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Senate panel considers bill to expand Katahdin Woods and Waters monument

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Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

A Senate panel considered federal legislation Wednesday that would expand the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins of Maine, could add nearly 43,000 acres to the south of the existing monument. Land would only be acquired from property owners willing to sell to the National Park Service.

Steven Richardson, vice president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, believes surrounding communities have come to accept the monument since its designation six years ago.

"Attitudes have changed," he said. "I won't say that everybody is in favor. I think we're down to now two 'no parks for Maine' signs in our communities, whereas before we had 20, 30, maybe more."

The bill would clear a dedicated route for the public to access the monument from Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway.

Monument visitors have a difficult time accessing those communities today, Richardson said. But he believes that will change if the monument expands to the south, potentially bringing more business to local restaurants and stores.

"Once those people know that they can access the monument from the southern district, they will probably stay there for the most part and spend their money," Richardson said.

The proposed legislation would allow the National Park Service to acquire buildings outside the boundaries of the park for visitor services or staff offices. The bill also includes provisions designed to protect access for hunting, fishing and foraging for fiddleheads.

"I believe this is probably the first piece of federal legislation to mention fiddleheads," said King, who serves as chairman of the Senate's national parks subcommittee.

King said he's heard from local ATV clubs and loggers who are concerned about maintaining their access to trails and trucking routes if the monument were to expand.

He said he plans to modify the bill's language to ensure those routes are protected as well. The National Park Service, which supports the legislation with a few modifications, said Wednesday that it has experience safely directing traffic for visitors and logging trucks on public land across the country.