Republicans praised Trump for shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in December, opening them up for oil, gas and coal mining potential. Noel said Trump wasn’t getting enough credit for his efforts. Passing this proposal, Noel said, was a chance to give it to him.
“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. “I think it’s a small price to pay to name a highway after him when he does in fact protect public lands.”
State Sen. Jim Dabakis (D) responded with his own renaming proposal: If the House passes the bill, then Dabakis threatened to attach an amendment in the Senate that would rename the frontage road that runs along the would-be Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway.
Dabakis will seek to call it the “Stormy Daniels rampway,” named for the former porn star to whom Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly paid $130,000 to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump.
It’s unclear whether the highway renaming bill will be enacted.
The Stormy Daniels rampway amendment has no chance, for many reasons, among them the fact that Democrats are outnumbered in the Senate 5 to 24.
Trump’s executive orders that reduced the monuments, while backed by mining interests and most of Utah’s senior Republicans, drew intense backlash and protest from environmental groups and Native American tribes, who collectively filed five lawsuits against the Trump administration.
Trump stripped roughly 1.1 million acres from Bears Ears, reducing its protected area by 85 percent. He reduced 800,000 acres from Grand Staircase-Escalante, cutting it by 46 percent. As The Washington Post reported, no president has sought to modify national monuments established under the Antiquities Act in more than half a century.
Conservatives, including Noel, have praised Trump’s decision for eliminating various restrictions that come with lands designated national monuments. Noel said that just because Trump shrank the monuments doesn’t mean he removed protections.
“You get people who stand up and say that he took away protections of these lands. It’s absolutely false,” Noel said of Trump’s orders during the committee hearing on the bill. “And the letters you’ve been getting saying, ‘he’s the worst president in history; he has decimated the public land — why would you recognize him?’ We should recognize him, because that’s an absolute lie. And if we don’t stand up for the things that are right, who will do that?”
Utah Rep. Joel K. Briscoe (D) said during the committee hearing Monday that, of the 300 emails he received regarding the bill to honor Trump, only one was in support. Some of the complaints were from people who own property along the current Utah National Parks Highway, he said. Others offered suggestions for different notable people to honor: John Wesley Powell, known for his 19th-century expeditions along the Green and Colorado Rivers; Aldo Leopold, a renowned American ecologist; and Ernest Yazhe, a Navajo code talker.
“Normally we reserve these honors for people who have served a full term, sometimes posthumously,” Briscoe said.
Democrats also highlighted the estimated cost to install all new signs emblazoned with Trump’s name: $124,000.
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