The grand mountain ought not be burdened with the name of one of Idaho’s most short-sighted senators-

Weldon Heyburn, an Idaho U.S. Senator, back in days before the 17th Amendment (which the Tea Party now wants to repeal), is best known as a backward looking man who hated the creation of the U.S. Forest Service. Political Scientist John Freemuth suggests that Mt. Heyburn, a famous landmark of the fabled Sawtooth Range bears an improper name.

Renaming Mountains: Idaho’s Mt. Heyburn, For One, Deserves Better. “It’s time to change the legacy of a man who didn’t fight for the Sawtooths and stood in the way of the early Forest Service.” By John Freemuth, High Country News, Guest Writer.

I agree.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is past President of the Western Watersheds Project.

18 Responses to Opinion: Prominent Sawtooth Range peak, Mt. Heyburn, deserves a better name

  1. avatar Chris Harbin says:

    I made a short attempt to find out when his name was made the “official” name of the mountain. I did not find that info but I presume it was either toward the end of his life or just after he died in 1912. I am pretty sure that there are not enough people of high standard to name all the geographic features in this country and it appears that Sen. Heyburn was not one as well. Besides, many groups of people are sorely underrepresented in place names. It would probably be better to stick to descriptive or animal names or at least wait 50 years to name something after a person

    • avatar Cutthroat says:

      “It would probably be better to stick to descriptive or animal names…”

      How about Sockeye Peak-ed? or Mt. a Return!

  2. avatar mikepost says:

    Changing names based upon percieved political and social worth is a slippery slope. Not a good idea in the big picture regardless of this instant case. Chris idea about waiting 50 years has some worth but not applied retroactively.

    • avatar JB says:


      Just curious; why do you think changing names is a “slippery slope”.

      I would wager that politics play a significant role in how any common property acquires its name. Thus, I don’t find it problematic that they would play a role in changing a name.

      Mt. McKinley > Denali National Park.

      • avatar mikepost says:

        JB, the more it happens, the easier it becomes to do it for the wrong reasons…like a change in administration (get that republicans name off the mountain), or the personal engrandizement of some pompous official (which the next pompous fool will change to his name). I also agree with your issue that the cost alone is reason not to do it.

  3. avatar grdnrmt says:

    Just finished “The Big Burn.” I highly recommend it to readers of this blog.

  4. avatar DB says:

    Mr. Freemuth is probably correct here but really, so what? I find it strange that many academcians, so smart and experienced like John, never seem to jump in with opinions on subjects that really matter.

  5. avatar John Freemuth says:


    OK..I’ll what!

    John Freemuth

  6. avatar DB says:

    Bighorn sheep/domestic sheep, HW 12 industrial transport, Otter and wolves, sage grouse listing, BLM/grazing, welfare ranching, Snake river dams, Ken Salazar, and Dave Parrish, for example.

    Dave Hayes

    • avatar John Freemuth says:

      Good stuff, no question., Dave.

      I guess i ought to blog more, but Im not sure how much folks really want to read some academic blather.


  7. avatar Tim Bondy says:

    This renaming issue is a non-issue to me other than the cost the government would incur doing it so I really don’t think it’s a good idea. The thing that bothers is this…

    Some people don’t like a mountain named after Heyburn because he fought against the creation of the Nation Forest Service???? I’ve been reading this website for a few years and I certainly don’t remember many comments or posts that shine a positive light on Forest Service. Heck, one prominent conservation group (WWP) has made a living suing the NFS.

    • Tim Bondy,

      In general, I don’t like to see major geographic names named after politicians. It seems almost like a conquest by their supporters, regardless of the side the politician was on.

      The Forest Service gets sued by WWP generally because it is not obeying the laws or its own regulations. There is no general dissatisfaction with the agency except for the ability of some groups or persons to pressure it away from going by the rules.

      • avatar JB says:

        It kills me that Presidents all get to have libraries named after them. Naming a library after George W. Bush is akin to naming a church after Hugh Hefner–it absolutely reeks of irony.

      • avatar DB says:

        Naming the River of No Return Wilderness for Frank Church was certainly bipartisan, but in my mind it would have been more apt to name it after Ted Trueblood, a conservationist and wilderness advocate of who damned near died getting the legislation passed.

  8. avatar Mike says:

    I had the pleasure of visiting the Sawtooths this year, and was shocked at how scary many of the people were, and of the lack of enforcement in certain sections.

    I have video and photos of unenforced cooler/food rules right next to a freaking bear trap. I kid you not. Every single campsite around this bear trap had food left out on the tables with the campers nowhere in sight – some even had their RV doors open. And what did the bear trap contain for bait? A cooler, of course.

  9. avatar elk275 says:

    My best friend was the back country horse packer and trail crew boss in the 1970’s and early 80’s in the Beartooth Mountains, he named 3 mountain lakes for his girlfriends. Today they are on the maps. He had the information and forums and somehow they allowed the lake to be named. I know for a fact that he never told any one the orgins of the name.

  10. avatar Daniel Berg says:

    When I hike by mountains, peaks, and mountain lakes I sometimes wonder who saw them first, who named them, and why. Those three women will never know they were noteworthy enough to have lakes named after them!?

    The other day I hiked a fairly strenuous day trail that ends near the top of a butte in the I-90 corridor. (Snoqualmie Pass area). The elevation gain was between 3500 to 4000 feet. On the last 1,000 up as my quads were burning I couldn’t help but to laugh thinking about the name of that steep, jagged, mountain. “McCllelan Butte” named after a civil war general of notoriously short stature who had done some surveying in the area back in the 1850’s and somehow managed to overlook Snoqualmie Pass as the most suitable railroad route over that part of the Cascades. I finally concluded that maybe that mountain was actually named in honor of McCllelan’s ego.


October 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

%d bloggers like this: