Obama Bypasses Congress to Create 87,500 Acre National Monument in Maine

By Penny Starr | August 31, 2016 | 11:34am EDT
President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - In a more than 3,900-word proclamation establishing 87,500 acres of the Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine a national monument, President Barack Obama bypassed Congress and its power to create national parks – a move that has made some in the state unhappy, including the state’s governor, Republicans and an Independent lawmaker in the U.S. Congress.

On the eve of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary on Aug. 24, Obama issued the lengthy proclamation that includes references to glaciers retreating 12,000 years ago, people living there for more than 11,000 years and the end of the logging livelihood there “based primarily on environmental concerns” in the 1970s.

Following the announcement, the MaineBiz website gathered reaction to Obama’s executive order.

"President Obama is once again taking unilateral action against the will of the people, this time the citizens of rural Maine,” Republican Governor Paul LePage said in a statement. “The legislature passed a resolution opposing a National Monument in the North Woods, members of Maine's Congressional delegation opposed it and local citizens voted against it repeatedly.”

LePage cited the Quimby family, specifically Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt’s Bees who owned the 87,500 acres of land east of Baxter State Park that she gave to the federal government, according to the Banger Daily News.

“Despite this lack of support, the Quimby family used high-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to go around the people of Maine and have President Obama use his authority to designate this area a National Monument,” LePage said. “This once again demonstrates that rich, out-of-state liberals can force their unpopular agenda on the Maine people against their will."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also cited Obama’s decision to bypass not only Congress but also Maine state legislators.

"While I recognize that the president has the legal authority to designate national monuments, I believe he should not have used his executive authority given the objection lodged by the Maine Legislature, the lack of consensus among Mainers who live in the area, and the absence of congressional approval,” Collins said.

“Bypassing Congress and taking this action without the support of the state and the local communities circumvented discussions of alternatives such as the creation of a national recreation area or management by the Forest Service — proposals that might have had broader support than the president unilaterally designating a national monument,” she added.

“This monument designation gives rise to a host of questions ranging from simple logistical matters to fundamental questions such as what will the impact be on taxpayers and whether the National Park Service, with its nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog, can afford to manage this new federal acquisition,” Collins said. “While the Quimby family's promise of a $40 million endowment is generous, it is difficult to see how that amount can possibly cover the startup and ongoing costs of the monument area."

"For some, this designation is welcome, while others will meet it with skepticism or outright opposition — but for all of us it is a change, and change is always hard,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said in a statement. “That is why I think it is important that we respect both the excitement as well as the concerns that will follow this announcement.

“And it is why I will continue to work with people on both sides of this issue and the Park Service to ensure that the day-to-day implementation of the monument plan lives up to its promise,” King said.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) said he and other lawmakers contacted Obama about their concerns ahead of his proclamation.

"As Maine's representative in Congress for the 2nd District, I joined Sens. Collins and King in sending a letter to President Obama last November expressing reservations about the unilateral decision to designate a national monument in our state,” Poliquin said. “We jointly raised concerns about the idea and urged the president to listen to local voices.

“Several communities most impacted by such a plan voted in non-binding referendums on the proposal in the Katahdin Region and in every instance the people voted in large numbers to oppose the concept,” Poliquin said.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) supports Obama’s decision and praised Quimby.

“The American people owe a debt of gratitude to Roxanne Quimby for this incredible act of generosity,” Pingree said. “She worked hard to build a great company from the ground up, and the first thing she did when she sold it was to figure out how to give back to the people of Maine by donating this land.”

The Banger Daily News noted that it is the 25th executive order Obama has issued to create a monument since 2011. The monument is the nation’s 151st since 1906, according to a National Park Service listing.

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