By George Smith
Bangor Daily News blog
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke should get a warm welcome to Maine when he arrives on Wednesday to visit our new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. At the President’s direction, Zinke is reviewing 26 national monuments dedicated since 1996.
I loved Zinke’s comment in response to a question from Rep. Chellie Pingree: : “I can’t wait to see it. My understanding is that I am going to go canoeing, which Maine is famous for.” What he should be doing, of course, is fishing the East Branch of the Penobscot River for our native brook trout, something we really are famous for.
A year ago, I testified in favor of the designation of a national monument on land owned by Elliotsville Plantation, at a public hearing hosted by U.S. Senator Angus King and the Director of the National Park Service. Here is what I said that night.
I’m the guy who distributed the Ban Roxanne bumper sticker. And for several years, when I was executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I was a principle opponent of Roxanne’s. But she reached out to several of us and started a series of meetings in which – surprise! – I found that I liked her. And when her son Lucas St.Clair took over, I was even more impressed.
Lucas brought his national consultants – all of whom hunt and fish, as he does – to my home in Mount Vernon, got out the maps, and let me tell them what I wanted on each of the parcels that they own in the North Woods. And they’ve done everything I asked. So I am now compelled to be a supporter of their ideas and initiatives.
I focus much of my interest on the East Branch of the Penobscot River. I’ve fished on rivers in Alaska, Montana, Labrador, and Quebec, and I’m telling you the East Branch is a world class river that could be a major destination for anglers and paddlers.
Linda and I own a camp on the other side of Mount Katahdin, and over the last two decades, I’ve seen the awful collapse of the area’s economy, and I know they need help – lots of help.
Linda and I spent 3 weeks in April in Arizona and Texas – including Big Bend National Park – on a birding adventure, and we met lots of people who had visited Maine. At least 75 percent of them had come to see Acadia National Park. Yes, national parks, monuments, forests, and wildlife reserves are places of great interest to all of us.
We have some awesome national wildlife refuges right here in Maine, and my favorite state park, Cobscook, is actually on federal land. It is possible to work together, to protect our best places and build a sustainable economy.
I am sad that this project, and so many other issues, have divided us Mainers. We need to regroup, end the dysfunction and disappointment in our political and governing systems, and create a great future for our children and grandchildren.
If and when the President designates this place as a national monument, then we need to put our aggravations and differences aside, and make the best of it.
Yes, we are now making the best of it. Have a great time Secretary Zinke. And please do spend some money here!