At this point of US President Donald Trump's speech at the 2017 North America's Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference, the President claims that this is a chart of 'some of the permits you need' to build a highway in the United States:

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This is, if you want to build a highway in the United States, these are some of the permits that you need. It's a process that can take way over ten years, and just never happens. Then at the end of the period they vote against it.

But it is, of course, not even close to legible. Is this really a chart of permits required to build a highway?

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    I am not seeing any source that has a recreation or a highres version of the chart. So we do not really have any specific claim here. It appears to be a flow chart of the steps involved. Meaning not every bubble will be a permit. And no highway/construction project will need to fulfill every bubble, some will be an either/or scenario. Note; that image shows it off poorly, the document is actually around 8 feet tall.
    – Jonathon
    Apr 4, 2017 at 20:20
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    While we can't read the chart there's enough to see that this is a flow chart. While most steps could be permits I note some decision boxes--those aren't permits. As we have found something that isn't a permit the claim is clearly false. Apr 4, 2017 at 20:24
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    "a chart of permits" need not imply that every element on the chart is a permit. In the strict sense, if the primary function of the chart were to demonstrate the permits required, I might call it a chart of permits. In a loose sense, I might still call it a chart of permits if it had a lot of permits on it. It wouldn't say that's enough to call the claim false. Apr 4, 2017 at 21:10
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    The high-res image linked to by @AlexanderO'Mara clearly shows that it's a flow-chart for the steps that need to be followed to determine what reviews need to be done to get permits for a highway project which, while significant, don't appear to be extraordinary for an infrastructure project that can have a lot of local impacts. Apr 5, 2017 at 1:05
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    Not sure that someone not being able to drop a highway wherever they want on a whim is necessarily a bad thing, philosophically speaking. Jun 20, 2017 at 16:15

1 Answer 1


CNBC was able to get the highest quality image out there. Here is a direct link to the image.

Specifically, the entire paper is a flowchart of the process of getting permits. The large white box is the list of permits, but you might not need to get all of them.

There's a lot going on, and it's not particularly clear, since lines are everywhere. I'll explain one part of it, this part:

Migratory Birds/Eagles permit process

There are two permits here that are grouped together, The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act permit and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act permit (presumably because they are very similar permits).

While I can't find much information on the Migratory Birds permit, I found what can be playfully described as a choose-your-adventure guide for determining if you actually need an Eagle permit. It's on the US Fish and Wildlife (FWS) site here. One path ends with you needing to sign something, but not needing an Eagle permit.

FWS has a list of permits here, but not all the permits are in their list, and most of the permits that are listed don't have an "Estimated Processing Time".

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    Of course the claim competely overlooks the fact that there are obviously quite a few people who prefer eagles to highways :-)
    – jamesqf
    Jun 20, 2017 at 17:41
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    @jamesqf That might be true, but I'm betting a far greater number would choose the highway.
    – Andy
    Jun 26, 2017 at 22:48

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