Return to 'Mount McKinley'? Trump's intentions are unclear

On the eve of President Obama's historic trip to Alaska last year, candidate Donald Trump blasted one high-altitude administration action.

If elected, Trump declared on Twitter, he would restore the McKinley name to North America's tallest peak, reversing the Obama administration's decision to formally embrace the Alaska Native and Alaska-preferred name, Denali.

"President Obama wants to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali after more than 100 years. Great insult to Ohio. I will change back!" read the tweet, issued from the account of the real estate mogul.

But does President-elect Trump still intend to follow through on that name change to Denali, which was popular in Alaska but opposed in the battleground state of Ohio, the home state of former President William McKinley?

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not return an email query for a comment. But former Gov. Sarah Palin, an early Trump supporter and now considered a leading contender for a high-level appointment in the new administration, suggested last year that the McKinley name should stay in place for the mountain.

The official Denali designation was made in an August 2015 order issued by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who likely will be gone from the job by the time Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. The U.S. Geological Survey's Board of Geographic Names had failed to make the change on its own.

Efforts from Alaska officials to get the federal government to use the Denali name — officially recognized by the state since the 1970s — had languished at the Board of Geographic names because of opposition from Ohio's congressional delegation. Once Jewell issued her order, the board made the change.


So far, there does not appear to be any formal effort to reverse the mountain's name change, National Park Service spokesman John Quinley said.

"As far as I know, there is no proposal to change the name again in the office of Board of Geographic Names," he said.

The official federal embrace of the Denali name for the mountain resulted in "relatively small" expenses that are hard to quantify, Quinley said.

Mostly, the tasks involved online updates, he said. "We went through the Denali website and made the changes," he said. Brochures and newsletters — already printed at least annually — were edited to include the change in their new editions, he said. There were some wayside posters that were also replaced with edited versions including the Denali name, though those posters are also updated and replaced periodically, he said.

If costs were small to update information with the Denali name, "presumably they would be similar going back the other way," he said.

Yereth Rosen

Yereth Rosen was a reporter for Alaska Dispatch News.