Montana Geographic Names Advisor

Geographic Name Change Request

Change Squaw Rock to Wright Rock
Granite County, Montana

Status = Approved

Description cape, elevation 1,646 m (5,400 ft), located 0.3 km (0.2 mi) NW of the mouth of Mill Gulch, overlooking Rock Creek, 24 km (15 mi) W of Philipsburg, on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management; named for Dr. Philip L. Wright (1914-1997), noted ornithologist, mammalogist, and zoologist
Location 46º21’26”N, 113º36’38”W
PLSS Location Sec 16,T17N,R16W
Proposal to change a name considered by some to be derogatory
Proponent Boone and Crockett Club; Missoula, MT
Not Squaw Rock
Administrative area Bureau of Land Management
Previous BGN Action None
See also 38201
GNIS ID 791396
Local Usage None found
Published Squaw Rock (USGS 1975, 1976, 1993, 1996)
This proposal is to change the name of a cape located in Granite County, overlooking Rock Creek, from Squaw Rock to Wright Rock. It is the second of two such proposals; the first is to rename the feature, Eagle Rock (q.v.) Both proposals were forwarded to the U.S. Board by the Montana House Bill 412 “Squaw Name Change” Committee, which has asked that the U.S. Board render the final decision on which of the proposed names is more appropriate.

The proposal for Wright Rock was submitted by the Executive Director of the Boone and Crockett Club, which was founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, and which claims to be “the oldest conservation organization in North America”. Headquartered in Missoula, the organization’s slogan is “Trailblazers in Conservation, Fair Chase in Hunting, and Shared Use of Natural Resources”. The name Wright Rock is intended to honor Dr. Philip L. Wright (1914-1997), noted ornithologist, mammalogist, and zoologist, and professor at the University of Montana, Missoula, for 46 years. The proponents report that Dr. Wright “became keenly interested in “Squaw Rock” and the entire Rock Creek area in 1940, shortly after he started teaching. He saw Rock Creek as an open-air laboratory where he guided his students on ornithology and mammalogy field trips a couple of times every semester to observe and study the birds and mammals. The golden eagles on “Squaw Rock” were of special interest to Dr. Wright….as he monitored their activity every year.” He also supported the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep transplants that occurred in Rock Creek in the 1960’s and he examined and recorded biological data on the sheep for many years. The University of Montana’s zoological museum is named the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, and the Five Valleys Audubon Society has named its research program the Philip L. Wright Research Award, “for his many years of dedication to their organization and the birds of Montana”. Dr. Wright was a member of the Montana Academy of Sciences and its president in 1956. He also served as the Assistant Leader of the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit for ten years, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Mammalogists. As a hunter, Dr. Wright hunted almost exclusively in the Rock Creek area, and in 1969, he purchased a cabin on 40 acres of land less than a mile from Squaw Rock. Just before his death, he placed a permanent conservation easement on his property, allowing it to remain natural and undeveloped.

Letters of support for the proposed name change to Wright Rock were submitted by U.S. Senator Max Baucus, U.S. Congressman Denny Rehberg, and Montana State Representative Butch Waddill, as well as by the President of the University of Montana, Missoula; the Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the Conservation Chair of the Five Valleys Audubon Society; the President of Bear Trust, International; and 27 other friends and associates of Dr. Wright. Representatives of the Water Resources Division and the Trust Land Management Division of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation also both support the proposal. A copy of this proposal was forwarded to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Fort Hall Business Council, both of which are Federally-recognized, for comment but no response was received, which is presumed to indicate a lack of interest in the issue. The Montana State Board on Geographic Names has recommended approval of the change to Wright Rock, citing the “broader base of support” for that name, and the significant contributions made by the honoree to the preservation of the area. The State Board also cited the existence of the other features in the county already named “Eagle” in recommending that another name not be added to that list. The BLM does not recommend approval of the change to Wright Rock, citing the support of Granite County for the name Eagle Rock.

Montana Geographic Names Advisor Recommendation - Support
Domestic Names Committee Decision Date - Thursday, November 13, 2003
Domestic Names Committee Discussion - This proposal was submitted by the Boone and Crockett Club to change officially the name of Squaw Rock. The proposed name would recognize the contributions of Dr. Philip L. Wright (1914-1997), noted ornithologist, mammalogist, and zoologist, who owned property in the vicinity of the feature (see Attachment B, #3). A motion was made and seconded to approve the change.

Vote: 7 in favor
4 against
0 abstentions

The negative votes were cast because it was suggested the alternative proposal for Eagle Rock (q.v.) was more appropriate.

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