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March 27, 2015

200 Maine businesses support new national park

file PHOTo / Courtesy of Elliotsville Plantation Inc. Lucas St. Clair, son of entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, flyfishes on his land in northern Maine in 2013. St. Clair, a Dover-Foxcroft native, is using home-grown values to land support for a new version of a national park in Maine.

An effort to open a new national park in the Katahdin region has received backing from a group of more than 200 Maine business owners.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine said Thursday that the group, mostly consisting of businesses from the greater Katahdin and Bangor regions, sent a letter to Maine’s congressional delegation in support of the proposed, 150,000-acre national park and recreation area, which would be created on what is now privately held land east of Baxter State Park. The group also released the “conceptual framework” for federal legislation the group would support in creating the park.

The proposed park could generate more than 450 jobs, according to one economist.

“We believe a new national park and national recreation area near Katahdin could be an exciting destination that introduces visitors to Maine’s inland forests, rivers, wildlife and mountains, and the communities and businesses nearby,” the group’s letter said.

The list of supporting businesses can be found here.

The proposal was first made in 2011 by entrepreneur and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, who owns the land in question through her holding company, Elliotsville Plantation Inc. The torch has since been passed to Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, who has written an updated proposal.

The Bangor Daily News reported that the Bangor City Council voted to endorse the concept this week, but the local governing body closest to the proposed area, the Millinocket Town Council, remains opposed — with some councilors citing the desire to keep the federal government out of any park proposals.

The Maine business group’s conceptual framework for the creation of a national park through federal legislation includes several elements:

• The national park and national recreational area would be 150,000 acres in size and could not be expanded unless approved through future legislation.

• Elliotsville Plantation would donate its land and create a $40 million endowment to pay for operations and maintenance. Half of that endowment would be directly donated by the company, with the remaining portion to be fundraised.

• The park side, which would be managed by the National Park Service, would include several recreational opportunities: camping, boating, bicycling, cross-country skiing, swimming and other activities.

• The recreation side would include recreational opportunities for hunting, snowmobiling along with most activities happening on the other side.

• Timber cutting and similar activity in the area would not be subject to new additional Clear Air Act requirements. In addition, the National Park Service wouldn’t have authority over such activity outside the boundary of the park and recreation area. Finally, there would be a requirement to use local timber for the national park’s infrastructure, to the extent that it’s possible.

• Maine-based companies would receive preferential treatment for contracts and permits regarding concessions, outfitting services and guide services.

• Maine citizens would have ongoing input in the project’s management plan through an advisory committee.

Robert Lilieholm, a University of Maine resource economist, was present at a Thursday press conference held by the Natural Resources Council of Maine to make the announcement. He helped conducted two economic studies in 2013 finding that a national park and recreation area in the Katahdin area could create 450 to 1,000 jobs.

“This is not a question of timber versus recreation. Both have been and will continue to be critical to the Katahdin Region’s future,” he was quoted as saying Thursday. "Rather, it is a question of whether a national park and national recreation area can provide an additional anchor for the area’s economy and help reverse the area’s distressed conditions. I strongly believe that it can.”  

Read more

Lucas St. Clair eyes a North Woods national park

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