Southern Utah News Articles
Rep. Mike Noel makes Utah lands his top priority
Since his first term in 2003, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, has sponsored perhaps a hundred bills (he averages six to eight bills a session) and over 70 have passed. Traditionally, his focus has typically been on bills concerning natural resources, energy development, and open road access. In recent years, however, Noel’s focus has turned toward land management, and ensuring that the State of Utah, rather than the federal government, manages Utah land. This session, he intends to continue focusing on these issues.
For his seventh session, Noel is sponsoring seven protected bills in the House, including a Senate bill regarding water law, co-sponsoring a House bill regarding American Indian and Alaskan Native education amendments, and co-sponsoring a House resolution to honor former Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart.
The House bill he is most excited about is the Utah Public Lands Management Act. This bill outlines the process and guidelines for what Utah will do with public lands once they receive the lands from the federal government.
“That’s going to be, hopefully, one of the best things I’ve done up there,” Rep. Noel said. “The goal of the bill is to help Utah maintain grazing rights, access, hunting and fishing, and recreational use of these lands.”
Additionally, he said, mineral production and roads will still be allowed. Noel concluded, “Hopefully (this bill will) put an end to all this fighting with the federal government.”
The remainder of Noel’s bills largely involve land and energy. One bill he is proposing will identify energy zones. Energy zones are areas under state lands that will become designated for energy development. These zones have been or will be identified as areas capable of high-energy production and will be considered at the same level as some other special designations by other agencies. Sometimes certain areas aren’t used for development because they have a visual element, are an area of critical environmental concern, or another reason. This bill would make high energy production another consideration.
The Utah Wild Horses and Burros Management Act is another bill Noel will be proposing. This bill encourages the federal government to protect Utah citizens, watersheds, and other animals from wild horse and burro over-population.
He is also proposing a bill about tourist-oriented highway signs. Currently, businesses can’t post signs on certain scenic national highway routes. This bill would allow signs that could identify hotels, restaurants and shops, “nice – not real big, (or) flashy (with) neon lights,” he said. Noel thinks this bill will affect each of his seven rural counties.
The rest of his bills involve coordination and consistency between federal and local governments on land issues; livestock branding and animals trespassing on federal land; and federal ranger interaction with local sheriffs.
According to Noel, this session will be one of the busiest sessions, with over one thousand total bills proposed.