Utah Republican lawmaker Mike Noel has recently proposed Utah House Bill 481 that would change the name of 631 miles of the Utah National Parks Highway to the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway.
The bill was introduced by Noel as a gesture of appreciation to Trump who reduced the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments and opened them up for potential mining and oil-drilling.
“I think he’s done a tremendous amount, and I think with seven more years we can turn this country around,” Noel said during the hearing of House Bill 481, which passed with a vote of 9-2. “I think it’s a small price to pay to name a highway after him when he does in fact protect public lands.”
In 2017, President Trump removed an approximate 1.1 million acres from Bears Ears, reducing it by 85 percent. He reduced an additional 800,000 acres from Grand Staircase-Escalante, reducing it by 46 percent.
“You get people who stand up and say that he took away protections of these lands. It’s absolutely false,” said Noel during the committee hearing.
A story from The New York Times titled Oil Was Central in Decision to Shrink Bears Ears Monument, Emails Show, showed that Bears Ears reduction was all about oil development, and undermines Noel's statements.
“Even before President Trump officially opened his high-profile review last spring of federal lands protected as national monuments, the Department of Interior was focused on the potential for oil and gas exploration at a protected Utah site, internal agency documents show,” reads the article in the New York Times.
State Sen. Jim Dabakis (D) has been openly opposed to the bill introduced by Noel. Dabakis took to Twitter threatening If the House passes the bill, he would attach an amendment to rename the road that runs along the proposed Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway.
HB 481, “Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway Designation” passed House Committee 9 to 2. If it gets to the Senate, I will present an amendment that the frontage road be designated as the Stormy Daniels rampway in commemoration of Trump’s affair with the adult film star.
The Navajo Nation Olijato Chapter president James Adakai, has issued a statement of protest to the renaming of the highways which traverse 631 miles of roads through southern Utah and includes Zion National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park.
In a letter to Utah Congressman John Curtis, President Adakai asked the congressman’s support in helping to block the bill.
“The highway goes through or to the five national parks in Utah as well as several national monuments. All of it is land where Native Americans have lived for a millennia, and President Trump has not shown respect for tribal nations. As your constituent and a member of the Navajo Nation, I ask that you block efforts to rename this highway for President Trump,” writes Adakai.
Utah Rep. Joel K. Briscoe (D) said during the committee hearing Monday, out 300 emails he received regarding the bill, only one was in support of renaming the highway in Trump’s honor. CNN's Jeanne Moos did a humorous report on the proposed highway The cost to replace signs according to Democrat lawmakers was $124,000. The possibility of Dabakis’ amendment is far-fetched as the republicans greatly outnumber the democrats in a vote. The probability of Bill 481 passing is currently uncertain. One interesting comment on Twitter factors in an expense perhaps not considered by Republicans. The tweet read: “Tell me those road signs won’t be the most stolen or vandalized in history.” Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on TwitterFollow @VinceSchilling