Ammon Bundy removes a fence separating the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from ranching land.

Ammon Bundy removes a fence separating the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from ranching land.

Anna King/Northwest Network

This year’s national Republican Party platform could support turning federal lands over to states. The language echoes some of the demands of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon earlier this year.
 
The GOP platform language calls on Congress to “immediately pass universal legislation providing the timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states.”

Throughout the refuge occupation, Ammon Bundy and other militant leaders said that the federal government had no right to control public lands. 

FULL COVERAGE

An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

Ongoing coverage of the federal case against the people involved in the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and how life has changed in Harney County, Oregon.

Russ Walker is one of two Oregon members of the platform committee. He voted in favor of the measure.

“Generally, I’m in favor of that position,” said Walker. “It’s something that’s been moving around the lands policy community for some time. When you live out West, you’re used to having (Bureau of Land Management) in control of all these lands and in huge sections of the state.”

Fifty-three percent of all lands in Oregon are federally managed.

This week’s committee vote was so close that members had to stand to be counted.
 
“That’s a very broad brush to basically say that we’re going to turn over all federal lands to states,” said committee member Victor Sprouse of West Virginia, who also questioned whether states could afford to manage federal lands.  
 
But others said their states would gladly take over that responsibility.

“I assure you the state of Alaska will be glad to afford their land, which 50 percent of the federal government owns,” said Judy Eledge of Alaska.

The draft platform position also echoes some of the discussions that have taken place in at least seven western state legislatures in the past year. Oregon has not been among the states to consider bills turning federal land over to the state. But advocates from states such as Utah and Nevada who support the mission of the Bundys have been vocal at rallies and gatherings across Oregon since the end of the occupation. 
 
A final draft of the Republican Party platform will be voted on during next week’s GOP convention.