Yesterday, the Senate voted in favor of the minority report of LD 1600 by a narrow vote of 18-17. While Senate Democrats largely stayed in lockstep with Roxanne Quimby, one Democrat, Senator James Dill of Penobscot, voted in favor of the measure.
This Governor’s Bill, sponsored by Representative Stephen Stanley (D-Medway), originally stipulated that in the event that the Federal Government designate land as a national monument, the State would require a reverter clause to apply.
According to testimony by Avery Day, Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor’s Office, “The reverter clause would state that such land shall revert back to the person or entity that conveyed the property to the Federal Government, should the President attempt to designate that property a National Monument. This is not a limitation on the alienability of property; rather, this is a limitation on how the Federal Government may use this property.”
The current minority report of the bill, however, removes the reverter clause and replaces it with language stating that “…in the case of designation of property as a national monument, the consent of the Legislature is not given to the Federal Government for the acquisition of land.”
If passed, this legislation could face constitutional concerns under the supremacy clause, however, bill supporters such as Assistant Senate Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R-Hampden) believe that either way, it sends a clear message to Washington, D.C. that “Maine land should not be forfeited.” He said that “What we’re talking about here is surrendering our destiny of our forests in this state to a federal bureaucracy.”
Although Quimby and her family have been lobbying President Obama and his administration to designate 87,500 acres near Baxter State Park as a national monument, the locals in Medway and East Millinocket clearly don’t want it. Medway resident, Robbie Cox, said he didn’t believe the land was attractive enough, stating “There’s nothing up there but rocks and bushes.”
In committee testimony, Millinocket resident Mark Bigge sited a local area poll showing that 82.28% of area residents are opposed to the park; 67% are opposed statewide. He went on to say that “97% of Millinocket residents oppose the park, but Obama says it’s his call, not ours, and Hillary agrees… In their minds, we are not responsible enough to maintain the stewardship of the land, even though we have successfully done so for more than 100 years…!”
According to a previous article on The Maine Wire, 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. According to Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, “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.
As the bill heads back to the House for a final vote, you can bet that Quimby and organizations such as the Natural Resources Council of Maine are applying significant pressure to the eight Democrats who broke the ranks last week to vote in favor of this legislation.