Trump met with a leader of the land transfer movement

A Nevada county commissioner says the Republican nominee was receptive to the idea of forcing the feds to turn over public lands.


The current movement in Western states to transfer federal public lands to state control has ramped up in the past four years, becoming an important campaign issue in state and federal races, and for some voters, in the presidential election. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton opposes a large-scale transfer but Republican candidate Donald Trump’s stance is murkier. But in late August, Elko County, Nevada, Commissioner Demar Dahl, a major figure in the pro-land-transfer movement, met one-on-one with Trump. Dahl told High Country News last week that the two men talked for about ten minutes about the land transfer idea, preceding a dinner fundraiser for the candidate at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

During that private conversation with Trump, the commissioner drew a comparison between the nominee’s hotel business and federal land management to explain his perspective: “How efficiently would your hotels operate if eight out of every 10 floors were managed by the federal government?” Dahl, a cattle rancher and co-founder of the land transfer group American Lands Council, recalled asking Trump.

Donald Trump during a campaign in Nevada, where 85 percent of the land is managed by the federal government.
Darron Birgenheier/CC Flickr

Dahl said Trump was receptive to the idea of transferring federal land to state control in Nevada, where 85 percent of the land is managed by the federal government: “He said, ‘I’m with you.’” During his speech at the fundraiser afterward, Trump took an informal audience poll to gauge support for a land transfer. The crowd of several hundred cheered loudly for a transfer, Dahl said. Vice Chairman of the Nevada Republican Party Jim DeGraffenreid, who helped organize the dinner, said in an email, "the crowd that was present in Tahoe would have been heavily in favor of transferring federal land back to state control." And Nevada State Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who was at the fundraiser, confirmed that Trump spoke briefly about land transfers and received audience applause for it. "It was quite interesting," Hansen said.

Commissioner Dahl was encouraged by his interactions with Trump, but isn’t sure Trump would follow through on land transfers if elected. The Republican Party’s official platform endorses transferring federal land to state control. Yet Trump’s stance on public lands has been far from clear over the course of his campaign. In January, Trump actually advocated for keeping lands under federal control.

The nominee’s son, Donald Trump Jr., also defended keeping public lands under federal control earlier this year, but last month at an event in western Colorado, his stance was ambiguous. Trump Jr. said his father would “keep public lands public and accessible.” Trump reportedly did not respond to a letter several weeks ago from 40 sportsmen and conservation groups asking him to clarify his position on the issue of land transfers.

“This has left conservationists and sportsmen sifting through past interviews to determine Trump’s position on the public-lands transfer proposal, which many fear would limit their access as more federal lands are opened to energy development,” the Denver Post reported last month.

Trump’s late-hour nod to the movement gives rise to the possibility the candidate is following Ronald Reagan’s model and speaking to a rural Western constituency that has little faith in the federal government and is much more in favor of local control.

Dahl said Trump told him he’d consider putting the commissioner on a transition team, where he could push for the land transfer agenda through strategic recommendations for appointments. (That would be Dahl’s second time on a presidential transition team; he assisted George W. Bush in recommending appointments for the Department of Interior in 2000.)

Three weeks ahead of the election, a Trump presidency looks unlikely, but whatever support he has for the land transfer movement, however muddled, may give it further momentum beyond November.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

This story was updated with additional information on Oct. 19. Read more HCN coverage of public lands. Read more HCN coverage of the 2016 elections. 

Tay Wiles is associate editor at High Country NewsEmail her at 

Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 17, 2016 09:08 PM
Trump president would be the end of America as we know it. Never been such a scary moment in my lifetime. The consequences to this country could be worse than any war we have ever been in.
How could a country go so wrong?
Cathy Kaech
Cathy Kaech
Oct 18, 2016 11:33 AM
Nancie McCormish
Nancie McCormish Subscriber
Oct 18, 2016 02:04 PM
Once again the fallacious argument of giving land "back" to the states goes unchallenged by supposedly smart people. If any case is to be made for giving land "back" it should go to the indigenous peoples from whom it was stolen or swindled.

Is our country still a country, or only agglomerations of corporations now? Where is the public honored in the public trust, or public lands discussions, something which sets our experiment in democracy apart. Why is everything for sale in America, including our public officials?
Kelley Moore
Kelley Moore
Oct 18, 2016 02:35 PM
Sadly, we an NOT rely on anything Hillary Clinton says. She'll sell the public lands to ANYBODY that can make a big enough donation to the Clinton foundation. The Clintons are TIGHT with Frank Guistra.

As for Donald Trump, damn, I hope this article is wrong, because the other choice is worse!
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 18, 2016 04:50 PM
Donald Tromp has only got endorsement from one newspaper in this country and Russia.
Jim Bolen
Jim Bolen
Oct 20, 2016 09:07 PM
Hillary has stated time and time again that she would keep lands under federal control. she is not selling our lands nor is she taking your guns away. I guess if you repeat a lie long enough people will believe.
The Republican platform that was drafted at the convention states that they will seriously look at transferring our lands to states.
Trump is just the final product of a party that has become more racist and the party who increasingly supports the moneyed interests over the middle classed and poor people This strategy of class and racial warfare started with Nixon and has continues ever since that time. but be careful what you ask for or you may just get
 a Frankensteins monster.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 20, 2016 09:26 PM
Sad,it was not many years ago both parties though along the same lines in a clean environment and protecting our public land. Now one party the republican party would like to privatize everything and do away with clean air or water if short term it may cost a dollar. Never mind what future generations will have left. Also majority of future generations only chance of open spaces will be public lands. Lose it once it is gone forever.
Jim Bolen
Jim Bolen
Oct 20, 2016 09:32 PM
right on Dale
Inspite of Nixon's many sins he supported major legislation that supported our land and wildlife. It's too bad bad that we don't have the party of teddy Roosevelt anymore
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 20, 2016 09:39 PM
Actually as you say Nixon was a big supporter of Wilderness areas.
Yes I miss Teddy. They don't make them like that anymore.
Doug Smith
Doug Smith Subscriber
Oct 24, 2016 09:57 AM
Luckily, there are not enough uneducated, white red neck deplorables to elect Trump. He doesn't pass the human decency test.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 24, 2016 12:13 PM
I seen election before people don't care and don't know about the people they vote for-there just anti-establishment no matter the outcome.
It might end up closer than you think.
Dale Lockwood
Dale Lockwood Subscriber
Oct 27, 2016 09:00 PM
Trump and other extreme right movement people I am afraid for the first time in my 67 year old life if Trump wins the U.S. of America will end as we know it. Yes he praised Putin again today.

It reminds me of the KKK movement in the 50's and 60's trying to control the country the way they wanted and if you didn't like it get out or perish.

The people of this country better wake up.

Now I see the Bundy's got off almost free in their court decision. Yes just like the white dominated courts in the southern states during many dark days in the history of this country.