Wednesday morning, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will visit Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, in the wake of an Executive Order signed by President Trump that calls for an examination of all national monuments established since 1996 that are larger than 100,000 acres, and also any national monuments where the Secretary of Interior “determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.” Maine’s new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is 87,500 acres and is the only national monument being reviewed based on this criterion.
“We welcome U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s visit to Maine to see for himself why the overwhelming majority of Maine people enthusiastically support the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This National Monument was the product of a large-scale, statewide, multi-year dialogue with key stakeholders who shaped the ultimate outcome. Any objective assessment will conclude that the relevant stakeholders were involved every step of the way, including residents of the Katahdin region and the people of Maine who now are seeing benefits from the Monument.”
Sec. Zinke will tour Maine’s new Monument with Lucas St. Clair who leads Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI), the philanthropic organization that donated 87,500 acres of land to the Department of Interior in August 2016 for establishment of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (KWW). EPI also pledged a $40 million endowment to support the Monument.
“It is fitting that Zinke is coming to Maine to see for himself why this generous gift to the nation is favored by more than 72% of Maine residents, and to learn how the five years of extensive public outreach has shaped the Monument,” says Pohlmann. “As I think about the hundreds of meetings and presentations that took place leading up to establishment of the National Monument last summer, it’s hard to think of any major group or stakeholder that wasn’t given an opportunity to join the conversation and provide input.”
“It appears to us that the only reason Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is on the Trump Administration’s review list is that Governor LePage lobbied hard to put it there. Yet he is completely out-of-step with the vast majority of Maine residents and the people and businesses in the Katahdin region, who oppose his efforts to mess up the investments being made in the area as a result of the new Monument. Following the closure of two paper mills in recent years, Katahdin Woods and Waters is one of the few positive developments that have happened to the Katahdin region in a long time.”
LePage has not visited the Monument or met with the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, which strongly supports KWW and represents about 150 businesses in the Katahdin region. As a result of the Monument, businesses in the Katahdin region already are starting to reap the economic benefits in terms of increased tourism, increased real estate sales, and increased occupancy at some lodging businesses.
“I am disappointed that government officials are considering undermining Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument just as it has begun delivering important economic benefits to our region at a time when we urgently need positive developments,” says Gail Fanjoy, third generation, lifelong Millinocket resident and President of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce. “That is why there is now so much support for the proposal in the region. The National Monument protects natural resources that can now be used in new ways to create jobs, attract people to the region, and help us move forward.”
“The National Monument has created a magnet to draw the type of high-wage, non-exportable jobs that are desperately needed in the Katahdin region, while also conserving this place of exceptional natural beauty and historic value for the benefit of future generations,” says Matt Polstein, founder and owner of the New England Outdoor Center on Millinocket Lake. “Visits to my business have increased significantly since the designation of the Monument.”
“From a front-row seat in Patten, one of the gateway communities to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, at last, I am seeing new investments and new life in our communities,” says Richard Schmidt, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Patten, Maine, lifelong Katahdin region resident, and veteran. “The Monument enjoys widespread support in our region and throughout the state for good reason, and was shaped by the many public input and information meetings on the proposal, which continue to this day. One result, for example, guarantees snowmobiling and hunting within the Monument lands.”
In terms of public outreach, there were five years of extensive public discussions before the designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, including well-attended public input sessions. Most significantly, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and Senator 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 has been heartening to witness five years of conversations, meetings, and presentations leading to the creation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” says Cathy Johnson, Forests and Wildlife Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “I watched the crowds throng to a National Monument public meeting in Orono in May 2016, held by Director of the National Park Service Jarvis and Senator King and attended by 1,400 people, of whom at least 1,200 were Monument supporters. Because of these community conversations and meetings, the Monument features permanent guarantees of access for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling for future generations.”
In addition, in June 2016, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah held a field hearing in East Millinocket at which only Monument opponents were allowed to speak, and there were four of them. But, at the public forum hosted by Rep. Bruce Poliquin immediately afterward, dozens of local Monument supporters spoke, outnumbering opponents 4:1.
“Maine people overwhelmingly support Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” says Cathy Johnson, of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Five years of meetings, discussions, and conversations, along with the changes that guarantee hunting and snowmobiling on the east side, have resulted in a growing number of supporters, including those who were skeptical at first. 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.”
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was established on August 24, 2016, on forest land in northern Maine that was donated to the nation for this purpose. The Monument has quickly become the best stimulus for economic development the Katahdin region has seen in years. It was named one of the best places in the world to visit in 2017 by CNN and has already welcomed thousands of visitors to view its spectacular forests, mountains, rivers, and wildlife. Businesses in nearby communities have seen an uptick in economic activity, real estate sales have increased after years of stagnation, and new investments are taking place, and there is a sense of hope and optimism in a region that has struggled for years as the paper mills declined and closed.
While some did not initially support the Monument, on April 24, the Bangor Daily News reported: “Since the designation, however, Katahdin region leaders have said they accept the monument and have vowed to work with park service leaders on it — perhaps an implicit nod to Katahdin Woods’ officials saying that the monument has lured new visitors to the economically battered region. Monument officials said in November that 1,762 vehicles were counted on the main road into the lands last year, including 1,215 after Obama issued the executive order in August.”
A poll conducted in October 2016, two months after the establishment of the Monument, found that 72% of Maine residents support the Monument, only 22% oppose, and a majority of all subgroups, including Republicans (53%), residents of Maine’s northern 2nd Congressional District (66%), and Independents (74%) support the Monument.
As the National Park Service website on Katahdin Woods and Waters says: “A Gift to the Nation. Spread across a wild landscape offering spectacular views of Mount Katahdin, Katahdin Woods and Waters invites discovery of its rivers, streams, woods, flora, fauna, geology, and the night skies that have attracted humans for millennia.”
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.”
“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, 2106 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.