Commentary

Local Voices Must Be Heard On the National Monument Debate

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This week, Maine’s State Legislature passed LD 1600, a bill that would require State approval before any sitting President can designate a national monument in Maine.  This bill, which is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Stephen Stanley of Medway, has gained tremendous attention recently due to increased speculation of President Obama choosing to unilaterally make a national monument designation in our State.

With this last vote, our local lawmakers in Augusta have demonstrated to the President their belief that local residents and stakeholders should have a voice in the debate surrounding this unilateral designation of a federally controlled monument in Maine’s Katahdin region.

This bipartisan bill’s passage through the Democratic-controlled Maine House and the Maine Senate, despite strong pressure against members from special interests and outside lobbying groups, is a clear signal that Mainers across our State and among different political parties are opposed to the idea of a unilateral designation in our State.

This vote echoes the strong opposition from local residents and stakeholders in the Katahdin region—evidenced by two non-binding referendums in Medway and East Millinocket that were overwhelmingly, more than 70%, against the proposal.

It is worth noting that President Obama has unilaterally designated more national monument land than any other president, despite oftentimes strong local opposition.  The President has also chosen to make designations even though there is a growing maintenance backlog of nearly $12 billion at the already existing national park units.

Last month, I met with the White House to share the concerns of the local residents and businesses in the Katahdin Region.  In the meeting, I discussed the strong local opposition to a national monument designation, the threat a national monument would have on current and future forest products jobs, the costs of construction and maintenance of a national monument that would take away necessary funding for Acadia National Park, the safety of the current road system for future visitors and the threat that a national monument poses to recreational access for private citizens.

I also sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that language be included in the 2017 Fiscal Year Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that would prohibit President Obama from making this unilateral designation in Maine’s Penobscot County. Twenty-eight other Members of Congress joined me in sending this letter.

Any process to incorporate federal land in Maine must have strong support from the local community.  A unilateral designation of a national monument would not take into consideration any of the serious concerns of the Katahdin region residents and surrounding communities.

That is why I introduced a bill in Congress that would ensure that local voices are heard by requiring the sitting governor and state legislature in any state to approve a monument proposal before it is designated.

My top priority is to create a better business climate in Maine.  I want to give local citizens a voice in any federal land acquisition and promote local industries, provide opportunity for job creation in Maine and maintain public access to camping, hunting, fishing and snowmobiling.

I hope these recent votes by the Maine Legislature send a clear message to the White House that Mainers oppose the unilateral creation of a monument in our State.

About Bruce Poliquin

Congressman Bruce Poliquin is a third generation Mainer from a big-hearted Franco-American family. He was appointed to the House Financial Services Committee where he works on a wide range of issues related to providing oversight of the financial services sector and helping to grow the American economy. As your representative, Congressman Poliquin will continue to use his life, business and government experiences to help our hard-working families and businesses, create jobs and grow Maine’s economy.

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