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Tomorrow are the South Carolina primaries, and former VP Joe Biden leads in the poll, followed by winner of the first three contests, Sen. Bernie Sanders and businessman Tom Steyer. Some Republican South Carolinians may vote for Sanders because they want closed primaries.

Proposed GOP Platform Advocates Surrendering Public Lands

The proposed Republican Party platform contains language endorsing the transfer of all public lands, such as the Grand Canyon, to the states. (iStockphoto)
The proposed Republican Party platform contains language endorsing the transfer of all public lands, such as the Grand Canyon, to the states. (iStockphoto)
July 18, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. -- A movement to remove public lands from federal control has found its way into a draft of the Republican Party platform. When the GOP convention opens Monday, one plank up for debate would transfer authority over areas such as national parks, refuges, wilderness areas and national forests to the states in which they reside.

Dan Lorimier, conservation coordinator with the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said he is deeply concerned that the Republican Party is considering the views of what he calls a radical fringe group.

"It hasn't been adopted by the party at the convention,” Lorimier said, "but I think it's indicative of what side of the fence Republicans as a party are coming down on in this issue."

The movement to relinquish federal control over public lands - led by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who is in a long-term dispute with federal officials over grazing rights - has found support in some Western states, including New Mexico and Utah. Bundy's son, Ammon, and others occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in an armed standoff in early 2016.

Lorimier said public lands are the property of all Americans and not something that can simply be given away. Environmentalists, conservationists, and other groups adamantly oppose any transfer of federal lands, which, according to Lorimier, most states can't afford to properly manage.

"This is a plan to steal outright a huge bequest to Americans,” Lorimier said. “And I just feel that this has some ethical issues that are so deep that it just resonates as intrusive into the American ethic."

The platform committee also adopted measures that would end the president's ability to designate national monuments and weaken the Endangered Species Act, which protects threatened animals such as the sage grouse and Mexican gray wolf.

The draft must be formally adopted by party delegates to become part of the official platform, on which Republican candidates are expected to campaign.

For more on the proposed Republican Party platform, click here.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - NM