While news outlets are reporting on a leaked summary of an Interior Inspector General (IG) report that investigates whether Secretary Ryan Zinke intentionally benefitted a Utah lawmaker when he recommended shrinking Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), Interior has yet to release the full report to the public. Western Values Project (WVP) requested the IG investigation earlier this year after discovering that the new monument boundaries excluded 40 acres that Utah State Representative Mike Noel had owned inside the former monument.
Last year, based on Zinke’s recommendation, President Trump issued an executive order slashing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah, leading to the largest reduction of public land protections in U.S. history. The reductions are currently being challenged in court.
“Especially in light of Zinke’s scandal-plagued tenure and other ethical missteps, Interior should immediately release the full report and let the public judge the merits of the findings,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger. “Zinke just happened to recommend that President Trump exclude a Utah State Representative’s undisclosed 40-acre inholding from the illegally-reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But the redrawn boundary, along with photos of Zinke and Noel together, seem to contradict whatever conclusions have been drawn from this leaked summary.”
During Zinke’s sham national monuments review, he traveled to GSENM and was led on a personal tour of the area by Noel. Several photos show Noel and Zinke together prior to the final release of the new illegally reduced boundary. Noel was also front and center when President Trump signed the executive order reducing Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears National Monuments. WVP also discovered that Noel himself had failed to disclose that he owned the land in his financial disclosure, violating Utah law.
Additionally, Zinke lied to the public about his motivation behind reducing the other national monument in Utah. Although he repeatedly claimed that his recommendation to slash Bears Ears wasn’t about oil and gas, a New York Times analysis of public documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request later found that oil was central in the decision to shrink Bears Ears.
In light of all these circumstances, key questions remain unanswered, including:
View WVP’s original report on how Noel benefited from the reduction here.