Central 'sagebrush rebellion' case suffers defeat

America's sagebrush rebellion has suffered a major setback far from the western rangeland where a modern battle was joined over grazing rights on public lands.

Over the past 21 years, firebrand Nevada rancher Wayne Hage waged a legal war against federal land managers who were seeking to restrict cattle grazing on public lands and became a heroic symbol for those who yearned for bygone days and bridled at the growing reach of government.

In a little noticed decision in July, a federal three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., overturned Hage's hard-fought multi-million-dollar legal victories.

It was a quiet rebuke to a legal saga that began in 1991 after the government impounded some of Hage's cattle. The rancher had defied grazing restrictions in Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and refused to pay fines.