Great News!! President Obama Keeps Maine WILD

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by Rona Fried

I’m taking a break from my vacation in Maine to let you know the great news – President Obama designed 90,000 acres in Maine’s WILD North Woods as Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burts Bees, donated the land to the National Park Service this week, timed with its 100th anniversary.

With surging streams, views of Maine’s highest mountain Katahdin, and iconic wildlife, it’s a hiker and canoer’s dream. It includes a wild, pristine branch of the Penobscot River, and is where Henry David Thoreau exclaimed, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

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Photo: Jon Luoma, Natural Resources Council of Maine

Combined with the adjoining 210,000-acre Baxter State Park, enough forest will remain intact to help it cope with climate change.

Fishing will still be allowed, along with hiking and canoeing. Hunting and snowmobiling – treasured by local residents – will also continue in some areas.

A Long Road to Protection  

Quimby has been buying wildlands in Maine for decades and tirelessly advocating for a 3.2 million-acre Maine

Woods National Park. It would stretch across central Maine – the largest undeveloped forest in the eastern US.

The area in green is now protected as Katahdin Woods. The national park would extend to the other side of

Moosehead Lake: 

Katahdin-Map

credit: Portland Press Herald

But creating a national park requires Congressional approval, so advocates urged President Obama to designate this section as a national monument before he leaves office.

Many national parks, such as Maine’s Acadia, Grand Canyon and Grand Tetons, were first protected as national monuments with land donations. Percival Baxter, who served as Maine’s Governor in the 1920s, donated the land for Baxter State Park.

There’s always a tug-of-war over protecting large areas of land and water. Locals who have had unimpeded access for generations resent a “government takeover” and there are concerns over economic development.

In this case, the tumult began when paper companies began selling huge swaths of land … and Quimby began buying it to prevent rampant development. As global free trade replaced Maine’s lumber and paper companies, residents lost the dominant industry there that had always allowed them free access to the land.

“It is the perfect solution: less than a park, but still protected. Once it’s there and people find they can live with it, enjoy it and prosper because of it, then turning it into a park becomes no big deal. That’s what I’m gunning for. And that’s what will save the Maine Woods,” says Quimby in the excellent book, Eco Barons.

President Obama has protected more land and water than any other – more than 265 million acres. These generate an annual $156 million in economic benefits to the communities that surround them, according to a study by the Small Business Majority.

Last year, Maine’s Acadia National Park hosted 3 million visitors, generating $250 million for the area.

Unfortunately, the National Parks Service has been underfunded for decades and many are in “deplorable condition.”

Read the story behind protecting Maine’s North Woods: http://newengland.com/yankee-magazine/living/new-england-environment/quimby/

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