This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Debates over public policy, especially matters as important as how to manage millions of acres of federal land in Utah, ought to pivot on the strength of each competing position. A good idea is a good idea, and a bad one is a stinker, no matter who thought it up or where their money comes from.

Thus it would be wrong to distract from such important questions by contending that, oh, say, Utah state Rep. Mike Noel is leading the crusade against any new national monuments in Utah only because his political campaigns are paid for largely by real estate, oil, coal and billboard interests.

Clearly, Noel is a grown-up, able to make up his own mind about such weighty issues, not a puppet who snaps to whenever his donors call on him.

And, of course, the people who give money to Noel and his fellow lawmakers are, as we are incessantly reminded, not the least bit interested in buying a politician's vote or ear. They are, you may rest assured, only seeking good government. The greatest good for the greatest number.

So why, then, is Noel thumping the tub of the Utah Constitutional Defense Council, demanding an investigation into where the alliance of Native American nations that is calling for a Bears Ears National Monument is getting its money?

Could it be that Noel assumes that anyone who disagrees with him would only do so if they were on the take? Is he so dismissive — with an attitude bordering on racism — of the tribes' petition that he considers Native peoples and their elected leaders unable to know their own minds? Easily manipulated by nefarious environmental activists?

We cannot peer into the man's soul to know what his true motivations are. But it sure looks like it.

Of course Native groups such as the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, Utah Dine Bikeyah and their constituent tribes and bands are happy to receive organizational, moral and, yes, financial support from like-minded individuals, organizations and corporations. They would be fools not to.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone that such groups as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are working toward the same ends as the Native groups. They all want President Obama to set aside 1.9 million acres of federally owned land in southeast Utah as a Bears Ears National Monument. There is nothing secret or untoward about it.

Sadly, it is possible that Gov. Gary Herbert, locked in a primary election fight that requires him to brush up his anti-federal credentials, might go along with Noel's demand. Of course, as the Bears Ears leaders say, if he wants to know where that group is getting its support, all he has to do is pick up the phone.

Whatever Noel's motivation is, it seems clear that every time he opens his mouth to speak against the idea of a new national monument in Utah, he pushes us closer to the day that we get one.

Could that have been his goal all along? The world may never know.