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June 16, 2017

Interior secretary completes fact-finding tour of Katahdin national monument

Photo / James McCarthy
Photo / James McCarthy
A view of the East Branch of the Penobscot River near the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrapped up a fact-finding tour of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on Thursday expressing appreciation for its natural beauty and hinting at an openness to consider upgrading the 87,500-acre monument into a national park.

The Portland Press Herald reported that during his visit to the Katahdin region — which is driven by President Trump's April 26 executive order calling for a review of 27 national monuments created since 1996 — Zinke met with Katahdin area political and business leaders, as well as representatives of the Penobscot Nation, the logging and forest products industry and others, including those still opposed to the monument designation.

"Overall, I would say it was a very positive experience, really good people, beautiful country with excellent potential to be something special," Zinke said during a Thursday morning meeting covered by the Press Herald.

Both the Press Herald and Bangor Daily News reported that Zinke qualified his remarks about Katahdin Woods and Waters being upgraded to a national park by stating that any such move would explicitly depend on advocacy by Maine's congressional delegation. The BDN reported that Zinke didn't mention that possibility when he met later Thursday with the Maine Forest Products Council in Augusta.

PPH reported that Zinke outlined something of an "all of the above" vision for the national monument in his Augusta meeting, which included monument critics.

"He wants access, he wants traditional recreation, he wants things to fit into the local community and he wants it to be a working forest," Doug Denico, director of the Maine Forest Service, told PPH. "He expects there to be some timber moving at some point. But he is also very respectful of the law."

Zinke faces a late-August deadline for filing a final report to President Trump with his recommendations regarding the 27 monuments singled out for review in the president's April 26 executive order.

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