Massive Federal Parkland Move in Maine Angers Locals

     (CN) — Designation of the largest federal parkland in Maine this week — just in time for the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary — is sparking objections from locals and state officials.
     “That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement, reacting to a presidential proclamation Wednesday that established the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
     President Barack Obama made the announcement after philanthropist Roxanne Quimby donated 87,500 acres of wooded area in remote north central Maine through her foundation.
     Famous for having co-founded Burt’s Bees beauty products, Quimby has spent years unsuccessfully lobbying Maine’s congressional delegation to sponsor legislation that would have named the woods a national park.
     Her gift drew criticism from the declining timber and paper industries, which once dominated Maine’s economy, as well as some residents who oppose the restrictions of land use by the federal government.
     It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and Sen. Angus King,” Gov. LePage said. “It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.”
     Only an act of Congress can create a national park, but President Obama used his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act to unilaterally establish the wild area as a national monument.
     Obama has used this power more than other president in history to create more than two dozen protected sites, and he is expected to create more before he leaves the White House.
     “The new national monument — which will be managed by the National Park Service — will protect approximately 87,500 acres, including the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski,” the White House proclamation says. “In addition to protecting spectacular geology, significant biodiversity and recreational opportunities, the new monument will help support climate resiliency in the region. 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.”
     Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument opened to visitors Wednesday as the U.S. National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial.
     The diverse landscape, home to rare birds, bobcats and federally endangered Atlantic salmon, is not the first in the Park Service’s history to spark debate over federal designation.
     If history is any indication, designating Katahdin as a monument could be the first step in toward national park status.
     Nearby Acadia National Park, less than half the size of Katahdin, received that status three years after it was named Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916. The Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks were also first federally protected as monuments.
     According to the White House, Quimby’s gift includes a substantial endowment to support future administrative costs. The $60 million worth of land, plus the $20 million endowment and pledge to raise another $20 million, raises her gift total to $100 million.
     In an interview with CNN, Quimby’s son Lucas St. Clair celebrated the president’s decision as a boon for Maine. “I look forward to people coming and exploring landscape on their own, and I look forward to these communities that have been really struggling starting to realize some of the economic benefits that national parks can bring,” St. Clair said.

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