does it hold them as a resource for economic development and growth? Indeed, should it hold them at all? These questions became a focal point for New Right politics in the 1980 presidential election that brought Ronald Reagan into the White House. The Sagebrush Rebellion and the New Right attempted to convince the public that environmentalism threatened the nation's wellbeing. Environmentalists sought new ground for fighting back. In this cogent analysis of the public lands debate, Brant Short looks at the New Right's positions and the strategies for advancing them, the origins of dissatisfaction in the Sagebrush Rebellion, and the opposition that arose as a new conservation consensus was formed.
Short's approach places the contemporary conservation debate clearly within the context of environmental issues that have confronted Americans throughout our history. The perspective he offers on recurring rhetorical strategies illuminates the continuing schism over how our public lands should be used and maintained.