Supporters of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument expressed relief on Tuesday that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke isn’t recommending the 87,500-acre monument be reduced in size, which is what he recommended for more than a half dozen other monuments in his final report on the fate of 27 national monuments released this week.
But they also voiced concerns about Zinke’s recommendations that call for “prioritizing” the promotion of “a healthy forest through active timber management.”
“At a time when residents and businesses in the Katahdin region want the future of Katahdin Woods and Waters to be resolved, so they can focus on the economic benefits of the monument, today’s announcement simply continues the uncertainty,” Catherine B. Johnson, senior staff attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the organization’s forest and wildlife project director, said in a news release. “If this is Secretary Zinke’s way of promoting commercial logging in the monument, then it is completely unacceptable and inconsistent with the purpose of the monument. The monument is intended to provide protected habitat for the plants and animals that live there and recreational experiences that are not compatible with commercial timber harvesting. Maine has well over 10 million acres of forestland open to commercial logging and these 87,500 acres are not needed.”
Zinke’s recommendations for Katahdin Woods and Waters occupy only a brief section within his final 20-page report to President Donald Trump about the 27 national monuments he was ordered to review.
Johnson said his recommendations concerning “active timber management” were ambiguous and failed to remove uncertainty about the national monument’s future as a tourism destination.
“If this is Secretary Zinke’s way of promoting commercial logging in the monument, then it is completely unacceptable and inconsistent with the purpose of the monument. The monument is intended to provide protected habitat for the plants and animals that live there and recreational experiences that are not compatible with commercial timber harvesting. Maine has well over 10 million acres of forestland open to commercial logging and these 87,500 acres are not needed.
Johnson concluded: “Because we do not know what an amended proclamation means by ‘active forest management,’ we cannot fully know how damaging this recommendation might be. If the Trump Administration envisions commercial timber harvesting, then it would be a clear violation of the laws that determine how the National Park Service manages lands and would almost certainly trigger a lawsuit.”
Friends group adds its perspective
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, the nonprofit organization founded this year to support the national monument, also expressed concern about Zinke’s recommendations.
“Within the report, Secretary Zinke recommends that the administration make changes to Katahdin Woods and Waters that ‘promote a healthy forest through active timber management’ and vague language about prioritizing public access, infrastructure, traditional and tribal use, as well as hunting and fishing rights in the management plan currently under development for the monument” said Andrew Bossie, executive director of the organization. “We will continue to promote and support the original intent of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. We’re relieved that the report doesn’t recommend changes to the size or existence of the monument, but we will continue to monitor any efforts to amend the proclamation and monument as it currently stands.”
Bossie said the national monument already is providing “a much-needed boost to the local economies of the Katahdin region.”
“We’re seeing increased visitation to the area and businesses are expanding, despite the cloud of this current controversy,” he said.