As Aroostook County residents, we join the long list of Mainers asking Sen. Angus King to support the Maine Woods National Monument. We can’t think of a greater gift to future generations than 88,000 acres and an unprecedented $40 million endowment.

Future generations need this unique natural resource as habitat for moose, black bear and brook trout along the East Branch of the Penobscot River. The National Park Service would also honor the rich cultural heritage of Wabanaki peoples who occupied the land sustainably for thousands of years.

In the Rocky Mountain West, average people who don’t own large tracts of land rely on public lands. Large corporate and private landowners post their land and sell hunting and fishing leases. Corporations only support local communities when it serves their interests.

As Maine’s forest products industry declines, landowners may augment declining profits through the sale of hunting and fishing leases.

They may sell off land to wealthy people, but unlike Roxanne Quimby, few will donate the land to the public. Most will post their property, protecting their own private estates. This already happens in the West, where signs read “No public access. Violators will be shot!”

Maine’s North Woods are a precious resource to Maine people, but public access only exists because of the generosity of landowners.

Land ownership is changing rapidly, putting public access at risk. Public lands are the only way to ensure that our kids and grandchildren can paddle, hunt, fish, and explore the Maine woods as our grandparents did.

Northern Maine’s economy must diversify. The Katahdin region suffers because its economy has depended solely on wood products.

A monument is a major step toward economic diversification. We urge our senators not to allow a vocal minority to compromise the economic future of northern Maine.

JoAnne Putnam