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November 24, 2015

Collins, King and Poliquin express “serious reservations” about North Woods proposal

Courtesy / Elliotsville Plantation Inc. Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., flyfishes on his land in northern Maine in 2013.

Three members of Maine’s congressional delegation told President Obama in a letter sent Friday that they have “serious reservations and significant concerns” about the president designating more than 100,000 acres of Maine’s North Woods as a national monument.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin expressed their concerns about reports that the administration is considering a monument designation and outlined conditions Obama should consider if he went forward with a designation.

The family of Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby has offered to donate roughly 70,000 acres of land east of Baxter State Park to the federal government and create a $40 million endowment for a national park. However, the proposal has been opposed by some in the area. Residents in East Millinocket and Medway opposed the park in nonbinding referendums in July, and Millinocket town officials have said they believe the town backs their opposition to a park, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Collins, King and Poliquin wrote in the letter that even though bringing new economic development to that economically depressed region of the state is important, national monument designation would likely antagonize already divided local communities. Despite local resident opposition, area chambers of commerce and 60% of Mainers in recent polls support the park, they wrote.

“While we acknowledge the right of private landowners to donate their land, we have serious concerns about the executive branch using its power to unilaterally designate a national monument in our state,” they wrote. “Mainers have a long and proud history of private land ownership, independence and local control, and do not take lightly any forced action by the federal government to increase its footprint in our state.”

The Portland Press Herald reported that a national monument is less significant than the national park sought by the Quimby family, but it is sometimes a precursor to creating a national park.

In the letter, the delegation outlined nine conditions the administration should consider if it moved toward designating the land as a national monument, including allowing for all traditional recreation uses. The conditions also included allowing for proper forest management within the land; not impairing forest industry activities in the surrounding areas; and respecting private property rights by ensuring the federal government will never take any private land in the area by eminent domain.

Lucas St. Clair, Roxanne Quimby’s son and the president of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the foundation that owns the land, said in a statement that the foundation believes the nine conditions outlined in the letter could be achieved and make the proposal stronger.

He said he saw the letter as delegation members signaling that they’re open to discussion.

The fourth of member of Maine’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District, said in a statement Monday that she continues to support the national park proposal.

“A national monument or park in the North Woods would bring much-needed economic development to northern Maine as it faces major economic challenges,” Pingree said. “I continue to believe a monument or park would greatly benefit the state by bringing in thousands of visitors and creating hundreds of jobs for the region.”

Read more

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