Statement of Cathy Johnson, Forests and Wildlife Project Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
“Today Interior Secretary Zinke released a memorandum to President Trump recommending potentially damaging changes to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. It is unclear what action President Trump will take in response to the recommendations.
“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.”
“The Memorandum recommends amending the Proclamation for Katahdin Woods and Waters …‘prioritizing promote [sic] a healthy forest through active timber management.’ 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.
“The Administration received more than 260,000 comments in support of Katahdin Woods and Waters, and fewer than 100 in opposition. Of those comments expressing concerns, only a tiny fraction mentioned anything about timber cutting. Thus, it is a gross distortion of the record to state that ‘there are still concerns’ that timber harvesting will not be permitted in all parts of the Monument.
“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.
“Commercial logging could cause substantial harm to the natural resources protected by the Monument and to the economic and recreation benefits already emerging at Katahdin Woods and Waters. However, if ‘active timber harvesting’ means managing timber to restore a healthy, natural forest, build trails, and for educational purposes, it could be consistent with the Monument’s purpose.
“The recommendations also direct the management plan, currently under development, to ‘protect hunting and fishing rights.’ Fishing is already allowed throughout the Monument and hunting is allowed in designated areas, so it is unclear what this recommendation means. The current management practices reflect hundreds of meetings with local residents in the years before the Monument was established. Those meetings led to provisions that guarantee fishing everywhere and hunting in some parts of the Monument and establish other areas of the Monument for other recreational activities.
“The implications of these recommendations for Maine’s Monument remain unclear, so we cannot fully judge whether these recommendations are acceptable and consistent with the overwhelming view of Maine people, problematic for the intended purpose of this Monument, or illegal and likely to trigger action in the courts.
“The original Proclamation and the uses outlined within reflect agreements made by the donor of the land and the National Park Service. As a result, changing the Proclamation would violate those agreements and the intent of the donation.”