In a nail-biting vote Monday, the committee tasked with writing the Republican Party’s 2016 platform voted to include language calling on Congress to return federal lands to the states immediately.
The amendment was so close that instead of being recorded by voice vote, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) asked members of the platform committee to stand to show their support.
The amendment has new resonance this year after dozens of anti-government protestors took over the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in January to protest federal control of lands. Many affiliated with that takeover had argued the federal government had no business managing federal lands. In 2014, a ragtag group of vigilantes (some of whom also participated in the Oregon standoff) went out to assist rancher Cliven Bundy as he sought to defy BLM officials who were rounding up his cattle, which he had illegally been grazing on federal lands.
The issue of how much land the federal government should control has bled into mainstream Republican politics. A 2012 Utah law actually called for the feds to immediately return lands to the state. Nothing has actually happened since the law passed.
The final draft of the GOP’s Party Platform will still have to be voted on at the GOP convention.