Two days after President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the U.S. Department of the Interior to review 26 land and marine national monuments stretching back over 20 years, it’s still not clear whether the directive will include President Barack Obama’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument last August.
When the list was announced Wednesday following a White House signing ceremony attended by Gov. Paul LePage, Katahdin Woods and Waters wasn’t among those named. The president’s executive order explicitly stated the national monuments to be reviewed were all greater than 100,000 acres; Maine’s national monument is 87,500 acres.
So that would seem to settle the question right there … except that a spokesman for the Department of the Interior told the Portland Press Herald “no decisions have been made one way or the other” on the Katahdin area national monument that was given to the federal government by philanthropist and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby.
But Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, who spearheaded the family’s multi-year effort to turn over their land east of Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, told the newspaper that he was reassured by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hours after Trump’s executive order was announced that the Maine national monument wasn’t on the list.
The newspaper reported that an Interior Department spokeswoman, nevertheless, asserted that the review process going forward “will include input from the governor and other local stakeholders.”
LePage to WGAN: ‘It’s wide open’
In his weekly interview Thursday on WGAN Radio, LePage said Katahdin Woods and Waters was very much on the table for review by the Interior Department.
“It does include Maine,” he said. “[The president’s executive order] goes above 100,000 acres, but also includes those that did not receive good public scrutiny, good public debate.”
LePage then reiterated his previous comments that before Obama’s creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument last August, Maine’s Legislature had passed a resolution opposing it and there had been local votes by Katahdin area communities rejecting the idea. He noted that he also had voiced opposition.
“The president ignored it all,” LePage told WGAN, referring to Obama. “And that’s going to be reviewed.”
Questioned about the difficulties the Trump administration might face if it decides to overturn any national monument designation, including Maine’s, LePage disagreed.
“Congress passed the Antiquities Act, they can change it,” he said. “It’s wide open.”
NRCM plans live broadcast of Tuesday hearing in D.C.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine issued an advisory today, highlighting an “invitation only” hearing on national monuments by the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Natural Resources in which St. Clair and LePage are scheduled to testify.
NRCM in its release asserted: “[T]here was an extensive public input process before the designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and public input sessions continue to this day. There were five years of meetings, debates, presentations and conversations throughout the region and the state. As a result of this public input, the monument includes permanent guarantees of access for hunting and snowmobiling. Most significantly, [former] National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis and U.S. Sen. Angus King held a public meeting in Orono in May 2016 attended by 1,400 people, of whom at least 1,200 were Monument supporters.”
It also cited a poll conducted in October 2016, two months after the establishment of the monument, that found that 72% of Maine residents support the monument, only 22% oppose it, and a majority of all subgroups, including Republicans (53%), residents of Maine’s northern 2nd Congressional District (66%), and Independents (74%) support the monument.
NRCM stated that in addition to St. Clair and LePage, a number of Katahdin area residents plan to be in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to support of Maine’s monument, including: Gail Fanjoy, president of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce; Matt Polstein, founder and owner of New England Outdoor Center; and Richard Schmidt, chairman of the board of selectmen in Patten. Representatives of Maine’s environmental community planning to voice support include Cathy Johnson, forests and wildlife director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine state director for The Wilderness Society.
Tuesday’s hearing will be broadcast live via this NRCM link.