CEDAR CITY – A Utah legislator known for his avid support of turning public lands over to state control is planning to submit paperwork to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team for the position of Bureau of Land Management director.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, recently confirmed to St. George News that he is submitting his resume and information to Trump’s transition team with Sen. Orrin Hatch’s blessing.
Hatch isn’t the only one, however, to give the legislator’s resume a thumbs up. Noel has received support from several state and national political figures, including Congressman Chris Stewart and Gov. Gary Herbert.
The Utah Association of Counties, Utah Cattleman’s Association, Utah Farm Bureau and the Utah Sheriffs Association are also all backing him.
“I have a lot of support,” Noel said. “The only ones that don’t really support me is the environmental community and that’s to be expected.”
Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, who has worked with Noel for many years, said he supports Noel’s application.
“I hope this is successful for him,” Pulsipher said. “He has the knowledge and background to make a big difference nationwide and not just for the state of Utah. Mike has always been one of the biggest supporters of law enforcement as he has served in the House of Representatives.”
As the president of the Utah Sheriff’s Association, Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel, Mike Noel’s son, said the association supported his father because as a Utah representative he has been a huge advocate for law enforcement.
The sheriff said the association wants to ensure BLM law enforcement maintains good working relationships with local law enforcement and respects that the sheriff is the ultimate authority in the counties. The sheriff’s association believes Mike Noel will make sure that happen.
“My dad has done a lot of work toward controlling the overreach of BLM law enforcement into the county. There are 29 sheriffs in Utah, and he has worked with all of them at one time or another on various issues,” Cameron Noel said. “But it’s not just that. He also is an expert in public lands, grazing rights and road closures. This is not a partisan appointment, and he will do a good job of representing the different interests.”
Pulsipher is likely to be the one writing the letter on behalf of the organization to the Trump’s transition team, since Cameron Noel said he feels his signature would create a perceived conflict of interest.
Mike Noel’s name has also been submitted to the National Sheriffs Association and Western Sheriffs Association in consideration for their support, Cameron Noel said.
Mike Noel has long championed rural Utah issues in the legislature, often finding himself on the other side of environmental groups and the federal government on land and access policy issues.
Of late, he attended arguments at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and Monte Wells, both of whom are seeking to have their convictions overturned for the 2014 Recapture Canyon protest ride.
State and Institutional Trust Lands Administration Chairman James Lekas recently wrote a letter to the Trump transition team on behalf of Noel calling him the “leading conservative voice in Utah public land issues.”
“His long service in the Utah legislature, including chairmanship of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, his management experience with a large rural water district in a public lands county, and his prior employment with the BLM, make him an excellent choice for a BLM director who can take necessary steps to bring balance back to federal public land management,” the letter states.
Lekas continued by stating he looks forward to “working with a Department of Interior who is led by people who can change the direction of public lands management back towards BLM’s traditional multiple use mandate.”
Even with his conservative background, Noel said he believes he can bring both sides to the table and find some middle ground they can all agree with. He said:
A lot of people think I don’t care about the earth or the environment, but that’s not true. I’m a good steward over the land. I know the environmental community may not support me right now, but even they need and want access to the public lands and I’ve even seen them limited as well of late. I think we can find a way to work with any group so we can all work together. There are multiple uses of the lands and multiple users to consider. A lot needs to be changed, and I’d like to be given the chance to make some of those changes.
St. George News reached out to Grand Canyon Trust for comment but received an email from Communications Director Ashley Davidson on the organization’s behalf declining comment. Several calls to Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance for comment also went unreturned.
Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner also believes Noel can work with both sides. Gardner points to the legislator’s 20-year career with the BLM as evidence that while some believe he doesn’t care about the environment, nothing could be further from the truth.
“He would be excellent as the BLM director,” Gardner said. “He has 20 years working on the inside as a BLM employee and another 20 years on the outside working as a legislator and involved with the private sector. He just brings so much to the table. If he is able to secure that appointment, I think it will really do a lot for the western states and for the country.”
Iron County Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff echoed the same sentiments, stating he and his fellow commissioners Alma Adams and Casey Anderson also fully support the move.
Noel said he believes he has a 50 percent chance of getting the position.
If appointed, he still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Noel said he believes he is in a perfect position to fill the spot and has several goals in mind if appointed.
“I’m really excited about applying for this job and the prospects,” Noel said. “I think there’s a lot of good things that can be done especially with an administration that hasn’t sold out to special interests. The BLM has 11,000 employees and 274 million acres it oversees, and I really think we can do some great work and make some positive changes for everyone.”
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