I’m not generally excited about parks. I like nature, there is no mistaking that- you’re talking to a girl who got her fishing license for the first time last year and used it almost every day. I really am trying, I promise… but parks… Parks make me think of camping and I really dislike camping. I just don’t get it. It’s cold, there are spiders, you sleep on rocks and everything smells like wood smoke… it really isn’t my scene. I think the last time I genuinely got excited about a park was when I was driving through Wyoming and that was only because I like big buttes and I cannot lie.
I’m thinking about parks because I have recently taken an interest in LD 1600 and all of the commotion around it. A notorious Maine resident, Roxanne Quimby, has wanted to turn a large parcel of land into a national monument for some time now. So what is a national monument? It is the brainchild of President Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act of 1906, an act which allows presidents to turn public lands into national monuments in order to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic or scientific interest” (his first national monument? The big butte, Devils Tower in Wyoming). Essentially, it would allow for federal jurisdiction on a state’s land and provide a stepping stone to national park status.
Maybe you like to camp and think this sounds like a cool idea, after all it is a way to preserve Maine’s wilderness for everyone. But we need to consider the bigger picture, primarily that the Maine woods are big business. Maine is the most heavily forested state in the country and for the paper industry this means a total economic impact of roughly $8 billion. Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine told WCSH6 in regards to the possible monument, “there are a lot of unanswered questions for the logging industry, we move wood on an off-road network in the greater Millinocket area currently to a lot of different markets.” Losing access to the roads and land would be a big blow when combined with the recent decline in pulp and paper mills.
This is where Governor LePage comes in; a frequent champion of the working man, a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps type of politician. He is naturally against the Federal Government having any say in what happens with land in Maine, and in LD 1600 asks that there be a “reverter clause to apply in the event the Federal Government attempts to designate such land a national monument.”
While the bill is going to the House floor with a divided committee report, spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett expressed that she doesn’t believe the bill has died and that she hopes legislators consider that Katahdin area residents “overwhelmingly rejected” the idea of either a park or a monument, and the federal control that it would follow such a designation.
This is an issue which has the State House divided; on one hand we could have a monument and a negative impact on our state’s logging industry among other industries reliant on the Maine wilderness. On the other hand should the State have the authority to step in and determine what donated land can or cannot be used for?
As Roxanne Quimby’s son is currently lobbying the White House for a presidential executive order to protect up to 150,000 acres of the family’s land, I can’t help but wonder if I want the Federal Government lurking in my backyard. Maine is more than capable of taking care of its own people and land and has done an amazing job of cleaning up past environmental damage as well as implementing great programs moving forward (recycling in Brunswick is so easy, amirite??). Why do we need the President to preserve our wilderness when we’re doing a darn good job of it on our own?
These are questions I can’t answer. I am nowhere near being an expert on monuments, logging, forests, or federally controlled properties- heck I can’t even put up a tent. But I can tell you that I love Maine and this proposed monument is a very big decision that can possibly affect a lot of people. I hope that a decision is made which keeps everyone’s best interests in mind.