Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce President, Sporting Lodge Owner, Select Board Chair, and Others heading to Washington, DC to counter President Trump/Governor LePage Attacks on Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Today the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources is hosting a “witnesses by invitation only” hearing on presidentially declared national monuments, including Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
The committee has invited Lucas St. Clair to speak. St. Clair leads Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI), the philanthropic organization that donated 87,500 acres of land to the Department of Interior for establishment of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWW). EPI also pledged a $40 million endowment to support the Monument.
The committee also invited Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Monument opponent, to speak. LePage has not visited the Monument or met with the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, which strongly supports KWW and represents about 150 businesses in the Katahdin region. As a result of the Monument, businesses in the Katahdin region already are starting to reap the economic benefits in terms of increased tourism, increased real estate sales, and increased occupancy at some lodging businesses.
Residents of towns near Maine’s Monument were not invited to address the committee, but they also travelled to DC to make their case.
“I am disappointed that government officials are considering undermining Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument just as it has begun delivering important economic benefits to our region at a time when we urgently need positive developments,” says Gail Fanjoy, third generation, lifelong Millinocket resident and President of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce. “That is why there is now so much support for the proposal in the region. The National Monument protects natural resources that can now be used in new ways to create jobs, attract people to the region, and help us move forward.”
“The National Monument has created a magnet to draw the type of high-wage, non-exportable jobs that are desperately needed in the Katahdin region, while also conserving this place of exceptional natural beauty and historic value for the benefit of future generations,” says Matt Polstein, founder and owner of the New England Outdoor Center on Millinocket Lake. “Visits to my business have increased significantly since the designation of the Monument.”
Tuesday’s hearing comes in the wake of an Executive Order signed by President Trump on April 26, which calls for an examination of all national monuments that have been established since 1996 and are larger than 100,000 acres or were designated without “adequate public outreach.” Maine’s new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is 87,500 acres.
“From a front-row seat in Patten, one of the gateway communities to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, at last, I am seeing new investments and new life in our communities,” says Richard Schmidt, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Patten, Maine, lifelong Katahdin region resident, and veteran. “The Monument enjoys widespread support in our region and throughout the state for good reason, and was shaped by the many public input and information meetings on the proposal, which continue to this day. One result, for example, guarantees snowmobiling and hunting within the Monument lands.”
In terms of public outreach, there were five years of extensive public discussions before the designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, including well-attended public input sessions. Most significantly, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and Senator Angus King held a public meeting in Orono in May 2016 attended by 1400 people, of whom at least 1200 were Monument supporters.
“It has been heartening to witness five years of conversations, meetings, and presentations leading to the creation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” says Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine State Director for The Wilderness Society. “I watched the crowds throng to a National Monument public meeting in Orono in May 2016, held by Director of the National Park Service Jarvis and Senator King and attended by 1,400 people, of whom at least 1,200 were Monument supporters. Because of these community conversations and meetings, the Monument features permanent guarantees of access for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling for future generations.”
In addition, in June 2016, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah held a field hearing in East Millinocket at which only Monument opponents were allowed to speak, and there were four of them. But, at the public forum hosted by Rep. Bruce Poliquin immediately afterwards, dozens of local Monument supporters spoke, outnumbering opponents 4:1.
“Maine people overwhelmingly support Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” says Cathy Johnson, Forests and Wildlife Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Five years of meetings, discussions, and conversations, along with the changes that guarantee hunting and snowmobiling, have resulted in a growing number of supporters, including those who were skeptical at first. A poll conducted in October 2016, two months after the establishment of the Monument found that 72% of Maine residents now support the Monument, while only 22% oppose, and a majority of all subgroups, including 53% of Republicans and 66% of residents of the 2nd Congressional District (66%), support the Monument.”
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was established on August 24, 2016, on forest land in northern Maine that was donated to the nation for this purpose. The Monument has quickly become the best stimulus for economic development the Katahdin region has seen in years. It was named one of the best places in the world to visit in 2017 by CNN and has already welcomed thousands of visitors to view its spectacular forests, mountains, rivers, and wildlife. Businesses in nearby communities have seen an uptick in economic activity, real estate sales have increased after years of stagnation, and new investments are taking place, and there is a sense of hope and optimism in a region that has struggled for years as the paper mills declined and closed.
While some did not initially support the Monument, Wednesday’s Bangor Daily News reported: “Since the designation, however, Katahdin region leaders have said they accept the monument and have vowed to work with park service leaders on it — perhaps an implicit nod to Katahdin Woods’ officials saying that the monument has lured new visitors to the economically battered region. Monument officials said in November that 1,762 vehicles were counted on the main road into the lands last year, including 1,215 after Obama issued the executive order in August.”
A poll conducted in October 2016, two months after the establishment of the Monument, found that 72% of Maine residents support the Monument, only 22% oppose, and a majority of all subgroups, including Republicans (53%), residents of Maine’s northern 2nd Congressional District (66%), and Independents (74%) support the Monument.
Katahdin area residents who will be in Washington, DC Tuesday, May 2 in support of Maine’s Monument include: Gail Fanjoy, President of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce; Matt Polstein, founder and owner of New England Outdoor Center; and Richard Schmidt, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Patten, Maine.
Representatives of Maine’s environmental community will also travel to DC in support of Maine’s Monument: Cathy Johnson, Forests and Wildlife Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine State Director for The Wilderness Society.
As the National Park Service website on Katahdin Woods and Waters says: “A Gift to the Nation. Spread across a wild landscape offering spectacular views of Mount Katahdin, Katahdin Woods and Waters invites discovery of its rivers, streams, woods, flora, fauna, geology, and the night skies that have attracted humans for millennia.”
- Recent media
- Testimony of Lucas St. Clair at the House Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee Oversight Hearing on the Antiquities Act
- 2016 poll results
- Map of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
- History of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument up to its establishment on August 24, 2016