Grijalva Questions Interior Department’s Ignorance as Questions Mount on Utah National Monument Foe’s Conflicts of Interest

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this morning questioning whether the Department of the Interior (DOI) was aware of Utah State Rep. Mike Noel’s (R) significant conflicts of interest in touting President Trump’s shrinking last year of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier this week, Noel – a leading figure in pushing Trump’s move and a vocal opponent of federal land protections – owns a previously undisclosed company valued at more than $1.2 million with land holdings both inside and near the monument’s original boundaries, some of which are now less stringently protected.

In the letter, available at http://bit.ly/2F64Sh6, Grijalva asks Zinke whether he or any of his staff were aware of Noel’s property before Trump made his announcement, whether Zinke or his staff are aware of other lawmakers with similar conflicts, and how the Interior Department will ensure that its clear mistake in following Noel’s lead is not repeated.

Grijalva notes that Zinke has told the U.S. Senate he wants DOI to be the most transparent of any in his lifetime. Grijalva sends today’s letter “in that spirit of transparency.”

DOI’s decision to take policy advice from someone with a financial stake in the outcome is just the latest example of mismanagement on Zinke’s watch. The DOI Inspector General is still investigating Zinke’s travel expenses, and Zinke has faced criticism for attending political events while on duty, trying to militarize DOI’s professional culture (including the raising and lowering of a flag when he enters or leaves the DOI office building), and conducting a “review” of national monuments last year based on highly selective and politically slanted public input.

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