by Michael Shepherd
Bangor Daily News news story printed on sunjournal.com
Gov. Paul LePage is planning another trip to Washington, D.C. This time, it’s about the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
The Republican governor told WGAN on Thursday he’s going in April or May to testify before a congressional committee that former President Barack Obama “overstepped” the U.S. Antiquities Act when he designated the monument in August 2016.
Last month, LePage called on President Donald Trump to reconsider the designation of the nearly 88,000-acre park near Millinocket “before economic damage occurs and traditional recreational pursuits are diminished,” but it’s unclear whether or not Trump can because the statute only provides authority for presidents to create monuments and not withdraw them.
The monument was pushed by the family of millionaire entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby. Her son, Lucas St. Clair, said after LePage’s February letter to Trump that the federal government would lose a $40 million endowment on the land, calling it “a terrible, terrible idea.” Other proponents said it would stall a chance at economic growth.
The governor agreed with one of the radio hosts on Thursday that he thinks Trump may not have the authority to withdraw it, but he made a tenuous legal argument that he said would be the anchor of his testimony — the Antiquities Act “requires” that a president “work with the state” to establish a monument.
But the act doesn’t say that. The word “state” doesn’t appear in it except in the context of “the United States” and it allows the president to designate monuments “at his discretion” on land controlled by the federal government. Republicans have long pushed to add congressional or state approval to the act, but those changes haven’t made it into law.
LePage’s argument seems more political than legal: He noted that the Maine Legislature made a symbolic vote against it and communities around the monument voted against it in non-binding elections, blamed Obama and U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, for pushing it through anyway.
Of course, it wasn’t King’s decision to make. He co-signed a letter to Obama with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican members of Maine’s delegation, to express “serious reservations” about a designation. But he supported it after Obama’s decision, saying it “will be a significant benefit to Maine and the region.”
And LePage has long toyed with the idea of running against King in 2018, saying on Thursday that he still needs his wife’s permission. Keep all of that in mind when he heads to D.C. later this spring.