AUGUSTA — Two members of Maine’s congressional delegation expressed disappointment Thursday with Gov. Paul LePage’s effort to rescind the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, while a third questioned whether President Trump has the authority to reverse the designation.

Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree said there are signs that the monument designation has already started yielding economic benefits for the Katahdin region, six months after President Obama created it. Both disagreed with LePage’s written request that President Trump “undo the designation and return the land to private ownership” or allow the state of Maine to manage the roughly 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park.

“I am disappointed by the request,” King, an independent, said in a statement. “The monument has already begun to yield real economic benefits to the region, and has done so with no negative impact on Maine’s forest products industry. Rather than reignite controversy in a region that is beginning to heal and move on, I hope we can allow the monument to continue to serve as one important part of a multifaceted economic revitalization strategy which is already underway.”

Pingree, D-1st District, also said that former opponents of the monument are now trying to make the best of the new National Park Service unit in their backyards.

“In the short time since President Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the region has already seen economic benefits,” Pingree said in a statement. “The monument has brought new visitors to the area, boosted sales at local businesses, and is helping the real estate market. In a part of the state that’s eager for good economic news, I don’t think anyone would want to see those benefits undone. It seems that many people who were originally opposed to the project are now focused on making the most out of it. I think the governor and the president should do the same.”

Pingree was a vocal supporter of the proposed national monument – as well as a potential national park – through much of the years-long debate over the issue. King had expressed concerns about a potential designation but ultimately determined that the benefits of a national monument outweighed any detriments.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins had opposed Obama’s use of his executive authority to create the national monument on land donated by conservationist Roxanne Quimby. But speaking on a Maine Public radio show Wednesday, Collins questioned whether Trump could reverse Obama’s actions.

“Once it is issued, there is a real legal question about whether a subsequent president can undo the designation,” Collins said on the Maine Calling radio program. “At this point, I think that many of the towns that are being affected have started to work together to make the best of this situation. So I don’t think the president has the legal authority to rescind it based on work that we had the Congressional Research Service do on that very issue.”

Opponents of national monuments from Maine to Utah are urging Trump to rescind designations made by Obama. But conservation advocates argue presidents only have the authority to create – not abolish – national monuments.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows presidents to designate national monuments to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” on federally owned land. National parks, on the other hand, require an act of Congress.

Presidents can modify national monuments created by their predecessors, but a president has never entirely undone a national monument designation. And a 1938 U.S. attorney general’s opinion suggests that only Congress – not the president – has the power to abolish established monuments.

In his letter to Trump, however, LePage urged the president to challenge such naysayers.

“They also never envisioned President Trump,” LePage wrote. “I strongly urge you to undo the designation and return the land to private ownership before economic damage occurs and traditional recreational pursuits are diminished.”

Opponents of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument had worried that the federal designation would harm the forestry industry, deter future industrial development and negatively affect hunting and snowmobiling. In the months since the designation, however, numerous real estate brokers report rising interest in – and prices for – properties or land in the Katahdin region, while some businesses say they’ve noticed a slight uptick in business from monument visitors.

The Katahdin region’s representative in Congress, Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, did not take a position on LePage’s letter or whether Trump should take action, despite his vocal opposition to the national monument before the designation.

“My number one priority in Congress is creating and protecting jobs in Maine,” Poliquin said in a statement. “I want to do everything possible and help foster every opportunity for this to happen. I will be reviewing next steps in helping elevate economic growth in the Katahdin region and look forward to working with all groups and parties to ensure that the priorities and best interests of the local communities are put first, always.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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