Three members of Maine’s congressional delegation are expressing “serious reservations and significant concerns” to President Obama about whether he could designate a swath of Maine’s North Woods as a national monument.

In a letter sent Friday to Obama, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District, outlined their concerns about reports that the administration is considering a monument designation for more than 100,000 acres of forestland in the Katahdin region. A national monument is significantly less than the national park sought by the Quimby family, which owns the land, but is sometimes a precursor to eventual creation of a national park on land.

“While we acknowledge the right of private land owners to donate their land, we have serious concerns about the executive branch using its power to unilaterally designate a national monument in our state,” the three 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.”

But representatives for the landowner said they were actually encouraged by the letter because it also outlined potential conditions the Obama administration should include in any monument designation.

“We see this as a next step toward real negotiations that hopefully could involve both the delegation and, if they’re interested, the (Obama) administration,” said David Farmer, a spokesman for Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the foundation that owns the land and wants to donate it for a national park..

While national parks and recreation areas must be approved by Congress, federal law allows presidents to create national monuments through executive orders in order to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” There are more than 100 national monuments nationwide, and Obama has used his authority to create or expand roughly 20 monuments.


Elliotsville Plantation Inc. has offered to donate roughly 70,000 acres of land near Baxter State Park to the federal government and create a $40 million endowment in order to create a North Woods national park. The nonprofit was founded by conservationist and landowner Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of the Burt’s Bees product line. But the park proposal has encountered staunch opposition from some community leaders in the Millinocket area even as others predict a park could help revive the region’s struggling economy.

King, Collins and Poliquin acknowledge that division in their letter. While local chambers of commerce and 60 percent of Mainers in recent polls support the park proposal, more than 70 percent of voters in two local towns recently opposed the park, as do 225 Maine businesses, the trio wrote.

“We cannot underscore enough the importance of bringing new economic development to this severely economically depressed region of Maine,” wrote the three. “A national monument designation, however, would likely antagonize already divided local communities.”

But the delegation members also outlined nine “conditions” that the Obama administration should consider if it went forward with a designation. Those conditions include ensuring that traditional recreational activities – including hunting, fishing, camping and use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles – as well as forest management continue on the land. They also stated that any monument designation “must respect private property rights and ensure the federal government will never take any private land in the area by eminent domain.”

Lucas St. Clair, the president of Elliotsville Plantation and Roxanne Quimby’s son, said the conditions “are consistent with the feedback that we’ve received through hundreds of meetings in the Katahdin region, and we believe that they can be achieved.”

“With this list, the delegation is saying that they are open to discussing, in detail, the conditions that could earn their support and make the proposal stronger,” St. Clair said in a statement. “And they have sent a signal to the president about the elements that they would want to see if he decided to use his authority to create a national monument. This begins us along the path of real negotiations.”

The fourth of member of Maine’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District, supports the national park proposal and said she was encouraged “the conversation has gone to the next level by outlining a possible roadmap to a monument designation.”

“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 in a statement. “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. And several polls also now show that most people across the state support the project.”

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