by Phillip Manning ~ June 20th, 2013
On June 19th, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the Denali National Park Improvement Act sponsored by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and co-sponsored by Alaska Senator Mark Begich. The legislation changes the name of the Talkeetna Ranger Station to the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station, in honor of the first man to stand on the summit of Denali. I spoke with Senator Murkowski on the significance of naming the Ranger Station after Harper.
The Senate bill also provides for a land transfer to establish a small hydroelectric project in Kantishna, and allows a natural gas pipeline to be buried in the National Park’s utility corridor. Both measures are aimed at reducing the amount of diesel fuel used in the Park. An identical bill, sponsored by Alaska Representative Don Young, is currently at the committee level in the House of Representatives.
In addition, both Alaska senators are pushing a bill that would officially rename Mt. McKinley to Denali. The bill passed in committee on Tuesday, June 18th. Senator Murkowski says she is looking forward to moving the legislation to the floor of the Senate, likely as part of a package of smaller bills.
The committee approval did not go without objection, however, as Senator Rob Portman of Ohio voted against the name change. Ohio is the birthplace of former President McKinley, and has traditionally opposed the renaming of Mt. McKinley. Speaker of the House John Boehner also represents Ohio, and has significant influence over the House of Representatives schedule. I asked Senator Murkowski if she anticipated continued resistance from the Ohio delegation.
Senator Murkowski did add that she would be willing to name a currently un-named peak in Alaska after the 25th President. There is not currently a timeline for when the bill to rename Mt. McKinley will come up for a vote.