Brigade Celebrates Independence Day by Opposing Federal Land Closures
First hand account of the Independence Day road opening in Jarbidge, NV from
Jarbidge Shovel Brigade veteran, Gary Hall
Driving down from Northwest Montana on July 2, we left the mountains and
forests behind. From Hailey (Sun Valley) Idaho south, the dry landscape rolled
unbroken to all horizons except for a few distant mountains and the sudden
appearance of the Snake River Canyon. At Rogerson, ID, south of Twin Falls, we
left Hwy 93, turning to the west. After 35+ miles of sagebrush, a few cows and
occasional ranch buildings, we topped a rise and looked down on an irrigated
field with a scattering of campers, trailers, tents and pickups. We found space
among the cow flops for our tent and settled in for the night wondering what the
next couple of days would bring.
The day dawned cloudy and threatening. More shovelers drifted in. At 10
AM three buses left for the Jarbidge Canyon 30+ miles away. By the time they
returned at 4:30 PM, the encampment looked more promising. Now there were about
100 separate camps. In addition there were numerous porta-potties scattered
about, a water tanker, two food booths, a grand stand with seating, and
organization booths selling T-shirts, bumper stickers etc. (all adorned with
appropriate slogans). There was NO visible federal presence at all. If there
were any greenies around they kept well hidden. There was an abundance of local
law enforcement but they stayed on the roads.
Montana was well represented. Jim Hurst’s 30 foot long, shovel decorated
picnic table was there as were Dick Austin's two restored trucks all decked out in
slogans and flags. Dick’s beautiful, red 1960 Autocar has a public style audio
system and he treated us to his good collection of country and patriotic songs.
There were at least 11 MFMU members present with their yellow T-shirts showing
up all over the field.
Shovel brigade leaders, Demar Dahl, a local rancher, Grant Gerber, lawyer,
and Elwood Mose, Shoshone Indian leader spoke to the shovelers after they
returned from the "road". Demar talked about the need to reopen the
road and the history of the effort. Grant discussed the legal maneuverings
including the federal injunction sought by the FS to stop the shovel brigade.
The judge sided with the brigade. Elwood characterized those who are being
denied access to public lands as the "new Indians" whom the government
was trying to put on a reservation.
Independence day was sunny and warm. At 8:30 AM three buses left for Jarbidge
Canyon. We were told that the road had been shoveled out by yesterday’s crew
but that it needed smoothing and a large rock blocking the way had to be moved.
The trip was long and dusty. Camera crews and reporters rode in the buses
filming and interviewing along the way. We went through Murphy Hot Springs and
Jarbidge before pulling up at the beginning of the barricaded section of road.
Jarbidge and the 3 miles from there to the barricades were crammed with as many
people and cars as there was room for.
I shoveled on the road for a while and then joined a group that was carrying
buckets of "government waste" from the outhouses 1½ miles up the
Canyon. They had not been cleaned out in 5 years so the people did the job that
the government would not. Everything we did in the closed area had to be done
without mechanical equipment to avoid legal prescriptions. Although the FS
claimed that we were acting illegally and threatened to arrest us, the judge did
not agree and the FS did not show up.
By noon we were ready to move the 5 ton rock that blocked the road. There were more short speeches
followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner. The
blockading rock had been encircled with chains and three large ropes were
attached. The brigade eagerly filled all the places on the ropes. At the count
of three approximately 300 freedom lovers pulled and the rock, now named the
"Liberty Rock", jumped out of its hole. At each call of
"heave" the rock moved about two feet. We were energized. We could
have pulled the Liberty Rock up the side of the canyon if necessary. We moved it
about 35 feet until the roadway was clear. Then the first pickup, which carried
Helen Wilson, the oldest resident of Jarbidge traveled over
the newly reopened section of road and returned followed by the first ATV. The brigade
then returned to
the staging area and disbanded. BUT WE WILL RETURN IF NEEDED.
Observations and Comments
The events in Jarbidge Canyon on Independence Day, 2000 were intended to
symbolize the resistance of Americans to government efforts to lock them out of
their public lands. Although most of the brigadiers were from the western
states, especially Idaho, Nevada, and Montana, there were shovelers from all
across America and at least one from Canada. I personally worked alongside a
commercial fisherman from Rhode Island and a computer technician from Georgia.
The states represented included New Jersey, So. Carolina, Florida, New York,
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, California, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Colorado
and others. Close to 1000 attended the road opening although they did not
all assemble in one place at one time. Some worked in the Canyon on Monday, some
on Tuesday and some on both days. There were probably 500-600 present for the
moving of the Liberty Rock.
On July 4th a message was sent to the USFS. It was very clear but
it would have been louder if more had attended. Time will tell if the message
was received in good faith.
