SALT LAKE CITY — An environmental group says a Utah lawmaker has failed to properly disclose that he owned land that was carved out of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by President Donald Trump in December.
The public should have been made aware that Rep. Mike Noel, who sponsored a 2017 resolution urging such a reduction, owns farmland there, the Montana-based Western Values Project said Tuesday.
"It definitely calls into question the impetus of the federal process" that shrunk the monument 46 percent after input from Kane and Garfield county leaders, said Jayson O'Neill, the group's deputy director.
But Noel, a Kanab Republican, said he disclosed his land, including 40 acres previously enveloped by the monument, each year since he became a representative in 2003.
Noel said he put the property in his family's trust four years ago but continued to list it under his and his late-wife's name because they were beneficiaries.
"It's the exact same piece of property," Noel said. He added he didn't know if the monument no longer borders his land because "I haven't really dug into it."
Noel said he told county commissioners his preference that the monument be cut to 200,000 acres — with half in each county — but didn't propose specific shapes.
"I didn't draw any specific boundaries on any maps, never made any statements about, 'keep my land out of it.' That was never in any conversation with anybody in the Interior (Department) or anyone at the county," Noel said.