San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman seeks to replace outgoing Rep. Mike Noel, says ‘rural Utah is under attack’

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Phil Lyman, a San Juan County commissioner, is tired of waiting for the Bureau of Land Management to determine whether to allow ATVs back into Recapture Canyon, April 26, 2014, and has spearheaded a May 10, 2014, ATV ride throughout the canyon to protest the BLM's lack of leadership and decision making. While BLM's Utah office would not comment on Lyman's protest ride, a spokeswoman said the agency is still working on an environmental assessment analyzing potential impacts. The BLM expects to release it for public review and comment summer 2014.

Phil Lyman, the southern Utah firebrand who spent 10 days in jail for leading a protest ATV ride through Recapture Canyon near Blanding, will campaign to replace his friend Rep. Mike Noel in the Legislature, he announced Tuesday.

“I am running for the Utah House of Representatives,” Lyman wrote in a Facebook post. “With Mike Noel’s announcement that he will not be running, I have determined to try to keep up, to some degree, the great work that he has done for Utah.”

Noel, who has served in the House since 2003, was a vocal critic of federal land management in Utah and was the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. He and Lyman have long been allies and vocal critics of sprawling national monuments in Utah’s redrock country.

Lyman promised to pick up where Noel left off.

“Rural Utah is under attack like never before, but we also have opportunities like never before, including an administration that respects our right [to] work; to ranch, farm, log, mine, recreate, hunt, and access public land,” Lyman wrote. “We have a window of opportunity to resolve the conflicts brought on by external forces, and to establish a viable economic future for our communities.”

Lyman has been a controversial figure during his time in public office. He was the subject of a long-running investigation by the Utah attorney general’s office, which examined a complaint he used his position as a county commissioner to benefit himself and his accounting clients during hearings on property taxes. The state closed the case without filing charges or alleging wrongdoing.

Lyman’s position on the County Commission was put in doubt after a federal judge adopted new voting boundaries in a way that would make Navajo tribal members the majority in two of three commission districts, including Lyman’s.

Lyman said the new districts targeted him specifically, because U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby oversaw the case in which Lyman was convicted of a misdemeanor for the ride through Recapture Canyon.

Noel made headlines during the legislative session when he said he’d seek a presidential pardon for Lyman over the case.

The Salt Lake Tribune will update this story.