"The Billboard Protection Act"

The 1965 Highway Beautification Act (HBA) was supposed to preserve America’s landscape from the billboards and junkyards that were suddenly littering the newly built Interstate system. But after more than 50 years of lobbying and influence-peddling, the outdoor advertising industry has effectively transformed the HBA into the “Billboard Protection Act.”

Since the moment the HBA became law, billboard owners have been working to overturn it—spending millions persuading legislators and transportation departments to ignore federal law and the HBA. They work in close coordination with ‘friendly’ lawmakers to craft bills favorable to their business interests, often preempting local government authority to regulate signs and billboards in their communities, and ignoring the wishes of residents, developers, and others seeking to remove or better control outdoor advertising.

Scores of billboards on state-controlled roads in Utah violate the terms of the HBA and the federal agreement Utah signed in 1967, which commits to “effective control of outdoor advertising.”

Scenic Utah works to hold lawmakers accountable to the HBA and its original intent. We advocate for removal of illegal billboards, for local governments' right to regulate and ban billboards, and for a seat at the table in conversations about signs and billboards. We represent the long-ignored voice of rural and urban Utahns who are fed up with billboard blight and the outsized influence of big-spending national billboard companies.

The Reality in Utah

In Utah, more so than any other state, billboard companies are free to move, modify and build newer, brighter and taller signs—for almost any reason. They demand huge condemnation payouts when a sign needs to be moved, cut trees to improve visibility of their signs, promote the ‘segmentation’ of National and State Scenic Byways in order to erect more billboards, and contribute huge sums to political campaigns.

Utah ranks sixth in the nation for number of billboards on state roads (and second per capita), behind California, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida and Missouri. But we rank third for the number of national parks and open spaces—beautiful spaces that attract millions of residents and visitors from around the world and serve as a top driver of economic development.

Utah has more in common with scenic states like Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont—the four states that BAN billboards all together—than the five states topping the charts for number of billboards.

Most Utahns agree there are too many billboards in our communities and on our roadways, and the time is now to start removing them!

Utah billboard statute table

Public Opinion About Billboards

A January 2019 poll conducted by the American Institute of Applied Politics included several questions about Utahns attitudes toward billboards. The ‘split-sampling’ poll of 750 likely voters statewide found, not surprisingly, that Utahns overwhelming oppose billboards. For example:

  • 75% of respondents AGREED with the following statement: “Billboards are a total eyesore in our community and they have no redeeming value”.
  • 79% percent of respondents DISAGREED with the following statement: “Billboards are simply a form of advertising, no better, no worse than any other form of advertising.”
  • 80% of respondents DISAGREED with the following statement: “Billboards are an important source of information in our community.”

In split-sampling questions about people’s support for (1) ‘reasonable restrictions’ on billboards, (2) ‘some restrictions’ on billboards, and (3) a total ban on billboards, respondents were evenly divided on questions #1 and #2, but on #3, 72% of respondents strongly supported a TOTAL BAN on billboards.

Scenic Utah is continuing to collect information and data on impacts and attitudes toward billboards to share with lawmakers, planners, and community groups interested in protecting the visual character of their neighborhoods and roadways.

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