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The history of the American West is a history of struggles over land, and none has inspired so much passion and misunderstanding as the conflict between ranchers and the federal government over public grazing lands. Drawing upon neglected sources from organized ranchers, this book provides a historically based explanation for why the relationship between ranchers and the federal government became so embattled long before modern environmentalists became involved in the issue. Reconstructing the increasingly contested interpretations of the meaning of public land administration, ""Public Lands and Political Meaning"" traces the history of the political dynamics between ranchers and federal land agencies, providing a perspective on the relations of power that made the modern West.;Although a majority of organized ranchers supported government control of the range at the turn of the 20th century, by midcentury these same organizations often used a virulently antifederal discourse that fuelled many a political fight in Washington and that still runs deep in American politics. In analyzing this shift, Merrill shows how profoundly people's ideas about property wove their way into the politi