The proposed highway not only snakes through Zion National Park, but four other national parks. Katie Lozancich Photo.
The drama surrounding our nation’s public lands has reached a new crescendo: A recent bill introduced in the Utah House of Representatives has been gaining momentum and, if passed, would rename a stretch of highway through the national parks of southern Utah after President Donald Trump.
If passed, the change would place 62 road signs with the president’s name along throughout Utah’s most iconic national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion. The newly proposed "Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway," would include stretches of Interstate 15, U.S. 191, U.S. 89 and state Route 191, and ultimately cost taxpayers $124,000 for new signs, per the St. George News.
This map shows the route of the highway lawmakers are considering renaming. Google Maps
The proposed bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, as sign a of gratitude towards the president for dramatically reducing the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National monuments in Dec, according to the St. George News.
“President Trump cares about the public lands,” Noel said in a press release. “President Trump’s family cares about the public lands and he cares about Utah and what we’re thinking.”
On Monday, the bill passed with a 9-2 vote in the Utah House of Representatives natural resources, agriculture, and environment committee. Its will now head to the Utah House of Representatives for consideration.
The introduction of the bill comes at an increased moment of scrutiny regarding the Trump Administration’s tense relationship with the nation’s public lands.
Last Friday, an investigative report was released by the New York Times, highlighting the Department of Interior’s interest in exploring the potential revenue from oil and gas within the former boundaries of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.
According to documents obtained by the Times, before the Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review, Senator Orrin Hatch approached the Department of Interior with a map of reductions based off of oil and natural gas deposits. This map was consequently incorporated into the current 85 percent reductions.
With both developments, it will be interesting to gauge the public’s response. Considering that existing lawsuits are still underway by Patagonia, The Access Fund and the Native American communities of Utah, it's unlikely the public lands debate will die down anytime soon.
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