Katahdin Woods and Waters supporters should speak up early and often for retaining the land protections.
No president has ever abolished a national monument. But Donald Trump was elected last week because he promised to do things no other chief executive has ever done – and his vow to “turn it all around” shouldn’t be allowed to derail northern Maine’s recently created Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Sixteen presidents, Republican and Democratic, have created monuments. Exercising authority granted them under the Antiquities Act of 1906, established by the famously conservation-minded Theodore Roosevelt, they’ve recognized the need to preserve wildlands and historic sites for future generations.
These protections have stayed in place, even during fraught transfers of power. In 2001, for example, the incoming administration of George W. Bush vowed to review Bill Clinton’s monuments (all but one designated during the last year of his presidency). They backed down – not because they’d reversed their views on the environment, but because reversing the designations would be a lengthy process involving congressional action.
Now Donald Trump’s pledges to upend the usual procedures have foes of Katahdin Woods and Waters hoping he’ll easily undo protections put in place by President Obama. But even if he could reverse the designation on his own, it wouldn’t return the region to the days when Maine’s paper mills were still booming. Northern Maine needs a more diverse economy, and the national monument designation is a step toward that goal.
Along with high-profile Maine Republicans, including Gov. LePage and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Trump has blasted the designation as executive overreach by Obama. But the same could be said of the decision by one president to rip up his predecessor’s monument proclamations.
Why? Because when a president designates a monument, he’s exercising authority delegated to him by Congress. So any challenge to that action should be brought before Congress for debate and amendment.
And public input on Katahdin Woods and Waters wasn’t stifled – it was welcomed. Everybody on both sides of the issue had an opportunity to voice their views, at a pair of public meetings with the head of the National Park Service, held in Maine in May.
We don’t know if Trump’s bluster represents a credible threat to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. But it’s clear that we shouldn’t take for granted the monument’s status: It needs active advocates, and they must speak up early and often.