A congressional committee will hold a “field hearing” in East Millinocket on June 1 to hear from local residents about a divisive proposal to create a national monument in the Katahdin region.

The meeting was requested by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-District 2, and is a direct response to the congressman’s contention that the Obama administration is ignoring local opposition to the 87,500-acre North Woods national monument sought by Roxanne Quimby and her family. The June 1 hearing by members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources will take place 2½ weeks after National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis held public meetings on the issue in both East Millinocket and Orono, drawing more than 1,200 people.

“Unlike the Obama Administration, the committee will not dismiss the legitimate concerns of Representative Bruce Poliquin and his constituents,” committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said in a statement announcing the meeting. “The proposed monument designation in Maine’s Katahdin region would be another abuse of the Antiquities Act, exercised unilaterally with complete disregard for local residents, businesses, and elected officials.”

The public meeting will be held at 2 p.m. at the East Millinocket town office.

Quimby, an entrepreneur and conservationist with significant land holdings in Maine, wants to donate 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park to the federal government to be set aside as a national monument. Quimby’s nonprofit, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., also has offered to set up a $40 million endowment to pay operating and management expenses.

Supporters view the monument as an opportunity to create tourism-related jobs in an area struggling with the closure of two paper mills that were the backbone of the local economy. Opponents, however, distrust the federal government and fear the creation of a national monument will harm the local forest products industry and lead to additional restrictions on outdoor activities such as hunting, snowmobiling and ATV riding.

It is unclear what role, if any, the House committee could play in the Obama administration’s decision on the North Woods proposal. Enacted by Congress in 1906, the Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to unilaterally create national monuments through executive action. National parks, on the other hand, must be approved by Congress. Several attempts in recent years to curtail the president’s ability to create national monuments have failed in Congress.

Jarvis received an earful from both national monument supporters and opponents during public meetings that lasted nearly six hours on Monday. The turnout was lopsided during the two meetings, however. Most of the Katahdin-area elected officials attending the East Millinocket meeting – as well as many in the crowd – urged Jarvis to oppose the national monument when he presents his recommendation to the president. And while Jarvis heard from both sides at the Orono event, the majority of the 1,000-plus people in attendance supported a North Woods national monument.

In his letter to Bishop requesting the field hearing, Poliquin wrote that the White House and National Park Service “seem determined to move forward with this proposal” and that he fears “the strong concerns from these local constituents that I represent from the Katahdin Region are being ignored outright by the Obama Administration in this process.”