by Eric Hendrickson
Bangor Daily News op-ed
Everywhere I go all that I hear is there’s nothing there at the site of the proposed national monument but clearcuts and barren land. Well, I have to say that there is something special about the land Elliotsville Plantation Inc. wants to donate to the American people. There are several reasons the land is worthy of national monument designation: its natural beauty, cultural heritage, historical significance and the need to protect it before it disappears.
One can sit on the edge of the Wassataquoik Stream watching the waters flow over the rocks knowing that upstream there are no signs of civilization. A stream filled from bank to bank with giant boulders dropped there by the glacier, its edges lined with a twisting esker. Water that is so clear that you can see every rock on the bottom and watch trout swim from pool to pool. You can climb to the top of Daicey Mountain with its historic fire lookout, gaining a 360 degree view of the lands. Inside the cab you will find a working alidade allowing the visitor to identify all of the surrounding lakes and mountains.
You can explore along the Wassataquoik Stream, still finding remnants and old landmarks that played such an important part in the logging history of the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Robar Dam and the Rogers Halfway Camp. Then there is the Historic Lower Katahdin Crossing, where in 1846 Marcus Keep made the first easterly approach to Katahdin and where in 1879 while heading up Katahdin Theodore Roosevelt fell and lost his boot. Many Roosevelt scholars feel this wilderness experience helped him to develop his commitment to the American conservation movement. How exciting it is to be able to walk in the footsteps of Roosevelt, feeling the same excitement he once felt about this forested wilderness?
You will find Grand Pitch on the East Branch of the Penobscot with its 500-million-year-old fossils. This is where geologists believe that plate tectonics came together in three violent collisions, shaping what we now recognize as our planet. The rock towers hidden in the woods above the falls show the violent nature of the collisions, with giant rounded rocks locked in the conglomerate. You can walk along miles of glacial eskers more than a 100 feet tall or walk on pillow lava formations on top of Lumksoos Mountain formed by a great undersea volcanic eruption.
Some say the forest is nothing special, but nothing could be further from the truth. The biodiversity of the this forest in age and species is amazing. There are many areas that show little evidence of human disturbance, serving as a living museum depicting the size and abundance of trees found by the early loggers as they made their way up the rivers. Evidence of the great wildfires from more than 100 years ago can be found on the lands creating the conditions for rare plant growth as well as a wide variety of exemplary natural communities. The silver maple floodplain forest is an example of one of those communities with its many large trees more than 100 years old.
While these are just a few of the many examples of why these lands should become a national monument, the single most important reason is for the future of our children. Open space is being devoured at a breathless pace; gates appear and lands become posted. Yet, there still are a few special places in America where it is still possible to create a magnificent national monument for our children to experience the beauty and wonder of the outdoors. These lands in the Maine North Woods are a world-class landscape that deserves to be protected.
Roosevelt said it best: “The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets that it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” A new generation of children will get an opportunity to enjoy what our state has to offer. Please support the creation of Maine woods national monument. Our children deserve it.
Eric Hendrickson of Presque Isle is a retired science educator and former registered Maine Guide.