Utah Gov. Gary Herbert may be roadblock for proposal to name national parks highway for President Donald Trump

The move to name a Utah highway for President Donald J. Trump may have hit a road bump: a less-than-enthusiastic Gov. Gary Herbert.

“It’s a little premature,” Herbert told reporters on Tuesday about the proposal. “Typically, at least in Utah, we wait until people have left office to reward them for the work they have done.”

He noted that the Bangerter Highway was named for former Gov. Norm Bangerter after he left office. Ditto for the James V. Hansen Highway in Davis County honoring the former congressman. And he said the Matheson Courthouse was named posthumously for former Gov. Scott Matheson.

The new federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City remains unnamed nearly four years after it opened — with speculation that it awaits the retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch to get its moniker.

“I realize the zeal and enthusiasm some have for Donald J. Trump, and I share the enthusiasm where it comes to state rights,” Herbert said. “But there’s probably a reason why we wait five years for people to vote on the Hall of Fame to look at the broader perspective to decide whether it’s proper.”

So would he veto it?

“I wouldn’t say that, but I would say, let’s see what happens and see the pros and cons and people can make the argument. We’ll make that decision” if it passes.

And the bill, HB481, was in a bit of limbo in the House on Tuesday.

It was not on House calendars in the afternoon, but leaders change them often during the last week of the Legislature.

It came up briefly Monday night, but its sponsor, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, delayed a vote to allow time to seek more support. That came as Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, planned to attempt to substitute the bill to instead honor the late businessman and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr.

That proposal could possibly put lawmakers in a tough spot, choosing between two icons for local Republicans.

Noel said Tuesday he is seeking to persuade more lawmakers to support the bill, and said he is unsure whether he has enough votes to win. He said he has been deluged with emails scorning his proposal and calling him names.

Noel, famous for fighting the federal government over public lands, says it would help send the message that “contrary to some beliefs out there, Donald Trump really is a supporter of public lands. He’s a big supporter of national parks.”

He says it would be a way to thank Trump for downsizing the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Critics, including American Indian tribes and environmentalists, have called the idea ridiculous and offensive.

The bill would rename the already existing National Parks Highway. It winds on several federal and state highways from near Lake Powell to Grand Staircase, Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Arches national parks.

Paul Huntsman, a son of the late Jon Huntsman Sr. is the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Feb. 5: While their GOP colleagues like the idea, Utah Democrats denounce plans to name scenic parks highway after Donald Trump

By Brian Maffly

Donald Trump has occupied the White House for just over a year, but rural Utah political leaders say they’ve seen enough of his good works to justify renaming the state’s most scenic highway route, winding past and through five national parks, after the 45th president.

Rep. Mike Noel’s HB481, which would affix the Trump name to the Utah National Parks Highway, is largely a gesture of thanks for Trump’s recent decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Should the bill reach the Senate, Democrat Jim Dabakis has vowed to propose an amendment to name the highway’s frontage road the “Stormy Daniels rampway” in reference to the adult film star whom Trump’s lawyer paid to keep quiet about an alleged adulterous affair with Trump.

But Noel and the bill’s supporters praised Trump for putting the “public” back into 2 million acres of public lands removed from the monuments. Noel’s hope, he said, is to help “the American people recognize what a great job Utah does protecting its public lands.”

”President Trump cares about public lands and he cares about Utahns and what we think,” Noel told colleagues on Monday at the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, which advanced his bill on a party-line vote.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, delights in having his tie signed by U.S. President Donald Trump at the Utah Capitol on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, after Trump's signing of two presidential proclamations to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Noel is backing HB481 to rename a 631-mile section of highway through some of Utah's most scenic landscapes after Trump.

“He cares about the impact of undue regulations on the public lands,” Noel said. “He cares about those people that use public lands, that run cattle, that cut trees, that recreate on those lands.”

But several speakers at Monday’s hearing refuted the idea that Trump has done anything productive for Utah, while complaining that the Republican president has done much to foment division, erode trust in public institutions and insult those with whom he disagrees.

“He is not doing his part to foster an America where we can work together,” said Wendy Garvin with the Salt Lake County Progressive Caucus. “He represents horrors to those of us he has treated so badly, to the women and people of color in this country. It’s an act of spite for something President Clinton did 26 years ago.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats on Utah’s Capitol Hill denounced Noel’s bill as “a blatantly political and divisive act.” Trump’s vices far outweigh his virtues and hardly square with Utah values, argued House Minority Leader Brian King of Salt Lake City.

Trump “has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women; normalized lying and demonizing the press; failed to denounce dangerous hate groups; shown little integrity; shown more loyalty to Russia than to the United States; and who has shown contempt towards immigrants, minority groups, and anyone who does not share his nationalistic, zero-sum view of the world,” King said after the hearing.

Democrats were also concerned about the fiscal impact of installing new signage that would inevitably be targeted by thieves and vandals, resulting in even more costs, and about harming the state’s tourism industry.

A fiscal note on HB481 indicates the renaming would cost $124,000 to install 62 signs at major junctions along the 631-mile route.

Before the full House debated the bill, Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, filed a substitute bill to change the name of the road to the Jon Huntsman Sr. Highway to honor the businessman/philanthropist who died last month.

Designated in 1998, the Utah National Parks Highway is actually a string of federal and state routes stretching across southern Utah, crossing the two monuments Trump recently dismembered on scenic byways such as State Route 12 through Boulder and State Route 95 over Cedar Mesa.

“Guests to our state will not want to drive on a highway with this name. Frankly, some of them could be offended,” said Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek.

Renaming highways for presidents is common. What makes the Utah proposal different is the Trump administration is still in its infancy and Trump, a former New York City real estate mogul and reality television star, has no connection to Utah.

In December 2015, Riviera Beach, Fla., renamed a 2-mile stretch of the “Old Dixie Highway,” where it passes through the Atlantic coast town north of Miami, after then-President Barack Obama.

Months after Obama left office last year, California lawmakers named a 4-mile stretch of the Venture Freeway, or State Highway 134, after the nation’s first African-American president. Obama lived in nearby Pasadena while attending Occidental College. Other states are considering renaming highways for Obama, mostly in areas he once lived, such as Chicago.

Speakers at Monday’s hearing on Utah’s Capitol Hill urged lawmakers to consider naming the parks highway after people who are universally revered and have ties to Utah, such as Navajo Code Talkers who helped the U.S. military keep its communications impenetrable to Japanese code breakers during World War II.

Briscoe said he received 300 emails since HB481’s surprise unveiling Thursday, all but one opposing the measure. The single message of support came from Foundation for Integrated Resource Management, a state-funded nonprofit group that promotes local control over public lands.

Noel’s bill was also hailed by three county commission chairmen — Bruce Adams of San Juan County, Leland Pollock of Garfield County and Dale Brinkerhoff of Iron County — as well as Paiute County rancher Stanton Gleave, famous for standing up to federal land managers who oversee his grazing allotments near Monroe Mountain.

They agreed Trump’s willingness to reverse Obama’s land-use and environmental policies will prove a boon to rural Utah.

“Why do we have to export our children? The simple reason is Garfield County is 93 percent federal land. We can’t do anything there. The special interests groups saying it won’t be protected, that’s ludicrous. It’s going back to public land. It was restricted land in the monument,” Pollock said.

Added Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield: Trump “has given hope to this nation. The economy is moving, jobs are being created. He is not the normal, politically correct president we are used to, but he is getting it done.”

Editor’s note • Paul Huntsman, owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune, is a son of Jon Huntsman Sr.