Obama creates new national monument in Maine

Obama creates new national monument in Maine
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President Obama Wednesday created a new national monument in Maine, protecting about 87,500 acres in the state’s North Woods.

The area of the monument, dubbed Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, was donated Tuesday to the federal government by businesswoman Roxanne Quimby, the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, a brand of personal care products.

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It protects the area indefinitely from various kinds of development, such as logging.

It is the 25th monument designated by Obama, who has used his power under the Antiquities Act to protect more land and water as national monuments than any other president. The National Park Service will manage the land similarly to a national park.

“In addition to protecting spectacular geology, significant biodiversity and recreational opportunities, the new monument will help support climate resiliency in the region,” the White House said Wednesday, the day before the Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

“The protected area — together with the neighboring Baxter State Park to the west — will ensure that this large landscape remains intact, bolstering the forest’s resilience against the impacts of climate change,” the White House said.

The Obama administration started considering the monument designation years ago, pushed by Quimby and her son Lucas St. Clair, according to the Bangor Daily News.

It has been extremely controversial among congressional Republicans, who say Obama is ignoring strong local opposition.

 
“The president is using the Centennial as a cover to subvert the will of Maine’s citizens and leaders. The only votes taken on this proposal, at the local and state level, have demonstrated opposition from Mainers,” Bishop said in a statement.
 
“If the president cared about local voices and improving our National Park System, he would have done this through the public process and not behind closed doors. Instead, he’s hijacked a moment of celebration to advance powerful elite special interests over Maine’s economy and citizens.”

Republicans have tried numerous measures to significantly scale back the president's authority to create national monuments, along with legislation to specifically stop the Maine monument and other proposed protections.

Opponents argue that the move will bring unwanted federal control to the rural area that used to house numerous paper mills. Their objections include the expectation that the federal government will close off access to recreation and snowmobiling and that the Park Service cannot afford to maintain it, according to the New York Daily News.

But supporters see it as a way to bring important economic activity through tourism and recreation to an area that has been hit hard by economic decline.

Environmentalists cheered Obama’s designation.

“The president’s action today will conserve some of Maine’s most cherished forest lands and waters,” Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine director for the Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

“Preserving this wild area will help Mainers throughout the state continue to enjoy the freedom to hike, hunt and fish along with other outdoor traditions that have been part of our natural heritage for many generations.”

 
But King said Wednesday that his concerns had been allayed by the way Obama created the protections, and he said he now supports the action.
 
“I believe that the president’s proclamation, along with the binding commitments in the deeds conveying the land, address the essential elements of those conditions, and that, as a result, the benefits of the designation will far outweigh any detriment and — on balance — will be a significant benefit to Maine and the region.

Poliquin reiterated his objections on Wednesday, but said he would work with federal officials to make the new monument work for local residents, especially those in the logging industry.

“All public officials must do everything humanly possible to help ensure local input as to how this new federal land will be managed,” he said in a statement.

“Our local job creators — not Washington bureaucrats — know best how to use our working forests and provide proper access for industries to create more jobs including those in the outdoor recreation businesses, like snowmobiling, hunting, rafting, camping and so on.  
 
Updated 1:31 p.m.