The Future of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Last August Barack Obama announced the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The national monument covers over 87,000 acres of land along Baxter State Park in north central Maine.


Last week Maine’s governor, Paul Lepage, asked President Trump to ‘rescind’ the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

 
 

Let me provide some background so we can come to understand how ridiculous this is.

The land encompassed by the monument was donated to the federal government by Burt’s Bees co-founder, Roxanne Quimby. Quimby initially intended for the land to hold a National Park. However, creating a national park would require an act of Congress. The Republican controlled House and Senate were unlikely to allow Obama the creation of a popular common good. Furthermore, Republicans (like Lepage) likely see the park as a literal expansion of federal government.

The park became a monument as monuments do not require Congressional approval. Obviously, this did not sit well with Lepage.

  Lepage has been a polarizing figure in Maine Politics

Lepage has been a polarizing figure in Maine Politics

  Mainers attending an  anti-Lepage rally  in Portland

Mainers attending an anti-Lepage rally in Portland

Here is where I start to editorialize.

A private citizen wanted the land that she owned to become a national park. Is it not a fundamental tenet of conservatism that you should be able to do whatever you want with your land. It seems ridiculous that the governor would request the destruction of a $80 million land gift from Quimby to the American People.

Republican Senator Susan Collins has a uncommitted view on the matter. While she did not agree with the initial creation of the monument she did recently point out that “there is a real legal question about whether a subsequent president can ‘undo’ the designation”. This is true, it would likely require an act of Congress to “undo” the denotation. This is a politically safe posture from a Republican who has shown a willingness to stand up to the Trump administration.

  Some of the lands Lepage wants to remove protection from.

Some of the lands Lepage wants to remove protection from.

At this moment we need to keep our eyes on the National Park Service and the Forest Service. The Trump administration has already shown apathy, and disrespect to the NPS.

At the end of it all we have to wonder: what would happen to the land if Lepage were successful? Would the federal government now own a bunch of land that cannot be a park? Would it be sold to private entities? Would the state be able to create a park on the land?

Bottomline: Would the destruction of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument amount to the stealing of land from a philanthropist by the federal government?