Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument has landed on a list of 22 national monuments to be reviewed by the Trump administration, casting uncertainty over an economically depressed region that had begun to see investment after a contentious battle over the monument’s designation.

It’s a victory for Gov. Paul LePage, who lobbied aggressively to have Katahdin Woods and Waters reviewed and have the designation reversed. On Friday, LePage, who has cultivated ties to President Trump, tweeted a link to the Interior Department announcement, saying: “Yes, it’s on The List.”

But critics of the review, including a former opponent of the designation, say the federal action is a setback for the region because it could spook investors.

“We had a little bit of hope. And now all of a sudden, here we go again, the spike is in the coffin again,” said state Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway, who now supports the monument after seeing a surge of economic investment in the region

Trump signed an executive order in April calling for a review of all monuments over 100,000 acres designated since 1996. Katahdin, at 87,500 acres, was added to the list to determine if there was adequate public input before the designation, according to a list released by the U.S. Department of the Interior on Friday. The other 21 monuments are larger than 100,000 acres.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the process “finally gives a voice to local communities and states” regarding monument designations, which do not require a public comment period under the law.


Comments can be submitted online after May 12, and written comments will be accepted for 60 days after the notice of the review is published in the Federal Register.

This is the first time the government has held a public comment period for monument designations.

“Part of being a good steward is being a good neighbor and listening to the American people who we represent,” Zinke said. “There is no predetermined outcome on any monument. I look forward to hearing from and engaging with local communities and stakeholders as this process continues.”

But supporters of the Katahdin monument said there was extensive public review of the proposal.

“Just because a few people did not like the outcome of the exhaustive public hearings and information gathering sessions held by Republican, Democratic, and non-partisan leaders does not mean a thorough review did not happen,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District.

President Obama created Katahdin Woods and Waters last August after Roxanne Quimby’s nonprofit, Elliotsville Plantation, donated the land and pledged a $40 million endowment for the project. Months earlier, more than 1,500 people turned out for public hearings in East Millinocket and Orono to share their views on the monument – a majority of those attending supported it – with then-National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.


Lucas St. Clair, Quimby’s son, said they had more than four years of public outreach and community input.

“Our hope is that the review process will be fair and transparent and allow for all stakeholders to participate,” he said Friday. “I’m confident that a fair review will demonstrate how important public input was to helping improve the monument idea.”

LePage was an early and ardent Trump supporter, and the decision to review Katahdin Woods and Waters could be a sign of his influence and relationship with Trump.

LePage has made frequent trips to Washington, D.C., this year, fueling speculation that he could be in the running for an appointment to Trump’s administration.

Feelings about the monument have run high in the region for years. In 2015, two local communities, East Millinocket and Medway, voted against the proposal in local ballot questions, amid concerns about the effects on the forest products industry and access to snowmobiling trails.

Stanley, who initially opposed the national monument designation said the review will cause more upheaval.


“I think this whole thing isn’t good for my region. It’s been passed by one president and now another president is trying to undo it,” he said.

“At this point in time, with the money being invested and what’s going on in the area, I’d just as soon see it. There’s nothing else going on here,” he said. “The way I look at it, times change. … This is an opportunity we need to take advantage of.”

Cathy Johnson of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said she was sure a federal review would find the project got the proper public input, but the news was a setback.

“It is tragic for the Katahdin region that this review is taking place,” Johnson said in a statement. “The news of the executive order has already caused businesses that were poised for investment to pull back. Now that Katahdin Woods and Waters is definitely on the list, a cloud of uncertainty will hang over the region until the review is completed.”

Trump vowed repeatedly during his campaign to repeal the Obama policies he viewed as executive overreach, and the monument review is tied to a partisan debate over presidential authority to create national monuments.

Republicans in Congress – most notably the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah – want to rein in presidents’ ability to unilaterally create national monuments. The review could lead to the first-ever attempt by one president to rescind another’s monument designation.


The executive order does not rescind any monument designations – and parks advocates say Trump cannot legally abolish a predecessor’s monument. Only Congress can do that, according to the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Any attempt to reverse the designation is likely to end up in the courts, a scenario that could drag on for years and keep residents in the region in limbo.

“I believe this review is unnecessary and only reignites controversy in a region that was beginning to heal and move forward,” Maine Sen. Angus King said in a statement. “The designation was made following substantial public input that spanned the course of several years – all of which helped to create a monument that was specifically tailored to honor Maine traditions, which is why recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling were all permitted.”

Marine national monuments also were listed for review, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the coast of New England.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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