Wild Burros

Can Utah’s Mike Noel Run the BLM, an Agency He Despises?

By | The Salt Lake Tribune

“The BLM manages some of the America’s most spectacular and iconic landscapes, landscapes that are integral to outdoor recreation, sportsmen, biodiversity, and native Americans’ and America’s high quality of life,”

As Utah state Rep. Mike Noel actively courts support for his bid to become the next director of the Bureau of Land Management, conservation and outdoor business interests are questioning the Kanab lawmaker’s ability to effectively run an agency he has relentlessly condemned since quitting it 20 years ago.

“The BLM manages some of the America’s most spectacular and iconic landscapes, landscapes that are integral to outdoor recreation, sportsmen, biodiversity, and native Americans’ and America’s high quality of life,” said Black Diamond Equipment founder Peter Metcalf. “We need a BLM leader aligned with this mission, one who recognizes the role these well-stewarded landscapes play in the vibrancy of one of America’s most important and sustainable economic sector.”

“Mike Noel,” Metcalf said, “is the opposite.”

The retired CEO joined 15 other Utah business leaders and conservationists in penning a letter to the Trump administration opposing Noel’s possible selection as BLM director.

An influential Republican, Noel has staked his political career on challenging federal land management and sparring with environmentalists and Salt Lake Democrats over limiting resource extraction to protect Utah’s striking red rock landscapes, wildlife, rivers and archaeological resources. Noel believes such limits do more to harm the land than protect it and suck the life out of rural communities that traditionally rely on access to forage, timber and minerals.

Noel did not respond to a request for comment.

Several Utah agencies and political leaders. meanwhile, have eagerly lined up behind his BLM candidacy.

The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration also sent a letter to the Trump transition team calling Noel an “excellent choice.” Most of SITLA’s 3.2 million acres are 640-acre islands scattered in a sea of federal lands. BLM policies complicate SITLA’s efforts to generate revenue off these isolated sections, according to the Nov. 18 letter signed by trust lands board Chairman James Lekas.

“We look forward to working with a Department of Interior led by people who can change the direction of public lands management back toward BLM’s traditional multiple use mandate,” Lekas wrote. “Rep. Noel would be a great addition to that team.”

If Noel has his druthers, the BLM would no longer exist as an agency, at least in Utah, where he is leading the state’s charge to seize title to 31 million acres of public land — most of it administered by BLM.

But worse from environmentalists’ perspective is Noel’s unwillingness to engage with stakeholders who disagree with his notion of “multiple use.”

In recent years, Noel has promoted the ideas that law enforcement on pubic lands should be overseen by county sheriffs; Utah should invest millions of dollars in a lawsuit to take title to the lands owned by all Americans; grazing and energy extraction are the best uses of places that others value for scenery and ancient American Indian artifacts; the state should cover legal costs of county commissioners who get in trouble standing up to federal authority on behalf of their constituents.

“Rep. Noel has also demonstrated his disregard for the thoughtfully and collaboratively crafted management plans of the Bureau he hopes to direct, instead throwing his support behind illegal protests on BLM land and the extraction companies that hope to expand their activities on public lands to the detriment of the protection and other uses of those lands,” states the conservationists’ letter, sent Wednesday by Alliance for a Better Utah to Vice President Mike Pence and Interior Secretary-designate Ryan Zinke. “His history strongly suggests that he will not be a good steward over these public lands that all Americans use and enjoy.”

Noel, who runs a ranch and the Kane County Water Conservancy District, worked as a realty specialist in BLM’s Kanab field office before leaving after the 1996 designation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. A former colleague in the Kanab office contends Noel is the wrong person to lead BLM because of “his disdain for federal government management and his personal and biased agenda.”

“The next BLM director will need to ensure the BLM mission to provide enduring values and uses of those lands is sustained. Noel does not have that vision and is not that leader,” wrote Verlin Smith, now retired and living in Murray, in a letter to the editor.

