President Obama faces lawmakers bitter about his energy policy in Alaska, but has the support of Republican senators in changing the name of Mount McKinley to Denali.
Obama left the White House for Anchorage this morning, putting a visit to the Arctic region on his schedule to focus the visit on climate change.
The mountain renaming was a gesture to Alaskan natives before he left on his trip. Denali means “the great one” or “the high one” in the tradition of the state’s Koyukon Athabascans. Alaska has officially recognized the mountain as Denali since 1975.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) filmed a video welcoming the name change while standing on the mountain’s Ruth Glacier. The chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has long lobbied for the name change and had introduced legislation to scrap McKinley.
“For centuries, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as the ‘Great One.’ Today we are honored to be able to officially recognize the mountain as Denali,” Murkowski said. “I’d like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska.”
Murkowksi wrote Obama a letter last week stressing “climate change must not be used as an excuse to deprive Alaskans of our best economic prospects.”
“Many renewable energy projects in our state were made possible with State revenues derived from oil production,” she said. “As you will see, Alaska has developed institutions and programs that maximize the benefits of resource production to improve the lives of our people.”
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) tweeted, “Today, the nation recognizes what AK’ns have known for generations
#Denali is rightful name 4 NAmerica’s tallest mtn.”
In a message to constituents days ago, Young said that while some have called Obama’s Arctic “visit historic – a moment to be celebrated and embraced – I, however, am far less optimistic, especially given the president’s recent track record in Alaska.”
“Over the past six-and-a-half-years, President Obama and his Administration have aggressively pushed to make good on a 2008 campaign promise to ‘fundamentally change the United States of America.’ Sadly, that attitude and mission has made a complete mockery out of the principals of federalism and the 10th Amendment. Their efforts continue to ignore states like Alaska that rely on our lands, waters and abundant natural resources to provide for our communities and local economies,” Young wrote.
“…Since the president announced his travels to Alaska last month, my message has been clear: this visit must not be used as a platform to pander to the nation’s most extreme interests groups, but as an opportunity to see the many challenges and hurdles Alaskans face each and every day. With more than 80% of our communities off the road system, we face some of the most basic and fundamental obstacles: high energy and food costs, extreme poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, limited access to basic goods and services like medical care, internet, and even running water. At a time when much of the nation has the luxury to sit back and discuss our problems, many Alaskans are living them. By using our state as a poster child for a reckless environmental agenda, the president fails to recognize the harsh realities facing numerous Alaskans.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) simply tweeted, “#Denali, the ‘Great One’ comes home.”
That followed a series of tweets over the past few days critical of Obama’s agenda. “
#Alaska is not a snow globe to be put on a shelf and shaken occasionally for a feel-good moment,” Sullivan tweeted. “. @POTUS has said economic opp. ensures common good, gives power 2 powerless. This is as true in Alaska as anywhere else in country. But in #Alaska, economic opportunity is stymied by federal efforts to lock up our resources. Creates hardship for our people.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), from the home state of President McKinley, said Obama ran around Congress again on the name change.
“Pres McKinley was a proud Ohioan, and the mountain was named after him, as a way to remember his rich legacy after his assassination,” Portman tweeted. “The naming of the mountain has been a topic of discussion in Congress for many years. This decision by the Administration is yet another example of the President going around Congress.”
Portman added that he hopes the administration will work with him to “find alternative ways” to “preserve McKinley’s legacy somewhere else in the natl park that once bore his name.”
Congress changed the name of Mount McKinley National Park to Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980.