Fact Check: Utah Representative Mike Noel’s false response to Western Values Project report

Undisclosed property valued at over one million listed as a limited liability corporation; anti-monument state legislator lobbied administration

Utah State Representative Mike Noel repeated several misstatements to news outlets in response to a comprehensive report from the Western Values Project detailing how his land is implicated in the reduction he demanded of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and how he potentially abused his various government positions in order to enrich himself and his family.

“We’re not sure how you can describe this undisclosed property as something other than what it is registered as under Utah law – a limited liability corporation with a business purpose,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “Every other elected official in Utah must follow the law and disclose potential conflicts of interest. We’re not sure why Representative Noel thinks he’s different and above the law. At the very least, this should be investigated and calls into question the monuments reduction Secretary Zinke demanded.”

FICTION: Noel claimed that Noel Properties LLC is actually a family trust and that he publicly disclosed it.

FACT: Noel Properties is registered as a limited liability company. It is not registered as a family trust. It’s stated purpose is “other crop farming.” The parcel cut from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is owned by Noel Properties LLC, which belongs to Noel. Noel has not disclosed this entity on his conflict of interest disclosures at the legislature, which may be a violation of Utah law.

Michael E. Noel is the registered agent and manager for Noel Properties, LLC, which is active and in good standing. Noel and his wife are the only people whose names appear on the LLC’s business filings. The records say the “business purpose” of Noel Properties LLC is “other crop farming.”  This LLC is registered at Noel’s home address. [Noel Properties LLC, Utah.gov, accessed 11/18/17]

Utah House of Representatives Conflict of Interest & Financial Disclosure forms require disclosure of “Employment,” “Entities in which you are an owner or officer,” and other categories.

A Utah law passed in 2014 says that legislators’ financial disclosure forms “shall include…for each entity in which the regulated officeholder is an owner or officer… the name of the entity… a brief description of the type of business or activity conducted by the entity… and the regulated office-holder position in the entity.” [H.B. 394 Campaign Finance Revisionsle.utah.gov, accessed 01/18/18]

The most recent deed and the parcel record card for this property from the Kane County Assessor’s office both indicate that Noel Properties LLC is the owner of the property. [See documentation]

FICTION: Noel claimed that he did not lobby for the exclusion of his property from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

FACT: Mike Noel introduced a resolution in the state legislature demanding reductions to the monument and met repeatedly with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on reducing Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. At one of those meetings, “Kane County leaders” presented Zinke with maps of what they wanted taken out of the monument, which also excluded Noel’s inholding. Noel stood behind President Trump when the monument reduction order was signed.

Kane County Commissioners gave input and a map to Zinke on May 10 at a “closed-door meeting.” [Brian Maffly, “What does Kane County want in a redrawn Grand Staircase-Escalante monument?,” Salt Lake Tribune, 11/20/17].

Noel was in five meetings with Ryan Zinke during the May 2017 visit that was part of the Interior Department’s national monument review. At one of the meetings Noel attended, which took place at the office of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, which Noel runs, “Kane County leaders” presented Zinke with a map of the reductions they wanted to see at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The office of the Kane County Water Conservancy District that Noel runs. Zinke’s schedule from his May 2017 trip to Utah indicates that Noel participated in four other events with Zinke related to the monument review. During two of those meetings, every member of the Kane and Garfield County Commissions was also present. [Official Travel Schedule of the Secretary, DOI, 05/05/17 – 05/13/17 and Brian Maffly, “What does Kane County want in a redrawn Grand Staircase-Escalante monument?,” Salt Lake Tribune, 11/20/17].

Mike Noel at signing with Trump and others

When Donald Trump went to Utah to sign the order reducing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Mike Noel was behind him on stage.

Noel flying with Sec. Zinke

Noel posted a photo to Facebook of himself talking to Ryan Zinke in an airplane. In the comments, Noel praised Zinke’s experiences as a collegiate football player and for being “a great horseman.” [Mike Noel Facebook post, 05/10/17]

Noel pointing out coal seam to Zinke

On a hike, Noel pointed out an exposed coal seam to Zinke. [Modern Hiker]

FICTION: Noel claimed that he “may have been better off” with his land staying in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

FACT: Mike Noel, in 2001, testified before Congress that Kane and Garfield Counties had “suffered economically” because of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. He said that after “five years of living with the monument, the economic conditions in Kane and Garfield [were] worse than ever.”

Mike Noel, in 2001, testified as “Chairman of the Kane County Resources Development Committee,” before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands of the U.S. House Committee on Resources, in favor of H.R. 2114, the “National Monument Fairness Act of 2001.” In his testimony, Noel said that “the citizens of Kane and Garfield County have suffered economically” because, with the designation, “over 51% of the land in Kane County and almost 20% of the land in adjacent Garfield County was placed in special management categories that severely limit economic development in the counties.” In 2001, Noel said, after “five years of living with the monument, the economic conditions in Kane and Garfield [were] worse than ever.” [Mike Noel, “National Monument Fairness Act of 2001,” Hearing of the House Committee on Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, 07/17/01]

Overall, Mike Noel has been a vocal opponent of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for years. In the past, he has claimed that the monument …  

Noel claimed the monument was “‘totally illegal'” and resigned from the BLM in 1997 after disputes with his bosses in the agency over the designation. [High Country News, 5/28/07]

Mike Noel, in a Facebook post, said, “There was never any threat to any antiquities in the area encompassed by the creation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It was all a ruse perpetrated by SUWA, Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club with the duplicity of the Clinton Administration who used the Monument to stop compliance coal from entering the market. Not allowing the Andalex Corporation to develop their coal, made some Al Gore connected foreign coal companies a lot of money. We must stop the Bears Ears Monument!” [Mike Noel’s Facebook, accessed 8/02/17]

Mike Noel “helped lead” a protest OHV ride along the Paria River in Grand Staircase National Monument, which is “off-limits.” “Hundreds of people rode ATVs and motorcycles” to protest the closure of a trail. [M. Richards, “Federal Agents Review Information from Off-Road Protest,” KSL TV, 5/12/09]

“Rep. Mike Noel has introduced his own resolution that would ask Congress to cut down the size of the current Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Noel, R-Kanab, and other GOP House leaders told their caucus this week that a resolution would be coming asking President Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County.” [Bob Bernick, “Rep. Noel wants President Trump to reduce size of Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument,” UtahPolicy.com, 01/26/17]

The map presented to Zinke by “Kane County leaders” asked for a dramatic reduction to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It also excluded Noel’s inholding. Kane County initially refused to release the map, but the Salt Lake Tribune obtained it through an open records request. [Brian Maffly, “What does Kane County want in a redrawn Grand Staircase-Escalante monument,” Salt Lake Tribune, 11/20/17 and Brian Maffly, “Grand Staircase-Escalante monument will be pruned by half, Hatch official says,” Salt Lake Tribune 11/14/17]

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.