Maine’s congressional delegation is disappointed with the response they received from the National Park Service regarding President Obama possibly using his executive power to designate more than 100,000 acres in Maine’s North Woods as a national monument.

In November, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King joined Rep. Bruce Poliquin in writing a letter to the president asking that he reconsider designating the privately owned land in the Katahdin Region as a national monument. The executive action would bypass the national park process, which calls for extensive public input and an act of Congress for a park to be established.

The land is being offered by Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the company Roxanne Quimby formed to manage the acreage.

Maine’s congressional delegation said Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville’s board of directors, told them he was having discussions with the Department of the Interior about bypassing Congress and having the land designated. Quimby has supported creating a national park in Maine and St. Clair is her son.

Obama had park service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis reply on his behalf. Jarvis’ reply, dated Feb. 4, does not address the concerns listed in the legislators’ Nov. 20 letter or several conditions they said should be met if the land were to be designated under the federal Antiquities Act.

Instead Jarvis writes at length about the area’s natural beauty, its recreational potential, its rich history, its timber harvesting business and its economic growth potential if the land were designated a national monument.

Jarvis does not commit the Obama Administration to any particular course of action, adding, “The Department of the Interior is also sensitive to the economic needs of the region, as well as the region’s traditional land and forest practices. These are important factors to weigh while considering the potential land donation by Elliotsville Plantation.”

Collins, King and Poliquin reacted Thursday evening, issuing statements in which they criticized Jarvis for ignoring their concerns.

They had warned the Obama administration that a national monument designation “would likely antagonize already divided local communities.”

They said a recent poll showed that 60 percent of Mainers support a national park in the Katahdin region, but they added that they have serious concerns about the Executive Branch unilaterally designating a national monument in their state.

“Mainers have a long and proud history of private land ownership, independence and local control, and do not take lightly any forced action by the federal government to increase its footprint in our state,” Collins, King and Poliquin wrote.

In November, the three legislators had requested that the president consider incorporating several conditions before proceeding with a national monument designation. Among them were to continue allowing all traditional recreational uses such as hunting, fishing and hiking, and to ensure timber harvesting could continue.

“We continue to believe that the voice of those who call the Katahdin region their home are most important in this discussion and those voices must be heard,” King and Collins said in a joint statement. “For this reason we are dissatisfied that the letter from Director Jarvis failed to respond to the critically important conditions set forth in our letter.”

Poliquin, in a statement, said, “This letter is concerning on many levels. First, I was extremely disappointed that this letter came from Director Jarvis, rather than the president himself. It shows a complete lack of interest and concern from the White House for the residents of the Katahdin region.

“I must emphasize that the designation of a national monument by the president, which bypasses the Democratic process and input from local constituents, is entirely separate from the actual creation of a national park, which allows for local officials and residents to weigh in before it is created.”

First District Rep. Chellie Pingree issued a statement Friday morning.

“Most Mainers support the idea of a park or national monument in the region, but it’s important that we continue to have a public discussion of any proposal, which is exactly what the letter from the National Park Service does,” said Pingree. “A national park or a national monument in northern Maine would help stimulate the economy in the region, bring visitors to the area and create jobs so I’m glad John Jarvis sent that letter to continue the important dialog between Maine and the Park Service.”

Earlier this week at a town hall in Farmingdale, Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage was asked to state his position.

LePage said he is “death against” the creation of a national park or national monument in the North Woods.

“We are going to raise holy heck,” LePage said. “I already am. I’ve written to the president. I’ve written to the Interior Secretary. I’ve written to the delegation.”

In a press release issued Wednesday, LePage said the National Park Service, which is facing an $11.9 billion backlog in federal land and buildings maintenance, can’t afford to maintain another national park.

“It defies logic that we would create a new national park next to Baxter State Park when the federal government is facing a massive deficit,” LePage said.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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