In honor of the National Park Service’s centennial anniversary, President Obama declared the establishment and protection of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, a new National Park site in Northern Maine. Katahdin Woods “may be one of the last, large national parks that we see in our lifetime,” said Theresa Pierno, chief executive of the National Parks Conservation Association. More than 87,500 acres of woodland wilderness were donated to the National Park Service by Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Maine-based Burt’s Bees. President Obama’s declaration puts an end to a contentious process, which has pitted conservationists against local residents and Maine politicians.

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The region is home to lynx, bears, brook trout and moose, as well as rare birds such as gray jays, boreal chickadees and the American three-toed woodpecker. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is located in the North Maine Woods region, where the decline of the paper industry has left the economy weakened. Locals expressed concern that a National Park designation would further threaten their livelihoods through increased regulations and restrictions. The Maine Legislature and Governor also opposed the creation of the Monument. “It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it,” said Governor LePage (R).

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Despite the requirement of an act of Congress to create a National Park, Maine’s congressional delegation refused to introduce such a measure. President Obama maneuvered around this opposition by using the authority granted by the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows the President to create National Monuments without Congressional approval. To accommodate this strong opposition, the establishment of Katahdin Woods has been shaped by compromise. The new National Monument will be the only National Park Services site that allows hunting, though the killing of bears will remain forbidden. Snowmobiling, a popular local pastime, will also be allowed on all existing trails at the site.

The site is not without its supporters in Maine. Angus King, independent US Senator and former governor of Maine, said that “the benefits of the designation will far outweigh any detriment” and a National Park site “will provide much-needed diversity to the region’s economy.” “This isn’t the only monument that has been criticized, and our governor isn’t the only governor who has criticized a monument,” says Lucas St. Clair, organizer of the pro-park campaign. “From the Grand Tetons to the Everglades, it’s a theme in the creation of these parks. But I think time will help heal these divisions.”

Via Washington Post

Images via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region and North Maine Woods Inc.