Congressman Bob Bishop brought the House Resources Committee to St. George on Friday, Jan. 22, for both a field hearing and a listening session that brought back shades of McCarthyism. Committee members and the vast majority invited to testify were “constitutionalist” radicals involved in the public lands transfer movement both in Utah and nationally.
Their collective goals very much coincide with those of armed militants who hold the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — some of the militants are even associates of those who testified — as a “return” of federal lands to counties has surfaced as a demand to end the Oregon siege.
Those testifying and the Utah Congressional delegation attending spent a majority of their time vilifying land management agencies, marking both them and their employees as the “enemy.” Some viciously and insidiously tied this sentiment as explaining the violent overtones of Malheur.
Utah Rep. Mike Noel is one of those, and he owes federal civil service employees an apology for his repulsive and dangerous remarks made in front of a national audience during this dangerously tense time in our nation’s history.
Mike Noel and many of those testifying at the listening session are known as a bullies in Utah political and media circles. I and others at SUU demonstrating the Western Freedom Festival this past October were subject to this firsthand. Unfortunately for Noel and his causes and career, he routinely speaks off the cuff in an unusually undignified manner.
This time, at the listening session, he built a rhetorical case during his official testimony that the armed standoff at Malheur is only the beginning for federal lands agencies if they don’t change their ways, saying that “there will be bloodshed.”
This is a totally irresponsible statement from one of the highest ranking officials in the state. Utah is a major player in the public lands transfer movement, which originates in Utah. Such rhetoric drives much of the armed Frankenstein’s monster at Malheur — and that monster is showing signs of coming home to roost.
LaVoy Finicum, public information officer for the militants, freely travels between Burns and Cedar City to meet with Iron County Commissioner David Miller, testifying that public lands are not the property of the public. Finicum was here to recruit support among ranchers, other commissioners, and possibly sheriffs. Miller refused to reveal to multiple members of the press who attended.
It is important to note that Finicum recruited militia involvement for an anti-public lands standoff past November right here in Utah, stating that Mike Noel had a role to play. Coincidentially, Finicum, too, is concerned with foretelling bloodshed, having written a novel, titled “Only by Blood and Suffering.”
Should Finicum be successful recruitment efforts and bring a standoff to Utah, all hell would break loose as their revolution spread. This past November, Finicum attempted with Arizona militia organizer Cope Reynolds to incite an uprising here in Utah.
Currently, Finicum’s counsel, Todd MacFarlane, is engaged with political financier Bert Smith’s backing in a series of recruitment sales pitches doing just that. The first “seminar” was held Jan. 23 in Cedar City and attended by Commissioner Miller. It enticed eight ranchers to join the Oregon standoff cause by signing pledges. Next stop is Boise, then Montana.
That is why Mike Noel, an influential legislative and ideological leader of the anti-federal-government, anti-federal-lands-management-agencies, anti-federal-employee movement in Utah must unequivocally apologize for his statement, which could incite further violence. He is a leading voice that many follow.
These political dignitaries irresponsibly forget that agencies are created by the laws they create. They forget that agencies and their personnel are charged with implementing numerous and sometimes conflicting authorities with even more conflicted and engaged constituencies in an intergovernmental setting of which the politicians, too, must be constructive partners.
Unfortunately, like McCarthy and the communist witch-hunters, these political players have instead chosen to vilify dedicated public servants — their neighbors and relatives, many who unlike electoral opportunists give their entire productive lives to public service as a vocation.
Civil servants are not the enemy. And rather than violent rhetoric that endangers the lives of civil servants, anti-public-lands politicians would be wise to instead thank them for their service.
In my view, Mike Noel embarrassed himself, the state of Utah, and his anti-public-lands movement at the listening session twice.
He did it once with the inexcusable bloodshed comment driven by what he deemed a “full heart” that could endanger the lives of land management agencies and their families.
Then he did it again by breaking congressional decorum in front of a national press corps by shouting out after adjournment to whomever was listening, attempting to lie and explain away his dangerously threatening comment.
A statement that must not be forgotten is this: Mike Noel needs to immediately and publicly apologize, without reservation or unequivocation, for his words of violence.
Postscript: I understand that Noel lost his wife of 52 years recently. I’m truly sorry for his loss and wish this controversy never happened or at least did at a different time. As my wife is my life, I can only imagine.