Yesterday at the committee hearing for Rep. Noel’s HB 136 Federal Designations, the most bizarre thing happened. The Committee Chair, Rep. Stratton, required all public speakers to be sworn in, warning the public that any comment found inaccurate or untruthful would result in a charge of a second-degree felony. This swearing in under threat of a felony was not required of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Noel, or of legislators speaking to the bill.
It’s a double standard that exemplifies the hubris of the House Natural Resources Committee and illuminates the contempt for public input – particularly input that runs counter to the opinions of Rep. Stratton, Noel, and many of their colleagues. The bill under discussion, HB 136, is another fine example of the effort and length Rep. Noel will go to in an effort to silence those with whom he disagrees.
We of course can’t say whether Noel’s conjuring of this misinformation was intentional, but we do know it’s misinformed and irresponsible. Noel, a rural legislator from Kanab, is misrepresenting a five-year processes which took place in the most urbanized region in the State and which he had absolutely nothing at all to do with. It also appears that Noel is getting his misinformation from a few opponents of the Mountain Accord, one of which has financial interests in seeing additional development in the canyons and who has long worked with canyon water and land speculators.
Noel’s HB 136 puts arduous requirements on an already complicated, and rigorously public processes. Federal Designations requiring working with the US Congress, passage through Rob Bishop’s House Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate, commitments from local officials and communities, forging agreements with the United States Forest Service and a myriad of other interest groups from recreationists to water departments.
To date, that process for getting support for federal designation has been to gain the support of local communities and counties, this has been our course of action for the past five years. Now, Noel is moving the goal posts. That’s not collaboration — that’s unnecessarily fanning the flames that are engulfing national discourse on the future of our public lands.
Contact your state representatives NOW. Tell them to stop HB 136 and to support the protection of the Wasatch. Contact your county and city officials, tell them that Rep. Noel can’t be allowed to limit their ability to advocate for the protection of public lands within and near their jurisdiction.