By George Smith
Bangor Daily News column
Lots of Mainers are speaking up for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and you also have an opportunity to do that. Now that President Trump has put the Monument on his “Review” list, at the request of our bombastic governor, it’s important that we all step up and express our support for the Monument.
Some of you know that I was a strong opponent at one time, but became a supporter when Lucas St. Clair met all my requests, including opportunities to snowmobile and hunt in the area. I have since spent time there – mostly fishing the East Branch of the Penobscot – which is a world class river. And great fishing there too!
A press conference hosted by the Natural Resources of Maine yesterday in Bangor was impressive for several reasons, particularly because of the former opponents who are now stepping up to speak in favor of the Monument – including U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King.
But most impressive for me are the many folks in those communities who are now supporting the Monument because they are already seeing economic benefits. I hope you will pay particular attention to their statements in this NRCM press release from Pete Didisheim.
BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS LINE UP IN OPPOSITION TO EFFORTS TO OVERTURN KATAHDIN WOODS AND WATERS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Bangor, ME – Maine business, community, and political leaders gathered today in Bangor to voice their opposition to efforts to overturn the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The group released letters to Maine’s Congressional delegation, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Governor Paul LePage strongly defending the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument as an asset to the Katahdin region that already is providing positive benefits. The letters will be submitted to the federal government as part of a review process of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and other national monuments, which officially began yesterday.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Interior announced that Katahdin Woods and Waters was included on a list of 27 national monuments that would be reviewed by the Trump Administration, with the possibility that the Administration may seek to modify or rescind some of these monuments. Many people worry that this unfortunate announcement will cast a cloud of uncertainty over the Katahdin region, chasing away investment. Yesterday marked the beginning of a 60-day public comment period for the National Monument review.
Significantly, three of Maine’s four members of Congress (Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree); three Maine State Legislators who represent the Katahdin region (Senators Jim Dill and Michael Carpenter, and Representative Stephen Stanley); local elected officials from Millinocket, East Millinocket, Patten, Medway, and Sherman; and the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce all oppose rescinding the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Today’s news conference included residents of the Katahdin region who previously strongly opposed the National Monument, but now support it because businesses in the area already are experiencing an economic boost. Speakers at the news conference expressed frustration and dismay with the Department of Interior’s review, but felt confident that Maine people will provide overwhelming support for the Monument through the public comment period. A poll conducted in October 2016, two months after the establishment of the Monument, found that 72% of Maine residents now support the Monument, while only 22% oppose, and a majority of all subgroups, including 53% of Republicans and 66% of residents of the 2nd Congressional District (66%), support the Monument.
Statements in Opposition to Overturning Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Gail Fanjoy, President of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce:
“We are outraged that the Trump Administration is creating this cloud of uncertainty over our National Monument, potentially chasing away investments. Since the designation of the Monument, we have observed real economic benefits in our communities as people come to visit our area for the first time. Businesses are expanding, new investments are being made, real estate prices are starting to rise, and visitors are filling up restaurants and beds. There is new hope and energy in a region desperate for both. The governor and the Trump Administration should stop this misguided effort.” Fanjoy shared the letter the Katahdin Area Chamber sent to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.
Jon Ellis, co-owner of Ellis’s Market in Patten and East Millinocket:
“I voted for Gov. LePage and previously opposed the Monument, but now I support it and am greatly frustrated at these efforts to overturn it. To my knowledge, Gov. LePage has never even set foot in Patten and yet he insults our region by calling it a ‘mosquito area.’ The Monument has brought new energy to our towns and helped unify the region. I am optimistic that Monument supporters and supporters of the timber industry can work hand-in-hand for a better future. We are poised to invest more than a million dollars in our stores. The designation of the Monument was a contributing factor in our decision to make this investment. And now we face new uncertainty. Gov. LePage’s and the Trump Administration’s actions will hurt the economy of our region. They should stop this effort to roll back the Monument and let us move forward.”
State Representative Stephen Stanley (D-Medway):
“I was opposed to the National Monument before it was created, but at this point, I think we need to move forward, not backward. Already the Monument has had a positive impact on the economy of the area. People and businesses are investing in our region now. The state and federal administrations should abandon any efforts to undo or change it. It’s time to move forward and take advantage of all the positive momentum we now have.”
Jesse Dumais, Millinocket Town Councilor:
“I was not initially supportive of the National Monument but now I am convinced that it is good for our region. I see an increase in visitors to the region, and excitement among local businesses as they expand to serve the new visitors. This is all good for our region. Gov. LePage should abandon his efforts to overturn the Monument. It is time to move on and take advantage of the good things the Monument is already bringing to our communities.” Dumais released a letter signed by 19 Katahdin region elected officials opposed to overturning the National Monument.
Terry Hill, owner of Shin Pond Village in Mt. Chase:
“I used to be opposed to the National Monument, but after the proposal was changed to guarantee snowmobiling on the east side, I realized this could be good for us and the region. Now that the Monument is here, we have already seen an uptick in business. We are thinking of new ideas and expanding our business to service the new visitors. I am very disappointed that the governor would try to undo this new economic engine in our community without having even visited, despite my multiple invitations for him to come to our region and speak with us on the subject.” Hill provided a letter signed by 36 businesses in the Katahdin region noting an increase in business in the region as a result of the establishment of the new Monument.
Deb Neuman, President and CEO of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, also released aletter from the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce stating “the Board of Directors of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce opposes efforts to overturn the proclamation that established the national monument as that would undermine the expectations that have become settled in the region.”
Statements by Members of Maine’s Congressional Delegation
Senator Susan Collins:
“I believe that any effort to rescind the designation at this point would be a mistake.”
Senator Angus King:
“So far, the economic benefits have been real, they have been encouraging, and they have not negatively impacted Maine’s forest products industry. I think reversing that decision now would be a serious mistake for a region that is beginning to heal and move on and is just starting to experience the benefits.”
“I believe this review is unnecessary and only reignites controversy in a region that was beginning to heal and move forward.”
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree:
“It would be terrible for President Trump to undermine the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument by attempting to overturn President Obama’s designation – an authority (Trump) very likely does not have in the first place. It would strike a blow to a region of our state that is already seeing an economic boost from the new monument. In the few months since its designation, the area has seen more visitors, more activity at retailers, and even increased property values.”
The Trump Administration review comes despite five years of meetings, presentations, debates, and one-on-one conversations with residents of the Katahdin region and throughout Maine. Formal meetings included one in Orono hosted by Sen. Angus King and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis in May 2016 attended by 1400 people, including 1200 supporters of the Monument. It also included a meeting in East Millinocket in June 2016 hosted by Rep. Bruce Poliquin at which supporters outnumbered opponents 4:1.