Congress bends rules to rename Yosemite-area peak

Michael Doyle / McClatchy Newspapers /


Published Jan 1, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

WASHINGTON — Congress stretched the rules a bit by naming a Yosemite National Park-area mountain after the late Olympic star and longtime Mono County, Calif., Supervisor Andrea Lawrence. And most everyone is cool with that.

Within days, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation designating a 12,240-foot peak near Yosemite and the Inyo National Forest as “Mount Andrea Lawrence.”

Established in 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names usually handles the official naming of natural features such as lakes, peaks and valleys. Sometimes, as with Congress designating Mount Andrea Lawrence, the board is bypassed. Sometimes, the board’s own work gets surprisingly provocative.

In November, board meeting minutes show, officials discussed proposals to strip the name “squaw,” which Native Americans consider derogatory, from a number of Oregon natural features.

Besides considering name changes, the board sets policies that lawmakers can sidestep.

One board policy is that a person must be deceased for at least five years before a commemorative naming proposal will be considered. Another policy discourages naming features in designated wilderness areas unless an “overriding need” can be demonstrated.

Congress, though, can also take matters into its own hands.