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Park Service Director to Visit Maine for Meeting on National Monument Proposal

C. Schmitt via the Natural Resources Council of Maine
Land in Maine's North Woods under consideration for designation as a national monument.

The director of the National Park Service will come to Maine later this month to gauge support for possible presidential designation of privately owned land in the Katahdin region as a national monument.

Jonathan Jarvis will hold meetings with elected officials from Millinocket and surrounding towns on May 16. He’ll also hear from members of the public at the University of Maine in Orono later that evening.

Jarvis is coming at the request of Sen. Angus King, who will moderate both meetings.

The proposal by Burt’s Bees founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby calls for donating 87,000 acres near Baxter State Park to the federal government and creation of a $40 million endowment to maintain it.

“There is a lot of local support and the support is becoming more passionate and more enthusiastic about the proposal. And, if in fact, that’s what the administration needs to see in order to do this than, I’m becoming more optimistic that it will happen, yeah,” says Quimby’s son Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville Plantation, the foundation that owns the land.

St. Clair says a national monument, which could be the stepping stone to a national park, would create more than 400 jobs in the region that has been hard hit by the loss of mill jobs.

“And locally, if we get ten percent of the visitation that Acadia National Park gets right now, that means 270,000 new, unique visitors are coming to the Katahdin region to hike, bike, horseback ride, ride snowmobile, camp, stay in local inns and beds and breakfasts and, you know, that’s a huge amount of people.”

The proposal has come under fire from some local residents, state lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage, who are concerned about turning over any land to the federal government and about the effect of so many people on nearby Baxter State Park, which is a wilderness area.

In a recent letter, Jarvis said the Department of the Interior is “sensitive to the economic needs of the region, as well as the region’s traditional land and forest practices.”

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have urged the administration to include local residents in the discussion about a national monument designation.