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Name That Mountain

Local Matters

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BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN -- in Vermont? A group of film fans wants to name a Green Mountain peak after the Academy Award-winning movie about two gay ranch hands in Montana. "Our goal," they write at www.brokebackmountainvermont.com, "is simply to dedicate our mountain as an eternal tribute to a movie that changed so many lives for the better." Brokeback Mountain is based on a short story by former Vermonter E. Annie Proulx.

The effort is the brainchild of "John," who writes in an email that he prefers to keep his identity secret -- especially from his homophobic boss. John has not yet chosen a mountain, but he has created an online petition supporting the idea. It's addressed to the State Board of Libraries, the agency responsible for naming geographic features. The quirky nature of this quest has attracted attention from TV stations and Internet news sites including Yahoo and Gay.com, and has even drawn a comment from Governor Jim Douglas' office. Press Secretary Jason Gibbs told WPTZ TV in Plattsburgh that the guv is "completely neutral about the idea."

The Brokeback petition has more than 500 signatures. Section 10 of Vermont state law says that petitions to name geographical features need only 25 signatures to be considered.

But the state librarian's office suggests the process might be more difficult than it seems; Deborah Matheson, executive assistant to the state librarian, says finding an unnamed mountain may be a challenge. Matheson says her office doesn't keep a count of how many are unnamed, but contrary to the website's assertion, there really aren't that many up for grabs. "When somebody asks to name something," she says, "they seem to have a hard time finding something that doesn't already have a name."

Matheson notes that the board has only received two requests in the past two years -- one to name "Pittsford Ridge," which was granted, another to add an "h" to the official spelling of Alburg, which is pending.

She adds that the board would evaluate any request by holding a public meeting in the town where the change would occur. The board might also ask residents to weigh in on the change through an advisory vote. And in this case, she says, "I would think it would be a good idea."

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