Senator Whittemore, Representative Martin, and members of the Committee on State and Local Government. My name is Pete Didisheim. I’m the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I’m here to testify in opposition to LD 1600.
This bill raises serious legal, constitutional, and private property rights issues that provide more than sufficient reason for the Committee to vote Ought Not to Pass on the bill.
The reverter clause in the bill is designed to force a landowner to take back their property if the federal government were to designate the land as a national monument. We believe this is a direct infringement on the rights of individuals to freely choose how to sell and transfer their property.
We are not aware of any precedent of the Maine Legislature inserting a reverter clause into Maine law like the one proposed in this bill. LD 1600 threatens to set a dangerous precedent suggesting that future lawmakers could insert reverter clauses in other sections of law to block property owners from types of land transactions that currently are available to all.
We believe the bill directly conflicts with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. By attempting to limit the federal government’s ability to designate land as a national monument, the state would be unconstitutionally interfering with roles and responsibilities granted to the President by the U.S. Congress.
The bill also is a concern because of the broad impact it would have on any national monument designation in Maine—depriving the state from substantial economic benefits.
The apparent purpose of LD 1600 is to slam the door shut on any national monument designation anywhere in Maine. We urge the committee to consider a few important facts about national monuments.
Fifteen of the 19 Presidents since 1906 have created more than 130 national monuments, protecting historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and places of historic and scientific interest. National monuments include well-known tourism destinations such as the Statute of Liberty (NY), Fort Sumter (NC), and Fort Monroe (VA), but also places like:
• African Burial Ground National Monument, in New York, which contains the remains of more than 400 free and enslaved Africans buried during the 17th and 18th century.
• Booker T. Washington National Monument, Virginia, preserving the 207-acre tobacco farm where Booker T. Washington was born.
• Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico, which protects five mountain ranges, including more than 870 plant species.
• Pullman National Monument, Illinois, the historic location of the Pullman Company, which manufactured the first sleeper train cars.
National monuments have been designated for land as small as one acre in size. President George W. Bush proclaimed the largest amount of monument acreage, largely in marine areas.
I share this background because a national monument can be a prestigious designation that brings national attention to areas with significant resource values. One can certainly contemplate multiple places in Maine that would be deserving of increased national recognition, including through possible monument designation. Not just the East Branch of the Penobscot lands, but also places like the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Portland, Native American archeological site in Norridgewock, Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland, or Fort Western here in Augusta.
Maine is rich with history – both natural history and cultural history. These places are part of the many experiences that people can enjoy when they visit Maine. We do not believe it is in Maine’s economic interest, or in the public’s interest, to enact a law like LD 1600 aimed at preventing Maine from ever having a national monument.
National monuments, national historic sites, and national parks are broadly popular with the public. During 2014, more than 24 million people visited national monuments, and during 2015, a record-setting 305 million people visited America’s National Parks. Over the past 20 years, communities near national monuments and national parks have shown strong population growth, employment growth, and net personal income growth – generally exceeding the pace of communities without national monuments.¹
Here in Maine, public opinion polls have consistently documented overwhelming support for creation of a national park and national recreation area in the Katahdin Region. In May 2015, for example, a respected Republican Polling Firm, Moore Information, found that voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District strongly support (67%-25%) creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area in the Katahdin Region. This high level of support extends across all demographic groups, regardless of age, gender, party affiliation, political philosophy or income level.
LD 1600 raises legal, constitutional, and private property rights that should be sufficient grounds for voting Ought Not to Pass, as the Judiciary Committee did in voting 10-2 ONTP with a similar bill in 2014. We also believe the bill should be defeated because it attempts to block the State of Maine from securing national recognition for some our outstanding historic, cultural, and natural resources, and the economic benefits that accompany such designations.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify on the bill and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Note: Headwaters Economics report updated in 2018: https://headwaterseconomics.org/public-lands/protected-lands/national-monuments/