Monday, August 31, 2015

Obama, on way to Alaska for climate show, restores Native name of America's highest mountain, Denali

President Obama starts the first real presidential tour of Alaska today, the day after his administration restored the original Athabascan name to the highest mountain in the state and nation, and the third highest in the Western hemisphere. world. With Obama's approval, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed an order renaming Mount McKinley as Denali, which since 1980 has been the name of the national park that surrounds it.
Denali, from Talkeetna, on a rare cloudless day in 2011. (Photo by Ed Staats)
“I think for people like myself that have known the mountain as Denali for years and certainly for Alaskans, it's something that's been a long time coming,” Jewell told Alaska Dispatch News. Naming authority usually rests with the U.S. Geological Survey's Board on Geographic Names, but the board deferred to Congress on the Denali question in 1977, and Jewell said she has authority to make a unilateral decision after a “reasonable time has passed.”

House Speaker John Boehner and other members of the Ohio delegation objected, citing the service of President William McKinley from 1897 to 1901, but Jewell told ADN (which bought the old Anchorage Daily News) that “Overwhelming support for many years from the citizens of Alaska is more robust than anything that we have heard from the citizens of Ohio.”

Obama's three-day visit to Alaska is designed partly to highlight efforts against climate change, which is more evident in the state than any other, with warming temperatures and retreating glaciers. "He will pay little heed to the oil and gas drilling offshore that he allowed to go forward just this month, a move that activists say is an unsavory blot on an otherwise ambitious climate record," Julie Hirshcifield Davis of The New York Times writes in a preview of the tour.

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