99.96% of Public Comments Favor Keeping Katahdin Woods and Waters
NRCM news release
Bangor — The Natural Resources Council of Maine today announced that public comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) as part of a review of national monuments initiated by President Trump reveal “nearly unanimous” support for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Of the 192,052 comments submitted to the DOI as of 11:59 p.m. July 4 that specifically mention Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, 191,976 (99.96%) support the Monument. Only 67 (.03%) oppose the Monument. Nine comments (.01%) supported protection of the land through a designation other than a monument.
“The public comments amount to a nearly unanimous endorsement of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” said NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “The public overwhelmingly sees Katahdin Woods and Waters as a positive development for Maine and the nation. They see this as a settled matter and do not want the Monument taken away or rescinded in any fashion.”
Many people who once opposed protection of these lands have since become strong supporters as they see economic benefits arriving in the Katahdin region, and financial investments underway that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
“Our analysis shows that Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is providing new hope for communities in the Katahdin region, as people come to visit the area for the first time, spend money, and plan to return,” said Pohlmann.
On April 26, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the Secretary of Interior to conduct a review of national monuments established by U.S. Presidents since 1996 that were larger than 100,000 acres, or where the designation was made “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”
In response to the Executive Order, on May 5, DOI announced a public comment period for 27 national monuments, all of which are larger than 100,000 acres in size, except for Katahdin Woods and Waters, which is 87,500 acres. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was added to the list at the insistence of Governor Paul LePage and is the only mMonument being reviewed by DOI to determine whether there was adequate public outreach and coordination with stakeholders prior to its establishment on August 24, 2016. A 60-day public comment period began on May 11 and will close on July 10.
NRCM staffers spent 120 hours analyzing all 192,052 comments that had been submitted as of midnight July 4, 2017. This number does not include generic comments that support all of the monuments under review, or tens of thousands of names on petitions. The public record included 191,976 comments (99.96%) in support of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and only 67 (.03%) of comments in opposition. Nine comments (.01%) supported protection of the land as a state park, national forest, or national park instead of a monument.
Out of the 192,052 comments, fewer than 10 voiced concern about insufficient public outreach prior to establishment of Katahdin Woods and Waters. In contrast, hundreds of individuals mentioned public meetings that they attended, and comments filed by Maine’s Attorney General listed more than 150 different public meetings, presentations, and stakeholder meetings held over a multi-year period leading up to establishment of the Monument. (AG comments are in the docket, with this ID #: DOI 2017-0002-152259)
For its analysis, NRCM staffers opened up and reviewed each comment submitted online at www.regulations.gov between May 11 and July 4 that specifically mentions Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. As of midnight July 4, there were 26,758 such documents, each with a Document ID Number. However, many of these documents include attachments with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of individual comments. NRCM reviewed and counted every comment, including each one that was part of the more than 100 attachments, resulting in a total of 192,052 comments regarding Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
“There is no way to read these comments and reach any conclusion other than that public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders was exhaustive,” said Pohlmann.
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was established by President Obama on August 24, 2016. The President’s action was made possible through the donation of 87,500 acres of land by Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI). The entire property within the Monument was secured through willing-seller, willing-buyer transactions, and EPI exercised its legal private property rights in donating the land to DOI to be permanently conserved, with public access forever. EPI also has pledged to provide $40 million to support the Monument.
The land includes stunning views of Maine’s tallest mountain, Katahdin; the wild and beautiful East Branch of the Penobscot River; forests that inspired Henry David Thoreau and Teddy Roosevelt; and moose, bear, and other wildlife that are a major attraction for visitors.
- Remarks by Lisa Pohlmann at today’s news conference
- Read excerpt of public comments submitted to DOI during review period.
- Chart of public comments received mentioning Katahdin Woods and Waters
- Visual of public comments received mentioning Katahdin Woods and Waters