EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — One of the larger unions at the new Great Northern Paper Co. mill has joined the group of forest products industry members opposing environmentalist Roxanne Quimby’s proposed 70,000-acre national park.
Stu Kallgren of Enfield, a pulper-operator at the mill, said he and other United Steelworkers Local 37 members voted during a recent meeting to make public their opposition to the park idea.
“We want to contact our [local state] representatives and let them know, and we want the public and Legislature to know, that we are not on board with a national park. We want to maintain a healthy forest industry. We want to stand on that,” Kallgren said recently. “I don’t believe the national park will create the paying jobs and benefits that they [park supporters] are promoting.”
Quimby, who owns about 59,000 acres in or near the Katahdin region, proposes to give to the park service 70,000 acres adjacent to Baxter State Park in 2016. She is pressing Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar to authorize a feasibility study of the proposed park area.
Quimby reiterated her support for her idea in a statement released by a spokeswoman.
“The proposed Maine Woods National Park enjoys the support of many people who work, or have worked, in the mill and more than 40 businesses in the Katahdin Region,” she said in the statement. “At minimum, we believe that if we are going to leave something better for our children and grandchildren, it is important to get the facts on whether a national park would help build a stronger, more diversified economy. We think that the facts will demonstrate that a national park and the traditional manufacturing can co-exist and help the region create new jobs and thrive.”
More than 16 business, civic and environmental groups have expressed their support of a study, while a group led by a state senator from Cape Elizabeth has supported a park. An independent survey of about 600 Maine residents conducted by a Portland firm in October indicated 60 percent approval of a park. Medway’s town government is the sole governmental body to support a study.
Great Northern Paper and several civic, sportsmen’s and forest products industry groups have opposed a study and the park, as have the state’s two Republican U.S. senators; U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-East Millinocket; the Maine Legislature; Gov. Paul LePage; and the people or governments of East Millinocket and Millinocket.
Kallgren said his group will investigate whether Quimby’s land receives tree-growth tax benefits typically given to forest products industry wood suppliers. He said he believes that because her trees are not forested, she should not receive such benefits.