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The Story of Kleppe v. New Mexico: The Sagebrush Rebellion as Un-Cooperative Federalism


Robert Fischman


Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Jeremiah Williamson


Independent

2011

Univeristy Colorado Law Review, Vol. 83, No. 1, 2011
Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 184

Abstract:     
The story of Kleppe v. New Mexico dramatizes how assertion of federal power advancing national conservation objectives collided with traditional, local economic interests on public lands in the 1970s. This article connects that history with current approaches to natural resources federalism. New Mexico challenged the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which diminished both state jurisdiction and rancher influence over public rangelands. In response, the Supreme Court resoundingly approved federal authority to reprioritize uses of the public resources, including wildlife, and spurred a lasting backlash in the West. Further legislation passed in the wake of Kleppe transformed this unrest into a political movement, the Sagebrush Rebellion. Though Kleppe failed to undermine Congress’ public land reform agenda, the Sagebrush Rebellion lived to fight another day. Adjudicated rights do not necessarily translate into social facts. This article argues that a strictly legal evaluation of Kleppe fails to measure its true significance as a galvanizing event for opposition to public land management reform. The ill-fated litigation became a “successful failure,” prompting ranchers and states to employ effective non-judicial means of shaping implementation of rangeland reform. Even as Congress invited states to influence public land management through “cooperative federalism,” the Kleppe legacy of “un-cooperative federalism” remains a common, useful response.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 57

Keywords: Cooperative Federalism, Public Land Law, Natural Resources Law, Sagebrush Rebellion, Law Stories

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Date posted: February 21, 2011 ; Last revised: July 11, 2013

Suggested Citation

Fischman, Robert and Williamson, Jeremiah, The Story of Kleppe v. New Mexico: The Sagebrush Rebellion as Un-Cooperative Federalism (2011). Univeristy Colorado Law Review, Vol. 83, No. 1, 2011; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 184. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1765970

Contact Information

Robert Fischman (Contact Author)
Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )
211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
Jeremiah Williamson
Independent ( email )
No Address Available
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