ST. GEORGE — Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, is hanging up his hat after 16 years in the Utah Legislature, but he said he isn’t done fighting for issues like public lands and state rights.
Noel, whose career efforts included urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Donald Trump to shrink Utah’s national monuments, told St. George News he is retiring to spend more time with his family. Noel recently remarried after his previous wife died two years ago, and he has 49 grandchildren that he will be spending time with, he said.
“I’ll be 71 years old this year,” Noel said. “It’s been a great ride.”
One of Noel’s most recent bills he sponsored would have renamed a stretch of Southern Utah highways after Trump, but after receiving many negative calls and emails about it, he decided to drop the bill on March 7. Though Noel said the timing was “a little bad” for his bill, the public response to his bill was not a motivation for him to retire, Noel said.
“Those nasty messages start to take a toll on the body,” Noel said. “But I’ve been planning on retiring for a while now.”
Despite being out of the Legislature, Noel said he is also working on a proposal to ask Trump for a presidential pardon to clear San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and blogger Monte Wells, who were convicted in 2015 for leading an ATV ride in protest through a canyon that was closed by federal officials for being archaeologically sensitive. Both Lyman and Wells were given jail time and fines for causing $96,000 in damages.
“This was a biased and unlawful prosecution — total malarkey,” Noel said, adding that the judge in the case should have recused himself because of a personal relationship with an environmentalist.
Noel is starting to work with the governor’s office to submit an request for Trump to personally intervene and pardon Lyman and Wells, he said.
After a brief hiatus to catch his breath after the end of this year’s legislative session, Noel also said he will fight against the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Bureau of Land Management who he said want to “ totally get rid of grazing” in some parts of Southern Utah. Noel owns hundreds of acres of land for cattle in Kane County as part of his ranch, Flood Canyon Ranch.
Noel also warned against those who claim he wanted to shrink Grand Staircase Escalante and Bear’s Ears National Monuments to allow more grazing land for his ranch and other Southern Utah ranchers, saying he’s not afraid to sue people.
“I can slap a lawsuit against them now that I’ll no longer be a public servant,” Noel said.
Even though he’s retiring, Noel said he hopes to continue to be involved in making a difference in Utah.
“I’m never one to back out of a fight,” Noel said. “I’ll continue to engaged in these issues, even if I’m not as involved as before.”
Noel was voted into the Utah Legislature in 2002, which was the same year that House Speaker Greg Hughes came in. Noel said he and Hughes felt like they would go out together when they came in. Though Noel said he is done being a politician, he hopes Hughes will run for governor in 2020.
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