EDITORIAL

Filling Acadia’s ‘Holes’

Acadia National Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele leads President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha during their visit to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor in 2010.
Charles Dharapak | AP
Acadia National Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele leads President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha during their visit to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor in 2010.
Posted March 31, 2011, at 9:30 p.m.

One flaw harms Acadia National Park, a prized destination for more than 2.5 million visitors a year. The problem is the 130 privately-owned tracts that remain within the park’s boundary.

That means, as a worst case, that visitors seeking peace and quiet in the grandeur of the mountains and ocean could, without action to acquire and protect these lands, come upon a hot dog stand or a cell phone tower. More likely is the noise of private owners’ lawnmowers and leaf blowers to shatter the park’s stillness. And bright lights in the private holdings can spoil the park’s starry vista of the night sky.

The park’s managers have been buying up these private properties. The money comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress established in 1964 to finance acquisitions and easements to protect national parks, forests and wildlife areas. The fund gets its money from offshore oil drilling royalties.

Congressional budget cuts threaten to halt this methodical land purchasing in its tracks. The $61 billion cut that the House voted and the Senate rejected would have deprived the fund of any current money. Lesser cuts in a pending resolution probably would do the same.

Specifically, current planned purchases are $3 million for 33 acres available at Lower Hadlock Pond and $1 million for 17 acres at Round Pond. If not bought now, the Hadlock tract could be subdivided for house lots, and three tall wind turbines are a possibility on the Round Pond property.

President Barack Obama’s budget provides money for the purchases. Pending cuts would prevent them. Delay could mean either a higher price later or the park’s loss forever.

Republican leaders in Congress have been determined to slash the financing of the Land and Water Conservation Fund as part of their broad attack on federal environmental and public health programs. They led the House of Representatives in voting initially to cut back the fund to its lowest level in its 45 years of existence. The bill would have provided only $59 million instead of the authorized funding level of $900 million, an investment broadly supported by most Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats.

Acadia is one of the smallest of the national parks but, per acre, among the most visited. So each acre counts. A Michigan State University study in 2009 reported that Acadia generates more than 3,100 jobs and $158 million in spending in the area. Beyond its magical beauty, it leads among Maine’s economic assets. Weakening its drawing power weakens our state’s economy.

The state’s two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, frequently described as moderate Republicans, are key figures in the funding of Acadia National Park acquisitions within its perimeter, as well as so many other issues affecting Maine and its people.

They must ensure that they put the best interests of their state and its people ahead of mindless budget slashing pressed by their party leaders.

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