Cliven Bundy and most of his sons are still jailed as they await trial on a variety of federal charges, but their anti-government views are close to becoming an official plank in the Republican Party platform.
The GOP platform adopted this week 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,” reported Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The Nevada rancher and his sons engaged in two armed engagements against federal agents over their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, which they believe prohibits the U.S. government from controlling public lands.
Cliven Bundy and his sons’ armed actions are based on their inaccurate belief that the federal government does not own the desert lands where his family has grazed cattle since about 1877 – or 13 years after Nevada became a state.
The American Lands Council, a Koch-backed lobbying group that promotes legislation that would give states and individuals control of federally owned land, and the Coalition of Western States, a group of like-minded legislators, help spread the Bundys’ ideology.
Utah passed a 2012 law calling for the U.S. government to immediately return lands it owns there to state officials, but that hasn’t happened yet.
The GOP platform committee narrowly approved language that would adopt that fringe view as an official part of Republican orthodoxy.
“Generally, I’m in favor of that position,” said Russ Walker, one Oregon’s two platform committee members. “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 (the Bureau of Land Management) in control of all these lands and in huge sections of the state.”
The final draft of the Republican Party platform must still be voted on at next week’s GOP convention in Cleveland.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on a proposal that would exempt 48 counties from a law that has been used to protect archaeological, cultural and natural resources — such as the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.
The measure, which is sponsored by Rep. Stewart (R-UT) and Rep. Gosar (R-AZ), would block local communities from asking the president to establish new national monuments in their states.
The amendment would also grant Cliven Bundy’s wishes to strip land management agencies of their law enforcement powers and take away the president’s authority to protect public lands.
The 2016 GOP platform would require national monuments be approved by both Congress and state legislatures and turn public lands over to private interests.
“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 approved draft says.
“Timber is a renewable natural resource, which provides jobs to thousands of Americans,” the draft continues. “All efforts should be made to make federal lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service available for harvesting. The enduring truth is that people best protect what they own.”