SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker known for fighting the federal government over public lands wants to rename a southern Utah highway after President Donald Trump.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, introduced a bill Thursday that would rename a route winding through some of the state's most spectacular scenery "Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway."
Noel sees the designation as a thank you to the president for shrinking the Grand-Staircase-Escalante National Monument, something he said other presidents wouldn't do over the years.
"Just for me personally, he’s one of my heroes that he stood up and did this," Noel said. "I know people have a lot of negative things to say about him. Nobody’s perfect. I’m not dwelling on those things. I dwell on the things he’s done for my state and my constituents."
Trump announced dramatic reductions to the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments during to visit to Utah last December. Environment groups and Native American tribes are challenging downsizing in federal court.
Noel called Trump a "champion" for public lands and national parks, and said he deserves credit for what he's done for Utah.
"He’s taken so much shrapnel all the time and hits all the time, one atta boy is great for a state that truly appreciates" what he did, Noel said.
Noel expect some flak to come his way over HB481 from Democrats in the Legislature and the public.
"They’ll be ready to tar and feather, some of them will," he said.
Trump won only 45.5 percent of the vote in Utah in 2016. A UtahPolicy.com survey in December showed 53 percent of Utahns disapprove of the president's job performance, while 45 percent approve.
House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, called the idea "ill-considered."
"Normally, we reserve commemorations like this for people who have served the country well and ably and for a long period of time. I don't think that fits this president," he said.
Noel said he thinks it's better to recognize people while they're still alive. He said the measure is not a message and he believes it will pass along party lines in the House and the Senate.
The proposed Trump highway would replace the Utah National Parks Highway, which includes sections of U.S. 89, I-15, state Route 191 as well as part of southern Utah roads.
The bill calls for the Utah Department of Transportation to highlight portions of those highways on future state road maps and install signs along the route designating its name.