By Maren McInnes
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2002 and has been serving actively as ever since. Currently, he sits on seven committees including the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee, the Education Committee and the House Ethics Committee. Noel is also chairman of the Rules Committees.
Born in Ogden, Utah, Noel is the son of a former military officer, and he moved around frequently while growing up. As an adult, his moves continued as he pursued various educational degrees. Noel received his bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley, his master’s at the University of South Dakota, and his Ph.D. from Utah State. Upon completing his education, Noel moved to Kanab where he and his wife of 50 years, Sherry Mackelprang, have lived since 1975. They have five married children, 20 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Noel spends most of his time away from the legislature on his farm in Kanab. As is the case with all of the part-time, Utah legislators, Noel makes his living largely from activities other that those connected to the Utah Legislature. He sells hay, custom farms, and manages the Kane County Water Conservancy District.
Since his first term in 2003, Noel has sponsored perhaps 100 bills (he averages six to eight bills per session) and over 70 of them have passed, he said. Typically, he has focused on bills regarding natural resources, energy development, and open road access. This session Rep. Noel is sponsoring seven bills. However, in order to avoid premature examination, Noel has elected to keep these bills private until the Jan. 26th beginning of the legislative session.
Recently, his focus has been on Utah lands and the effort to transfer federally-managed lands in Utah to state control. The legislation, known as the Utah Public Lands Management Act, outlines the process and guidelines for Utah’s management of public lands once control is transferred from the federal government to the state.
“That’s going to be hopefully one of the best things I’ve done up there,” 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, it will allow Utah to still have mineral production and road, he said.
Noel concluded, “Hopefully [this bill will] put an end to all this fighting with the federal government.”
Noel did discuss some of the other legislation he is proposing for the 2015 session including working with land management. He wants to de-list threatened and endangered species such as the sage grouse and prairie dogs. Since these animals are listed, the habitats where they could be are protected even if the animals are not there. His goal is to make that land more available. He is also helping to work with legislation that would better manage wild horses.
Noel represents the largest geographic House district in Utah, which has presented some challenges. One is making himself available to each of his constituencies. His district includes all or part of seven rural counties.
“From my house, it’s a six-hour drive [to San Juan],” he explained. But despite the distance, he does his best to meet with each of the city councils and school districts, and as many people as possible. In an effort to make himself more available, Noel has published his email address and phone number on his website, however, he said, “the best way to get to me is texting me.”