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Lawmakers Draft Letters to Interior Secretary Defending National Monuments

Susan Sharon
Maine Public file
Yemaya St. Clair, Lucas St. Clair's wife, paddles the East Branch of the Penobscot River in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in 2016.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District and 85 of her colleagues have sent a letter to the interior secretary warning him that only Congress has the “Constitutional authority to revoke or shrink a national monument.” Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine has also written a letter to defend it.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is currently reviewing 27 national monuments, including Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine.

“Dear Mr. Secretary, while stewardship of America’s national monuments is your solemn responsibility,” the House members’ letter says, “the continued existence of those national monuments is ours.”

Pingree and the other signatories then go on to point out that under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.” And they say Congress has not delegated authority to significantly diminish or abolish an existing national monument.

In a separate letter, King urged “in the strongest possible terms” that the designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters be reconfirmed. He said views of congressional representatives, state representatives and local businesses were all part of the process leading to its designation along with years of public input and stakeholder outreach.

“This Monument is some of the first positive news for the Katahdin region in a long time,” King wrote. “Please don’t let it be taken away.”

The secretary is expected to recommend weakening protections for some monuments and revocation of others later this summer.

This story was originally published on May 25, 2017 at 5:55 p.m.