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Utah House Committee demands oath, saying environmental groups don’t tell the truth

SALT LAKE CITY -- Before Willie Grayeyes could sit and talk to the Utah House Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and the Environment, he had to stand and swear an oath to tell the truth.

Swearing in witnesses is a power granted to legislative committee chairs and the committees themselves, but it's rarely invoked.

The sponsor of the public lands bill under consideration, Representative Mike Noel of Kanab, says it was necessary.

"We know that these issues surround certain environmental organizations that do not have a good track record of telling the truth," Noel said.

In other comments, Noel suggested he was specifically distrustful of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and he suggested the chair of Native American group Dine Bikeyah who testified before the committee was backed by SUWA.

"In my research, they are funded by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance," Noel said.

Dine Bikeyah lists their major donors online, including several environmental organizations, but not SUWA.

While Democratic committee members took offense for him, Grayeyes himself focused on his concern that Tribes and other Native American groups were not consulted on Noel's legislation.

"This has been done on the other side of the mountain, so to speak, without our input as Native Americans," Grayeyes said.