On the Fourth of July, 2000, some 300 protestors descended on Jarbidge, Nevada, the most remote settlement in the state. The town of 50 permanent residents, two bars, and a jail was not hosting a traditional fireworks display, but there was a parade. All present marched to a road on the outskirts of town, South Canyon Road, which the Federal government had closed for environmental reasons. Using shovels, many sent symbolically from around the country (8,500, by one account), they removed the boulders and obstructions the U.S. Forest Service had used to block passage. Calling themselves the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade, they became a powerful symbol of anti-Federalism in the Western United States.
This episode raises interesting questions regarding Public Choice. Following Charles Tiebout's theory of local expenditures, in which citizens are posited to decide where to live based on the bundle of public services provided (i.e. much like consumers), people "vote with their feet". People tend to live in locations that match their preferences on the level and quality of public services, and their associated costs.
The Jarbidge episode illustrates one limit to this theory. In the Midwest and Eastern areas of the country, relatively little land is publicly owned - no more than 10 percent. Hence, more land, proportionally speaking, is owned by private parties or more local forms of government. West of the Dakotas, the percentage of Federal land is over 30 percent in every state. In Nevada, that figure is nearly 85 percent - the highest proportion in the country.