Op-ed: Past history says Noel would be disastrous for BLM

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

If one were to glance at his resume, Utah state Rep. Mike Noel may seem a good fit for the position of the director of the Bureau of Land Management. He worked for the BLM in the past; he lives in rural southern Utah; he speaks for causes he cares about. His Facebook page even describes him as an advocate for multiple uses for public lands, due to their importance to southern Utah’s economy. It would seem all these qualities would align well with the BLM, which seeks balance and multiple uses for public lands in a sustainable manner.

Yet, with a glance at his recent history and a bit of context, it quickly becomes evident that naming Noel as the director of the BLM would spell disaster for our public lands. Nearly 65 percent of Utah’s lands are public, making the BLM director position especially important for those of us who live here and would feel the effects of poor management.

Unfortunately, Noel’s track record does not indicate an interest in sustainable or protective land management. Noel ardently supported Phil Lyman, the former county commissioner notoriously associated with leading an illegal protest ride through Recapture Canyon. Noel is also among legislators who have called for the transfer of public lands “back” to the state for management and pushed for an expensive lawsuit to do just that.

Superficially, the argument for state management seems reasonable. There is no doubt those who live on the land have a great understanding of it. However, if Lyman’s actions are any indication, one has to wonder just how these lands would be managed in the hands of like-minded locals.

Noel’s distaste for the federal government is a huge red flag when considering who should run the BLM, but of equal concern is Noel’s tendency to vilify his opponents with name-calling, finger-shaking and threats. I have witnessed this play out most recently in the ongoing debate regarding protecting the Bears Ears area. Noel is against a monument designation. San Juan County Commissioner Rebecca Benally, who is also a Navajo woman, joins him in that opposition. While Benally has every right to voice her opposition against a monument, it is not Noel’s right to champion Benally’s voice as the voice for all Native voices in the area.

Noel has worked to paint anyone in disagreement with him or Benally as radical and corrupt. Perhaps most egregious among his actions was claiming the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance or other environmental groups had manipulated the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and encouraged them to call for a monument. He even threatened a legal investigation into the group’s funding sources in an attempt to quiet his opposition. Noel’s claim appears to be both unfounded and offensive, reminding us again how Noel treats those who disagree with him.

This is the man who wants to head the BLM — one fearful of federal overreach, who condones illegal protests, advocates for the transfer of land to state management and denigrates his opponents to promote his own causes. If Noel leads the BLM, and therefore manages our precious public lands — lands central to many Utahns’ identities, pride, enjoyment and very livelihood — our public lands and our nation will not be well served.

Based on his record and rhetoric, Mike Noel’s quest to lead the BLM should be opposed by anyone who truly believes in the balanced use of our public lands. Those lands, after all, belong to all of us.

Madison Hayes is content manager at Alliance for a Better Utah.

Read the Salt Lake Tribune article here

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