A message was also sent to Americans who have not heard or responded to the
call to resist the restrictions the federal government has placed on our use and access of public and private lands. Citizens in the West have been
voicing their opposition to these policies for years. The fact that so many
traveled from all over the country to join the brigade is evidence that the
message is beginning to be heard. The press coverage of the grassroots uprising
in Jarbidge was the most extensive ever for an event of this kind which is
usually ignored by the national press.
The Independence Day shoveling was another step in the physical reopening of
the Jarbidge Canyon road which used to provide citizens access to the public
lands in the area and emergency egress for the residents of Jarbidge and Murphy
I heard many people say that this day, July 4, 2000 was the best Independence
Day celebration of their lives; that they would not have missed it for anything
and that they would do it again if necessary. I feel the same. Yet I almost did
not go. The FS national campaign to intimidate and discourage shovelers from
attending was pretty effective. Who wanted to take the time and money to travel
to a remote canyon in Nevada with the very real possibility of being arrested,
fined, or imprisoned when the outcome of their effort was uncertain. Wouldn’t it
be much better to stay home and be comfortable with friends and family?
Nevertheless I and hundreds of other Americans made the sacrifice and were glad
that we did.
We are blessed in America because patriots like the Jarbidge veterans did not
stay home. What if Patrick Henry had said " Give me Security and give me
Life" and curled up on the couch? What if the Minutemen had hidden in their
cellars instead of confronting the Redcoats at Lexington and Concord? The
brigadiers repeatedly spoke of the revolution, the constitution and the founding
fathers. They were consciously engaged in the struggle to establish and preserve
Liberty in America. We were successful on Independence Day. Our voice has been
heard. But it is muted because many who would have and could have did not speak
out by coming to Jarbidge. The next time you have the opportunity to stand for
Freedom, please do not be intimidated. Do not be lulled into complacency
thinking your efforts are not needed. Do not allow yourself to be immobilized by
media representations of the struggle as futile, unnecessary or foolish. Do not
make the mistake of thinking that a little tyranny in some remote corner of this
land will not affect your liberties.
The founding fathers knew that the revolution would never end; it would
merely enter different phases. There will never be a shortage of oppressors.
Their personalities change but their intent is the same. STAND UP, SPEAK OUT,
JOIN THE FREEDOM BRIGADE.
Brigade Declares Victory
The United States has agreed to dismiss its suit against Demar Dahl and
the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade, according to a communiqué issued today by
all parties involved in the dispute.
"The road [South Canyon Road] is open and the county has its
RS2477 Right of Way. Those were the two purposes for which the Shovel
Brigade was formed. We claim victory," said Jarbidge Shovel Brigade
leaders Demar Dahl and Elwood Mose today. Dahl, president of the
grassroots citizens group, was named individually in a suit brought
against him and the Brigade by the U.S. Forest Service that was mediated
yesterday in Reno.
Mose, vice president of the group, Dahl and hundreds of people from all
over the country, gathered in Jarbidge on the Fourth of July to unblock
the road that had been blocked by the Forest Service with a huge boulder.
The boulder was manually pulled away from the center of the road using
ropes and a small portion of the road was rebuilt by hand that same day
Soon thereafter, the Forest Service surveyed the area and determined it
would ask the U.S. Justice Department to file suit against Dahl and
company for conducting an event without a permit involving more than 75
persons and for "earth disturbing activities" and trespass.
Dahl and the Brigade agree in the settlement that state and county laws
apply to any work they wish to do on county roads and county authorization
must be had prior to any work being done. Both parties agree the
settlement is not to be construed as an admission of liability or
wrongdoing by either party "nor shall the terms hereof have any value
as legal precedent in any other case." Dahl and the Brigade also
agree not to perform any work on the South Canyon Road without obtaining
permission to do so from the county, with a copy of that permission
"delivered to the Forest Service prior to starting work."
The six-paragraph announcement ends with the disclaimer that,
"This agreement is contingent upon the execution of the agreement
between the United States and Elko County. If that agreement is not
executed, this agreement is void." The deal also makes it clear to
whom fealty must be paid regarding the sovereignty of federally-owned
lands. "Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to limit the
United States' authority to manage federally owned land or natural
resources in accordance with federal laws."
Dahl said today, "I was not going to let these negotiations be
conducted in secret. I wanted to give everyone who sent a shovel for the
road opening an opportunity to see what we are considering."
Both sides agreed to embargo the public releasing of the results of the
settlement until noon today, after which the Brigade issued its victory
Forest Service spokesman Erin O'Connor said today both sides would meet
again April 2. That meeting is to finalize the wording of the agreement,
which was issued in draft form today.
The proceedings were presided over by federal Magistrate Judge Robert
This article appeared in People
For the Usa written by GARY BÉGIN March 06, 2001
The Jarbidge Shovel Brigade
is planning further activities in Jarbidge and elsewhere. Consider joining
Montanans For Multiple Use as we support the
Brigade. Go to our membership page for more
DEMAR DAHL RESIGNS
AS BRIGADE LEADER