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February 13, 2019

Senate passes Acadia bill protecting intertidal 'economic asset'

Collins photo Courtesy / MEDILL DC, FLICKR; King photo Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, FLICKR U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, announced passage by the U.S. Senate of a public lands package that addresses a number of concerns related to Acadia National Park.

The U.S. Senate passed a public lands package on Tuesday that addresses concerns of communities near Acadia National Park about boundary issues, protects the use of intertidal zones by harvesters of clams and worms, and permanently reauthorizes the Acadia National Park Commission.

The bill includes language authored by U.S. Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“The flats of the intertidal zone at Acadia have long been an important economic asset for the surrounding communities,” King and Collins said in a joint news release. “Our bill will ensure that the federal government will not interfere with the ability of Maine clammers and wormers tom earn a living and support their families.

In addition, the legislation permanently reauthorizes the Acadia National Park Commission, which has effectively facilitated important dialogues between Acadia and the surrounding communities. This is a long-overdue legislative victory, and will help make sure the National Park Service continues to be a good neighbor to the communities surrounding Acadia.”

The legislation was reintroduced by King and Collins in January. It was included as part of a public lands package under consideration by the Senate in December 2018, but expired at the end of the Congress before it could be passed and signed into law.

The bill was supported by the National Park Service in a February 2018 hearing of the Subcommittee on National Parks, and passed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May 2018.

The bill underwent amendments during the committee’s legislative markup in order to clarify its original intent.

Solving long-standing problems

In 2015, Acadia was deeded more than 1,400 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula by an anonymous donor. This gift was welcomed by the local towns and communities. It was only after the land was transferred to Acadia that the National Park Service informed the public that the legal authority they used for the transfer came from a 1929 law that many in the Bar Harbor area believed had been repealed in 1986, after successful efforts to pass a law that set boundary limits on the park. The boundary law was crafted to address concerns about the size of the park and its impact on the tax base.

Further, harvesters of clams and worms in the intertidal zone near Acadia raised concerns that they would not be able to continue their traditional harvesting due to enforcement measures taken by the National Park Service. While the National Park Service has come to an agreement to allow these traditional harvests to continue, the legislation would ensure the harvest can continue uninhibited into the future.

King and Collins’ bill originated when local towns and residents voiced concern upon learning that Acadia relied on the 1929 law for the Schoodic transfer because it could potentially set precedent for the National Park Service to use it again. Residents contacted the Maine congressional delegation to express their concern and request a repeal of the 1929 law, while at the same time keeping the Schoodic land transfer.

In July 2016, King and Collins introduced a bill in the Senate to resolve the issue.

Later, the bill was amended to address other concerns regarding Acadia National Park, including lifting restrictions on a parcel in Tremont and allowing for traditional harvesting of clams and worms to continue.

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