After recently releasing a report on Utah State Representative Mike Noel’s undisclosed property valued at over $1.2 million in and around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), Western Values Project filed a complaint with the Department of the Interior Inspector General to conduct a formal investigation into the redrawn boundaries.
View the complaint here.
“Representative Noel has gloated about his influence over the illegal redrawing of the Grand Staircase-Escalante boundary ever since Secretary Zinke first announced that it was on the chopping block – meeting with the Secretary multiple times,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “What has become clear is that Noel failed to disclose the land he owned within the boundary to just about everyone, except maybe the Internal Revenue Service. Not only is Noel in violation of Utah state law but, more importantly, it calls into question how the proclaimed new Grand Staircase boundary came to be.”
Red: Undisclosed Noel Properties, LLC. outside new GSNM boundary on the right (source BLM)
The complaint cites a November 14, 2017, Salt Lake Tribune story that reported how Secretary Zinke was planning to recommend reducing the size of GSENM in line “with what state and local leaders requested,” and that stated that “proposals for a redrawn Grand Staircase were left to Kane County leaders.”
In addition to serving in the State Legislature, Noel is also the Executive Director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District. Noel hosted and toured Secretary Zinke around GSENM numerous times during the review period cited in both the complaint and report.
The undisclosed Noel Properties, LLC. land included a 40-acre inholding within the GSENM that was carved out under the new map and the other irrigated farmland in the Johnson Canyon area that would be serviced by the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline that Noel has long advocated being built. The controversial pipeline line would now be outside the boundary, clearing away some of the regulatory guidelines associated with national monument protections.
The complaint states that it appears President Trump amended the boundaries – in part and perhaps unknowingly – to financially benefit one person: Representative Noel.
“General ethical precepts make clear that government officials may not make decisions for the improper purpose of bestowing preferential treatment or a financial benefit on any private individual. Yet this appears to be exactly what has taken place here,” said Saeger.