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August 24, 2016

It's official: Obama designates north woods national monument

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

On the eve of the centennial celebration of the National Park Service, the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument became a reality on Wednesday when President Barack Obama signed it into law.

News of the designation of the national monument hit a fever pitch Tuesday, following the gift of approximately 87,500 acres of land east of Baxter State Park owned by philanthropist and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby to the federal government, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Congress alone has the ability to create national parks, but the American Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the president to create national monuments through an executive order.

Thursday marks the centennial of the National Park Service, and according to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Quimby had hoped that the north woods monument would be created before the anniversary.

“I think that as you age, and I’m in my 60s now, you start thinking about, ‘Well, what did I do while I was here? How are people going to remember me when I’m not here?’” Quimby told MPBN in a 2011 interview. “And I think this is my way of creating a legacy and convincing myself that it was important that I got to live on this earth for as long as I have been able to.”

“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,” U.S. Sen. Angus King said in a prepared statement. “This conclusion is confirmed by the comments made by Secretary of the Interior [Sally] Jewell shortly after the designation was announced, explicitly mentioning hiking, canoeing, ‎fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing."

Debate surrounding the north woods project has been contentious — with some local business leaders throwing their support behind the project, while others have expressed concerns about the impact the federal government may have upon surrounding communities. According to the BDN, 67% of area residents in a May 2015 poll supported a north woods national park and recreation area.

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