Utah Representative Mike Noel’s Motives Under Scrutiny Regarding Relentless Crusade Against Alleged Federal Lands Overreach

Cedar Mesa Grand Gulch

We have spent a bit of time on this blog hashing out the goods and bads of Presidential national monuments establishment under the Antiquities Act, and particularly subsequent reductions enacted by a subsequent Administration. In the latest reduction-saga President Donald J. Trump substantially reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments in a Utah.

Some of us, particularly environmentalists and Democrats, thought the recent reduction to be a gleeful move to “stick it to the out-group” by a President hell-bent on undoing anything and everything done by the previous Obama Administration. In this case three added benefits would accrue to the reduction move: sticking it to the Clinton Administration, supporting “the base” by claiming benefits to energy-related resource extractive industries, and showing solidarity with the bright Red (Republican) Utah Delegation. It was no secret that the Utah Delegation had been courting the Trump Administration to reduce or eliminate at least these two National Monuments—stressing that the Monuments were established by midnight political attacks, or stunts, by outgoing Democratic Presidents only to score points with their base.

Recently, another shoe just dropped in the ongoing debacle over Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. The Salt Lake Tribune notes, 3/9/2018:

…As one of the harshest critics of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase, [Utah State Rep. Mike Noel, R] faced a backlash after a Montana-based conservation group published documents last month showing that Noel’s company owned land inside the original boundaries of Grand Staircase that was cut out by Trump’s proclamation.

He had not disclosed the land-owning company on his legislative conflict-of-interest form, at least not by the name registered with the state.

Western Values Project responded Friday to Noel’s reported retirement by asserting that there are “ongoing investigations” of him. “He must still be held accountable for his actions,” the group said, “even if he is no longer willing to face the public as a legislator.” …


8 thoughts on “Utah Representative Mike Noel’s Motives Under Scrutiny Regarding Relentless Crusade Against Alleged Federal Lands Overreach”

  1. No, I’m not. Utah was one of the most hostile places for me to work as a federal employee. It is still the most anti-federalism state I have lived. The fact that a UT politician was “outed” for personally benefitting from a federal action seems true to form from my perspective.

  2. The Tribune article also says (if you can get past the noisy ads).

    “Western Values doesn’t claim Noel necessarily benefited from the ownership, but says it should have been made clear given Noel’s advocacy around the monument.

    Noel on Tuesday said Noel Properties is a family trust. He said it’s “more than likely” that the 40-acre parcel is now outside the monument boundary, but said he hadn’t positively confirmed that. He files taxes every year on the land, he said, so it wasn’t hidden.

    “The property’s disclosed, and there’s really no attempt to hide anything there at all,” Noel said. “There would be no reason to do it.”

    He also said he didn’t benefit financially from the land’s removal from the monument, and actually may have been better off with its previous inclusion because conservation groups and residents hoped to buy it from him when there were limits on development under its protected monument status.

    “Part of the benefit of it — two things. No. 1, it’s an inholding within the monument which makes it very valuable for exchange. And No. 2, there’s a lot of people that would like to have that piece of property, because you know no one’s ever going to build around it,” Noel said.”

  3. A 2011 article from HCN suggests that Noel was disgusted with the Clinton Admin for designating Grand Staircase. It was after that when Noel quit the BLM and went into politics. I have no idea when Noel acquired the 40 acres Sharon mentions. See: https://www.hcn.org/issues/43.1/utahs-sagebrush-rebellion-capital-mellows-as-animal-lovers-and-enviros-move-in/@@gallery_view?b_start:int=1

    But I did find that the accusations against him have more to do with his alleged money-grubbing relative to water from Lake Powell than they do with the monuments, as per: https://westernvaluesproject.org/report-utah-rep-noel-to-benefit-personally-and-professionally-from-new-reduced-grand-staircase-escalante-national-monument-boundary/ and

    Still, it seems apparent that Noel’s was one of the voices that loudly argued against Bears Ears and against “federal overreach” in many endeavors.

    It will prove interesting to see what sticks and what does not, as will be the case for Trump and his fellow-travelers.

  4. I often wonder if part of the problem is in ‘buffer zones’. Do archaeological sites really need ‘buffer zones’ for … anything? I’ve heard more than one person talk about “preserving the integrity of the site” in establishing relatively large buffer zones around, really, any kind of protected site. I doubt that is in any Forest Service Handbook or in rules about Protected Areas.

    • Larry, “buffer zone” seem to be the double-speak for extending non-management . Reminds me of the oft-quoted remark by Ed Ball, notorious early North Florida land and timber baron — “I don’t want all the land in Florida, only what’s next to mine”.

  5. From what I could find in the Forest Service Handbook on heritage resources. Buffers are a thing with regard to establishing sites on national forest land, at least with regard to land acquisition: “Acquire non-National Forest System lands through land exchange, purchase, deed, or easement to maintain the integrity of a historic property on adjacent National Forest System lands or to provide buffer areas” (2309.12 FSH 44.14). They are not legally a thing under the National Historic Preservation Act process for designating historic properties o the National Register of Historic Places: “The registered area should be large enough to include all historic features but should not include buffer zones or acreage not directly contributing to its historical significance” (2309.12 FSH 46.11). So there is some protection value in buffer zones, but Congress didn’t want them used for sites granted legal protection under NHPA.


Leave a Comment