Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was caught trying to sell 1,600 acres of land cut from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to none other than state representative Mike Noel (R-Utah district 73). A Draft Resource Management Plan for the reduced monument (see above) identified public lands in Johnson Canyon to be sold for private development. The parcels happen to be adjacent to land owned by Noel, which also happens to be located along the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline route.
Utah Rivers Council has requested a formal investigation into possible conflicts of interest. Noel denies that he wants to buy the land, but has been trying to prevent pipeline-related documents from becoming public. Zinke claims that he didn’t know the Johnson Canyon sale was in the plan even though the 2017 Trump boundaries were specifically drawn around Noel’s property. BLM Deputy Director David Bernhardt took blame for “failure to capture this inconsistency” and withdrew the proposed land sale.