AUG 25, 2016 10:27 AM PDT

Obama's new national monument protects 87,500 acres of wilderness in Maine

In yet another conservationists versus residents controversy over land ownership and usage, Obama has stepped into to favor the conservationists. Maine’s newest Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was given by a donation from co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Roxanne Quimby, to the American public, although the designation of the woods as protected territory has been in the works for years. The 87,500 acre national monument holds tremendous cultural, historical and ecological significance, in addition to myriad recreational opportunities for visitors, however such federal protection has worried locals about restrictions  that might interfere with logging and milling purposes.

Early morning haze colors Mount Katahdin and its surrounding mountains as seen in 2014 from a height of land along Route 11 in Patten, Maine. The viewpoint is part of the Katahdin Woods & Waters scenic byway. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The New York Times explains that “The designations prevent new mining and drilling operations, and sometimes curtail logging, grazing, road-building, hunting and recreation — limits that in some rural areas, particularly in the West, are bitterly resented by residents and business people who say their regions’ economies depend on use of the land. Advocates say the monuments can actually generate economic activity and jobs, through tourism and recreation.”

Although Congress must pass an act in order to create a national park, the Antiquities Act, a 1906 federal law, allows a president to act independently to establish a national monument. In his two terms, Obama has used this act to create two dozen national monuments, more than any previous president, ranging from small sites like the Stonewall Inn, a gay rights landmark in Manhattan, to more than 300,000 acres in the mountains east of Los Angeles.

The new national monument sits east of Mount Katahdin, the most prominent mountain in the region. Named by the Penobscot people, it means the "Greatest Mountain," and is often used to refer to the region as a whole, including Maine's iconic forests and wildlife. The new national monument, carved by wild rivers and mountain ridges, is home to a wide range of animals, including moose, bobcats, bald eagles, salmon and Canada lynx.

“As we see visitation grow, with people from around the country and around the world, it will settle in that this truly is a special landscape and the economic benefits can be realized,” said Mr. St. Clair, son of Roxanne Quimby. “This isn’t the only monument that has been criticized, and our governor isn’t the only governor who has criticized a monument. From the Grand Tetons to the Everglades, it’s a theme in the creation of these parks. But I think time will help heal these divisions.”

The news is fitting, as President Obama announced the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on yesterday, just one day before the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (today!) Happy centennial NPS!

Sources: The New York Times, NPR, Portland Press Herald
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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