No, the GOP platform isn't calling to eliminate all national parks

You just can’t tell what sort of mischief those nasty old Republicans will get up to when they gather to define their party platform every four years. In the liberal hive mind it seems to be a default assumption that there will be plots to enslave humanity under new robot overlords and impregnate all of the nation’s women while chaining them to their kitchen stoves. In this year’s edition, at least according to the liberal web site Think Progress, the GOP is also planning to rain on everyone’s parade by closing down all of the nation’s national parks.

GOP Platform Proposes To Get Rid Of National Parks And National Forests

The Republican platform committee met this week to draft the document that defines the party’s official principles and policies. Along with provisions on pornography and LGBT “conversion therapy” is an amendment calling for the indiscriminate and immediate disposal of national public lands…

“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states,” reads the adopted language. “We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands identified.”…

The provision calls for an immediate full-scale disposal of “certain” public lands, without defining which lands it would apply to, leaving national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and national forests apparently up for grabs and vulnerable to development, privatization, or transfer to state ownership.

This is the type of propaganda running around in the Leftosphere this summer and it’s likely being swallowed hook, line and sinker by those who won’t bother to do their own research. The reality, of course, is that the platform amendment makes no mention of parks and other public monuments and preserves. It speaks of “certain public lands.” So what does that even mean? Obviously we’ll need to see a full list of these lands eventually, but it’s a proposal which deals with a very real problem.

William Teach at Right Wing News did an admirable job of debunking this, pointing us to an earlier study in The Atlantic which highlights the concerns being addressed in this proposal. The problem isn’t the nation’s national parks, which may have managerial and sexual harassment problems of their own, but are enjoyed by hundreds of millions of Americans. The real questions surround the vast tracts of federally owned land which are not parks or preserves and are not being used by the public in any fashion. It’s just land that the federal government gobbles up and keeps on the books, outside of the control of the states who should be managing those areas. And how much land are we talking about? (Emphasis added)

In most of the Northeast and South, where the only federal presence is the occasional military base or national park, complaints that the government owns too much land seem laughable.

But out west, the government lays claim to huge, state-sized swaths of land—more than 630 million acres, greater than the landmass of Texas, California, Florida and New York combined. In some states, government agencies are the biggest landowner; in Nevada, 80 percent of land is federally owned

Yes, the government owns nearly a third of America. But after mapping federal holdings to county populations, it becomes clear the majority of government land is remote and unpopulated, far from even most rural residents.

There are some eye opening figures in there. The feds owning 80% of Nevada is pretty shocking to begin with but it doesn’t end there. They own roughly half of the land in nearly a dozen states, including 60% of Alaska. Almost one third of the country consists of federally owned and controlled property. You don’t see a problem with that figure?

There are two general categories of such federally owned property which require a close review and possible action. (And again, we’re not talking about parks.) First, there are vast areas of open range land which can be used by ranchers. The federal government charges farmers fees to lease such property. But the land is inside of various states, so why aren’t the states controlling that access (assuming any control is required to begin with) and benefiting from these leasing arrangements?

The other category is all of the “wilderness area” which environmentalists want to keep locked off from any and all human development or productive use. That’s a phenomenon which stretches into the eastern portion of the country as well as the much larger stretches out west. Even here in New York we’ve been fighting battles with both the state and federal government over sections of the northern forest regions. But people at least have a more reasonable chance at access and ownership when they only have to deal with the state where they reside rather than Washington.

Why is the prospect of transferring much of this property to the states which encompass it such a controversial idea? Since when did the Founding Fathers want the federal government to be a landlord on this massive scale? This is hardly a conspiracy theory cooked up at the RNC. It’s a serious issue which is long overdue for a national debate.


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