This year’s GOP platform pushes federal land transfers

“Returning” lands to states has long been a party plank and a shifting political landscape could open the door.

 

The Republican Party is drafting its 2016 platform, which represents a on social issues. But other parts of its stance have long been consistent – most notably, its push for transferring federal lands to state control.

Party platforms are not binding, but they do demonstrate party priorities – what the base thinks are the most important issues and beliefs. And they're important in steering politicians. that lawmakers usually do cast votes that accord with platform positions, and that in presidential election years, about two-thirds of platform promises get fulfilled in some form during the following four years.

This year’s platform, which will be finalized at the upcoming GOP convention, includes a demand that the government “immediately pass universal legislation providing the timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states,” . That’s consistent with the ideas presented in the , which suggested privatizing some of those lands:

“Congress should reconsider whether parts of the federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining, or forestry through private ownership… The enduring truth is that people best protect what they own.”

Coconino National Forest
GOP lawmakers generally support transferring federal lands to state control. That could include lands like Doe Mountain in Arizona's Coconino National Forest.
National Forest Service

Many in the GOP have long been on the side of the Sagebrush Rebels; as far back as 1984, the  called for decreasing federal holdings and increasing privatization: "With due recognition of the needs of the federal government and mindful of environmental, recreational, and national defense needs, we believe the sale of some surplus land will increase productivity and increase State and local tax bases. It will also unleash the creative talents of free enterprise in defense of resource and environmental protection."

more explicitly called for decreasing federal holdings and encouraging private development: “We also seek to reduce the amount of land owned or controlled by the government, especially in the western States. ... In order to provide an economic base for the people of the West, a public-private cooperative partnership on these lands for multiple use in an environmentally sound manner is imperative.

Transfer champions such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, are up for re-election this year, and if they win their races, as they likely will,  they’ll doubtless make such measures a central part of their legislative efforts. And the transfer drumbeat has been getting louder in many Western counties. Even as some explicitly reject the idea of putting states in charge of public lands, others are signing up with the American Lands Council, which works to further the goal of “returning” lands to states.

While the GOP’s public-lands platform isn’t anything new, it’s one more indication of a growing schism between two fundamentally different views of how federal lands should be handled. The contains this language:

“As a nation, we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, protect species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.”

While dozens of bills and other measures requiring federal land transfers have been introduced over the years, none have yet become law, and probably won’t as long as a Democrat sits in the White House. But conservative lawmakers will continue pushing for the disposal of federal lands – and may even succeed, should the national political landscape shift further right.

 Jodi Peterson is a senior editor with NewTowncarShare News.  

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • We are hiring a Wyoming Conservation Associate Full time, competitive pay and benefits. Location: Cody, WY (preferred), Jackson, WY, or Lander, WY Visit www.greateryellowstone.org/careers for...
  • The National Parks Conservation Association, the nations leading national park advocacy organization, seeks a Regional Director to lead and manage staff for the Southwest Regional...
  • This newly created position with The Nature Conservancy's Colorado River Program will play a key role in the development and implementation of strategies to achieve...
  • The Foundation NoVo Foundation acts from the original meaning of philanthropy: the love of humanity. The Foundation is dedicated to catalyzing a global social transformation...
  • A new generation of monkey wrenchers hits the Front Range?
  • The Tanner Humanities Center and the Environmental Humanities Program of the University of Utah seek an environmental writer to offer classes in Utahs Environmental Humanities...
  • The Wilderness Society works to protect Wildlands and inspire Americans to care for our public lands. We seek to hire a strategic, experienced leader who...
  • The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) seeks an individual to lead this 45-year-old organization as executive director, to carry on ICLs work as Idahos leading voice...
  • 2+ acres, 400+ feet on Snake River, 2800 sf residence, NWF-certified wildlife habitat, excellent hunting, fishing, birdwatching, stargazing, sunsets & panoramic views. In the heart...
  • Guardians is expanding and looking for a few great people to join us in protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health...
  • Organic grocery/cafe at Glacier Bay needs a vibrant leader. Love good food, community, and Alaska? Join us!
  • Ouray County, Colorado, a popular tourist destination, has dramatic mountains and amazing winter ice climbing. Challenging terrain and high altitude can push visitors to their...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Coordinator-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Manager-Tahoe Area. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time California Program Associate-Southern CA. Position works closely with California-based program staff and National Forest Foundation staff to provide...
  • Collector's Item! The story of barley, the field crop. 50 years of non-fiction research. www.barleybook.com
  • Are you a climber and a writer who is passionate about mountain literature? Do you love searching through old alpine journals for stories of esoteric...
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a growing nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of our National Conservation Lands with a focus on Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and...