House Subcommittee Takes Up Bill On Shore Access For Harvesters Near Acadia National Park

Nov 16, 2017

A dispute between clammers, wormers and seaweed harvesters with Acadia National Park appears headed for a resolution in Congress.

A congressional subcommittee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin that would allow clammers and wormers to continue to make a living in the intertidal zone near the park’s boundary. The bill also requires Acadia to follow specific guidelines when adding new acreage to the park.

Like the identical Senate version offered by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, the bill sponsored by Poliquin and Pingree emerged more than a year after Acadia National Park added just over 1,440 acres to the park’s Schoodic District near Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor.

The park’s acquisition of what is now the Schoodic Woods campground angered some local residents, who argued that the process for expanding the park’s boundary line had been ignored — a process that was mandated by Congress more than 30 years ago.

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock of California, chair of the Federal Lands Subcommittee, said that process should have been followed.

“Mr. Woodcock, the 1986 Acadia Boundary Act obviously was meant to provide assurances to local residents and municipalities that Acadia National Park would have a permanent boundary,” McClintock said, addressing Timothy Woodcock, a Bangor attorney with expertise in intertidal access. “Obviously it’s very unfortunate what happened in 2014 and 2015.”

Woodcock was invited by Poliquin to testify at the hearing. McClintock asked Woodcock for assurances that the House bill would would close all loopholes in the park’s land acquisition process established by Congress.

“I should make it clear that the 1986 act did include that the Secretary could accept lands by donation, and that does remain in effect,” Woodcock said. “The other thing it does is that it retroactively ratifies the acquisition of Schoodic Woods so that any jurisdictional questions that might arise over whether that was a proper taking or not will be obviated if this is enacted into law.”

Another section of the bill ensures continued access for clammers and worm diggers, who were told by park officials that they could not harvest marine resources within the park’s intertidal zone — a response that struck a nerve with Poliquin.

“A short time ago, some of the folks at the National Park Service approached some of our wormers and said, ‘Turn over your bucket,’ and some of our clammers were issued summonses because they were working the flats around Acadia National Park,” he said. “I will tell you that the people of Maine, Mr. Chairman, not the federal government, the people of Maine own the intertidal area between high and low water mark, and we’ve been working those flats for years — for 300 years to be exact.”

Rockweed and seaweed harvesting in the park’s intertidal zone will continue to be prohibited by the legislation. A congressional spokesman said Poliquin will ask the House Natural Resources Committee to move the Acadia bill by the end of the year, possibly as soon as next month.

This story was originally published Nov. 15, 2017 at 2:57 p.m. ET.