It would be outrageous if legislators more interested in hunting and riding snowmobiles than the longterm interests of all Mainers succeed in killing plans to add 6,000 acres to Baxter State Park.
But there is a real possibility that could happen next week when the Legislature votes on a compromise that would make Katahdin Lake and land surrounding it part of the park.
The compromise seeks to reconcile the interests of hunters with those who feel hunting is incompatible with Gov. Percival Baxter’s long-term vision for the park. The plan calls for the southern 4,040 acres directly around the park to be a wildlife sanctuary, without hunting. The northern 1,975 acres would not be part of the park but would become mixed-use public property, where hunting would be allowed.
That division, or one similar to it, is reasonable. It recognizes that some hunting already is allowed in parts of the park. It seems likely that an arrangement such as this would be acceptable to donors who have agreed to pay for much of the land acquisition.
Last week, legislators who support snowmobiling added another dimension to the mix. They say they will oppose any plan that does not include an agreement to groom the park’s perimeter road for snowmobiles.
The issue is not new. Snowmobile groups — and some legislators — have long wanted the perimeter groomed for their use.
There is room for debate on the question, but this is not the time or place for that debate to take place. That issue should be — and has been — settled by the Baxter State Park Authority, not the Legislature.
Legislators who are more concerned with their special interests than with preserving this property for future generations of Mainers do a disservice to the state — and to our children and grandchildren.