By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills threatened to sue the Trump administration if it decides to reverse the presidential order that created Maine’s national monument.
Mills on Monday issued a news release and a copy of the comments filed with the Department of Interior about the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, less than 36 hours before Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s Wednesday visit to Maine, as part of a federal review of whether it was created legally.
Any action President Donald Trump might take to undo the creation of the monument would be unlawful, Mills said.
“The president cannot rely on this process as a pretext to take the unprecedented and unlawful step of undoing the designation of a national monument under the Antiquities Act,” she said in the news release. “We are prepared to challenge any unlawful executive branch action that purports to abolish or reduce the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
“[The Department of the Interior] should instead terminate its review of the Katahdin Woods and Waters designation and reaffirm the agency’s commitment to making the monument work well for all people, particularly the residents of the Katahdin region who are now counting on it for their economic future,” Mills said.
In her five-page review of the monuments created since 1996, Mills said that the DOI’s review process is flawed and that Trump lacks the authority to abolish or reduce the size of a national monument. She said that there was adequate public outreach and stakeholder coordination before the monument was created, and said more people favor it now than when former President Barack Obama designated it.
Speaking to reporters in a telephone news conference on Monday, Zinke said he would make an in terim recommendation to Trump that Bears Ears National Monument be shrunk to better protect the historically valuable items — particularly Native American relics — within the Utah parcels. He also recommended that Congress establish co-management of the monument with local groups.
Zinke said last week he would gauge residents’ feelings about the Maine monument in the 9½ months since Obama signed the executive order creating it.
He plans to meet with members of the family of Burt’s Bees entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby — who donated the 87,562 acres east of Baxter State Park — among other local stakeholders.
Maine’s monument is one of 27 across the country designated by the Obama administration that Trump ordered Zinke to review.
Mills could join other attorneys general in suing the federal government if Trump overturns a number of monument designations.
— BDN reporter Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Mills threatened legal action against the executive branch in general, not specifically the Department of the Interior.