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I having been using Tim Egan’ s book, "The Big Burn," about the fires of 1910 that changed fire policy in the United States in my public land policy class this semester. A key part of his book is about the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, its Chief Gifford Pinchot, and the forest rangers who, new to the job, tried heroically to fight those fires in Idaho and Montana. He writes about those people in such a way that they come alive. The legacy those and other fires left that new agency is large and still can lie heavy on it and all of us. The early Forest Service also had its enemies. One of them, Sen. Heyburn of Idaho, tried to defund the new agency and have it abolished; it was that “ damn federal government” standing in the way of Heyburn and his cronies. Heyburn was also one of those Senators chosen before the passage of the 17th amendment, the one that now lets citizens elect their US senators.

Renaming Mountains: Idaho’s Mt. Heyburn, For One, Deserves Better

I having been using Tim Egan’ s book, “The Big Burn,” about the fires of 1910 that changed fire policy in the United States in my public land policy class this semester. A key part of his book is about the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, its Chief Gifford Pinchot, and the forest rangers who, new to the job, tried heroically to fight those fires in Idaho and Montana. He writes about those people in such a way that they come alive.

The legacy those and other fires left that new agency is large and still can lie heavy on it and all of us. The early Forest Service also had its enemies. One of them, Sen. Heyburn of Idaho, tried to defund the new agency and have it abolished; it was that “ damn federal government” standing in the way of Heyburn and his cronies. Heyburn was also one of those Senators chosen before the passage of the 17th amendment, the one that now lets citizens elect their US senators.

This is not a historical footnote; there are those who would repeal that amendment giving us…what? More Senator Heyburns? Heyburn did not succeed, but Egan reminds us it was a battle. It is simply amazing, then, that a walk around or boat ride on Redfish Lake in Idaho reveals Mount Heyburn in the Sawtooth Mountain range, one of the Forest Service’ s most proud and important places. Shouldn’ t this mountain have a name more suited to someone who did something to protect the Sawtooths and at least dealt honorably with the agency that manages them? It is time to start the process to change the name of this peak.

John Freemuth is a professor of political science and public policy at Boise State University. This item originally appeared on High Country News’ The Range blog.

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3 comments

  1. Just finished that book. I highly recommend it!

  2. Let sleeping dogs lie. Could it be that Sen Heyburn had some other qualities or conducted other business as Senator that makes him worthy of some recognition? Simply opposing the USFS is grounds for condemnation? I dont know Sen Heyburn from Adam, but should we strike folks of recognition simply because we (you) decide we dont like them? Is the suggestion that we only name such landmarks after champions of conservation? Perhaps then we should also take a closer look at all those creek names, too…..and I hear Ty Cobb was a real Jerk – maybe we should strip him of recognition.

    I, for one, think its interesting that this proud place is named after a nemesis. Quite peculiar…quite interesting…and while I thank you for pointing that out, i respectfully disagree that the name should be changed.

  3. ” Shouldn’ t this mountain have a name more suited to someone who did something to protect the Sawtooths and at least dealt honorably with the agency that manages them? ”

    Like Forest Service Ranger Charles Langer ? The Peak named for him due to his crashing a plane into it in 1943. Once named Ruffneck Peak. Regardless of Accident or incompetance I believe the Grouse were there longer,and they did not litter it’s side with junk metal, spilt fuel and oil.