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PORTLAND, Maine — America’s newest national monument is also one of its most controversial. President Obama turned 87,500 acres of forest land in northern Maine into the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument with the stroke of a pen Wednesday, despite the opposition of many residents and the legislature and governor.
“The president is using the [National Park] Centennial as a cover to subvert the will of Maine’s citizens and leaders,” US Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) charged. “The only votes taken on this proposal, at the local and state level, have demonstrated opposition from Mainers.”
The president used his executive power to create monuments to get around a federal law that requires Congressional approval for the creation of a national park, Bishop charged. Bishop, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, alleged that Obama used the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service as an excuse for his action.
The northern part of Maine is often called the “North Woods.” Roxanne Quimby, the co-founder of the company that makes Burt’s Bees products, donated the land to the federal government. Her goal was to protect it from logging and real estate development.
Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, expressed concern about the monument.
“The Legislature passed a resolution opposing a National Monument in the North Woods, members of Maine’s Congressional delegation opposed it and local citizens voted against it repeatedly,” a press release from LePage read. “Despite this lack of support, the Quimby family used high-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to go around the people of Maine and have President Obama use his authority to designate this area a National Monument. This once again demonstrates that rich, out-of-state liberals can force their unpopular agenda on the Maine people against their will.”
The resolution passed the state House, 77-73, and the Senate, 18-17. US Sen. Susan Collins of Maine also expressed concern and signed a letter stating that Mainers “do not take lightly any forced action by the federal government to increase its footprint in our state.”
Conservation or Job Killer?
Local residents charge that the move will kill jobs in their economically depressed region. The White House said the action will benefit the community
“The new national monument – which will be managed by the National Park Service – will protect approximately 87,500 acres, including the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski,” a White House press release read.
Quimby also donated $100 million to the federal government for the upkeep of the monument, the press release said. The donation might be necessary because the National Park Service lacks the funds to maintain the monument, The Hill reported.
Maine’s congressional delegation is divided over the monument, which might form the basis for a future national park.
“I believe that the president’s proclamation, along with the binding commitments in the deeds conveying the land, address the essential elements of those conditions, and that, as a result, the benefits of the designation will far outweigh any detriment and — on balance — will be a significant benefit to Maine and the region,” US Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, said.
But US Representative Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine, opposed it.
“Our local job creators — not Washington bureaucrats — know best how to use our working forests and provide proper access for industries to create more jobs including those in the outdoor recreation businesses, like snowmobiling, hunting, rafting, camping and so on,” Poliquin said.
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