President Barack Obama designated a massive swath of Maine’s north forests as a national monument Wednesday, the culmination of a years-long fight between the White House, private philanthropists and the state’s governor.
The White House announced the president, using his Antiquities Act authority, designated 87,500 acres of land in north central Maine as a national monument. The Antiquities Act empowers the president to designate national monuments from public lands. Obama has used this authority liberally, assigning over 265 million acres of public land the monument designation during his tenure.
“Following years of support from many local and state elected officials, tribal leaders, businesses and members of the public across the state, this designation will build on the robust tradition of growing the park system through private philanthropy, and will reinforce the need to continue protecting our great outdoors as we enter the second century of the National Park Service,” the White House said.
The proclamation came one day after Roxanne Quimby, founder of the Burt’s Bee line of personal care products, ceded ownership of the land to the U.S. Department of the Interior. She also furnished a $20 million endowment for the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, promising to raise an additional $20 million for the fund.
Quimby’s conservation efforts have engendered controversy in the past. She has closed the tens of thousands of acres she owns throughout the state to hunters, snowmobilers, and campers, some of whom blazed trails and settled grounds once trod by their ancestors.
“I own it now,” she boasted in 2008. “Buying the land also means I am buying the right to call the shots.”
The effort has not been easy, as the Washington Post’s Brady Dennis has chronicled. Economic anxieties and deep-seated skepticism of federal interference inspired widespread opposition in the region and from Maine’s congressional delegation. Critics charge a sprawling national park would effectively cripple any chance the economically ravaged region has of revival.
“Her effort has bitterly divided this corner of New England, where shuttered paper mills have led to crippling unemployment and a shrinking population, and where distrust of the federal government runs as deep as the rivers and streams,” Dennis wrote in May.
“Despite this lack of support, the Quimby family used high-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to go around the people of Maine and have President Obama use his authority to designate this area a National Monument,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday. “This once again demonstrates that rich, out-of-state liberals can force their unpopular agenda on the Maine people against their will.”
“The fix has been in all along,” he added.
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