By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
TOWNSHIP 2 RANGE 9, Maine – Roxanne Quimby’s vision and tenacity were praised during a dedication ceremony and public celebration of the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell praised the Burt’s Bees millionairess for the more than 20 years she spent carefully collecting the 87,563 acres east of Baxter State Park that President Barack Obama designated a monument on Wednesday. The land was transferred to the federal government on Tuesday.
The land is eminently worthy of addition to the National Park Service’s holdings, Jewell told Quimby and about 150 other participants under darkening skies at New England Outdoors Center.
“This land is an incredible gift for conservation and because of this gift, it will be enjoyed by everyone, by Americans and by foreign visitors, for years and years to come,” Jewell said Sunday.
Perhaps in an attempt to stifle criticism of Quimby’s efforts, Jewell reminded the audience that the land was sold to Quimby “all by logging companies because they are businesses.”
Those businesses sold the land because their owners realized “it was not economic for them to continue,” Jewell said.
Quimby first started buying land in 2001, when East Millinocket, Lincoln and Millinocket had working paper mills. The last of those, Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC, closed in 2015. The closings represent the direct loss of close to 900 workers employed at the three plants, plus at least four times as many workers indirectly.
Quimby smiled often but did not make a speech and declined to be interviewed by the media. She and her son, Lucas St. Clair, who controlled the national park and monument campaign for the last four years, received at least four standing ovations, and a great many more hugs, during a 2½ hour event dotted with warmth and humor.
Matthew Polstein, who owns the outdoor center and has been one of St. Clair’s local advisers, said the monument would best be celebrated by contributing to the monument’s $20 million endowment and Katahdin region towns and businesses.
Polstein said he hoped that the monument would attain “must-visit” status among park service venues in the eastern United States while complementing Acadia National Park and Baxter.
“Of course we can do this while working with our woods products industry partners to make sure that our aims are aligned and our efforts are complementary,” Polstein said.
His company, he said, will establish a visitor’s philanthropy fund to donate equally to Baxter and Katahdin Woods. Donors should especially help the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum, due to a donor’s threat, issued Friday, to withhold donations due to the museum’s hosting of park service personnel and volunteers working for Katahdin Woods and Waters, Polstein said.
Speaking after the speeches, St. Clair said he would continue aiding efforts to help the monument develop and have a congressman or senator submit a bill that would turn the monument into a national park.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who attended the event, said she would support but not submit a bill herself. Such an effort, she said, more properly would occur with U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins or U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, as they represent northern Maine.