Noel has since become a leading extremist in the movement to blunt conservation prerogatives on public lands, according to Metcalf, and in the process has earned a reputation as a dogmatic bully.

“This intransigent nature would hamper Rep. Noel in performing the duties that come with being BLM director, which include balancing all of the competing needs and uses that arise in managing our vast public lands,” the letter states.


9 replies »

  1. After personal dealings with the BLM and several western states wildlife agencies, it may be a good thing to have someone that will rein in the militarist tendencies of these agencies. We also need someone who demands their employees obey the law and don’t cowtow to nature nazis and environmental groups that are a front front for Fortune 500 companies.


  2. Is anyone surprised. Our country is going to Hell in a Hand Basket. I never realized what could happen. Already some of our public lands are being mined and destroyed. And our Wild Horses and Burros are in the way! I think some people ignorant of the political climate are finally realizing their World is seriously changing. People fell for the lies and now the reality is hitting them regarding health care social security and medicare. Our water and our air are in jeopardy. One would think our Fathers would have covered all bases. Sadly thats not the case. 3.5 or 5 million people are not wrong when they take to the streets. I was in Chicago where 250,000 people rallied. No march because the crowd was so large. But everyone felt the same way. And thousands in other cities and states. People are now waking up to the importance of what voting is about. And how fake news can create chaos in a society. My question is where are the checks and balances? Something has to give for all the people and the magnificient animals in it, especially our equine friends. We need to thank all those who stayed home or were tricked by the Dumpster and now his Basket of Deplorable Apples who are making our lives a living Hell. And very soon all the animals in it!


  3. Commented on this article – amazing that out of 94 comments there was not one that thought this guy would be a good pick! Of course, commenting is easy.


  4. Selling a Birthright: What would the West be like without its federal lands?
    By Guest Essay | May 12, 2015
    by Chris Madson

    I wonder when hunters and anglers in the West are finally going to take to the streets.
    For 30 years, a handful of special interests has been trying to steal the public’s forests and rangelands.
    Why federal lands matter
    This all comes down to a matter of trust: Can state officials, legislators, and bureaucrats be trusted to withstand pressure from oil and gas conglomerates, mining companies, timber magnates, well-connected wind energy corporations, the manufacturers of off-road vehicles, and the livestock industry? Very little that I’ve seen in the last 30 years leads me to believe they can.
    And that’s one of the very few convictions I share with the captains of industry. Like me, they’re certain that most of the politicians at the state level can be bought, bullied, or bamboozled into giving them an even freer hand in “developing” the resources of the West than they’ve had in the past. That’s why they continue lurk in the shadows of the debate, pouring untold millions into the effort to take federal lands away from the rest of us. They want to return to the good old days of the nineteenth-century robber barons when they could take what they wanted, when they wanted it, without any concern for the damage they did to the land and its people in the process. They measure their freedom now, as they did then, entirely by their bottom line.
    I grew up in a place where I had to ask permission if I wanted to pull off on the shoulder of the road. Like so many others, I was drawn to the West by the mountains and sagebrush basins, the badlands and the big sky. I stayed, like so many others, because these places were open to common, everyday people like me. I can’t understand why anyone with a love of these wild places would ever willingly give them up.
    More than government or business, more than constitutions or flags, the land held in common for us all is what keeps real freedom alive in the West. The nation’s forests and ranges are the foundation of a way of life. Without them, this part of the world would be like any other, a landscape whose only purpose is profit, subject to the will of a tiny minority, closed to the rest of us. I can’t even imagine it. I don’t want to try.


    • Louie, what a great article – I read the whole thing & all the comments. Certainly is comforting to know there ARE people out there who care!


  5. “Google” Mike Noel and you will see his pattern. Here is an excerpt from one article, “He wants to de-list threatened and endangered species… He is also helping to work with legislation that would better manage wild horses.”
    I think that both you and I know what kind of wild horse “management” he believes in … management for extinction.


    • Was he a state representative at that time? If so, doesnt seem quite kosher, does it? But then – seems theres lots of that going around..


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.