December 18, 2017
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A timeline of Roxanne Quimby’s quest for a national park

By Nick Sambides, BDN Staff
Updated:
BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
Roxanne Quimby

For at least 15 years, Burt’s Bee’s entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby has pursued her goal of creating a national park in Maine’s north woods.

2001

July

— Quimby makes her first reported land purchase, of 8,513 acres in Piscataquis County, for nearly $3 million. She discloses that she is a member of the board of directors of RESTORE: The North Woods, a Massachusetts-based group that advocated the creation of a 3.2 million-acre national park in Maine since June 1994.

“I can think of no better thing to do with Burt’s Bees profits than to return them to the earth,” she told the Bangor Daily News.

2003

June

— Nearly 300 Mainers gather at the Big Moose Inn on Millinocket Lake inside the proposed Maine Woods National Park to rally against federal land ownership, including a big contingency of property rights advocates and National Rifle Association members.

November

— Quimby purchases Township 5 Range 8 near Baxter State Park from Irving for a future park. The 24,083 acres is reported to cost more than $12 million.

December

— Quimby tells a crowd at an industrial forestry forum in Brewer that camp leases on her new land will not be continued indefinitely.

2004

April

— A group of park backers hopes to overcome “acrimony and stridency of the past” by joining RESTORE and advocating for a national park feasibility study. The Maine Woods Coalition, which opposes a park, estimates that half of the 3.2 million acres is already environmentally protected.

October

— A month after stepping down as CEO of Burt’s Bees, Quimby tells a business forum in Belfast that state government did little to support her company.

2008

May

— Five camp lease owners say they will lose their camps on Quimby land overlooking the Penobscot River’s East Branch because she plans to terminate their leases.

2010

October

— Quimby is appointed to the National Park Foundation board of directors. Some see her appointment as a victory for conservation, others fear it will give her plan an unfair advantage.

2011

March

— Quimby tells The Associated Press she plans to give more than 70,000 acres near Baxter to the National Park Service for a national park. She also seeks to set aside 30,000 acres to be managed like a state park, with hunting and snowmobiling allowed.

September

— Quimby offers several snowmobile clubs five years of access to trails on her land in exchange for support for her park plan, an offer that plan opponents call coercive. The clubs have honored their agreements with Quimby, and the agreements don’t include favoring a park, members say.

October

— In an interview for Forbes.com, Quimby calls Maine “a welfare state” that has a large population of obese and elderly people and whose major landowners are committed to a forest products industry model that hasn’t worked in years. Critics describe Quimby’s views as outdated and demeaning.

December

— An independent poll conducted by a Portland research firm shows that 60 percent of Mainers support a park feasibility study. Katahdin leaders say local feelings should outweigh others, given the park’s proximity.

2012

August

— Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, appears as her successor leading the park campaign.

2013

February

— St. Clair announces that studies commissioned by Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the Quimby family’s company, show a 75,000-acre national park or recreation area would create 450-1,055 jobs. He begins more than two years of low-key meetings.

September

— In hopes of luring park support from sportsmen, St. Clair announces he would immediately open 40,000 acres of his family’s land to hunting and other “traditional” activities and another 60,000 to low-impact recreation.

2014

December

— The Penobscot Indian Nation endorses the park, saying it would protect the Penobscot River and associated waterways as the tribe has “since time immemorial.”

2015

February

— Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, effectively revitalizes the campaign when Millinocket officials announce that he seeks the conditions they would require to support a park.

March

— More than 200 state businesses endorse a 150,000-acre park and recreation area. The endorsement follows a Bangor City Council vote to support the park.

June

— Park opponents bring forward several landowners who say the campaign is misleading the public by releasing maps that show their land within the 150,000-acre boundaries. The campaign’s spokesman in response confirms that the Quimby family owns about 87,500 acres east of Baxter. A later rally features the release of a petition showing park opposition from 224 forest-products businesses.

— The demonstrations help park opponents win nonbinding referendums in East Millinocket and Medway. The campaign responds by going statewide.

November

— St. Clair confirms that a New York lobbyist met federal officials to secure a national monument designation for his family’s lands as an interim step toward securing a park.

— U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, release a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to use federal authority to aid the region’s economy but to refrain from signing an executive order creating a monument.

— Poliquin submits legislation to Congress requiring approval from host governors and state legislatures before designating national monuments.

2016

February

— Gov. Paul LePage says the federal government should reject the park plan because of the park service’s $11.9 billion deferred maintenance deficit. Two days later he announces that Maine will establish access to state property surrounded by Quimby-owned lands for logging operations.

March

— King asks park service Director Jonathan Jarvis to come to Maine. Two days later, King tours the Katahdin region and says the park service needs to answer more questions before he decides whether to support a monument.

April

— The Legislature votes to enact LePage’s bill banning the creation of a Maine national monument, a move seen as largely symbolic.

— Patten residents oppose a park in a nonbinding referendum.

— The anonymous donation of a 1,441-acre Schoodic Woods parcel to Acadia National Park ignites controversy about local oversight of federally protected lands.

May

— About 1,400 people, mostly monument supporters, make their feelings known to King and Jarvis at a forum at the University of Maine.

June

— Poliquin and a visiting Republican congressman raise concerns that the Quimby lands are not built for tourist traffic that would mix dangerously with logging trucks.

August

— Quimby’s company transfers more than 87,000 acres to the federal government, indicating that a North Woods national monument designation is coming. Obama signs an executive order creating the monument a day later. Park service officials arrive in the region a day after that, as promised, and soon open an office in Millinocket and take up space in the Patten Lumberman’s Museum.

— Eventual Katahdin Woods Superintendent Tim Hudson meets with local residents and begins what he calls a three-year journey toward developing a monument management plan that includes input from all stakeholders.

September

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visits Maine and paddles the East Branch of the Penobscot River with St. Clair. Jewell promises that park officials will do everything they can to allay local concerns about the monument.

— The Board of Directors of the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum votes to allow the park service to keep an information table at the museum. A sign of the lingering dismay at the executive order, an unidentified donor had threatened to pull his support from the museum. The threat came two days after the designation. The monument is about 5 miles west of the museum, which is on Shin Pond Road.

— Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell releases a three-page open letter warning that Katahdin Woods visitors will cross the shared boundary with the park and imperil areas left largely untouched since Theodore Roosevelt visited them in 1879. Baxter strives to limit access to about 75,000 visitors annually, but the National Park Service, Bissell says, advocates “continuing expanded use.” Park service workers pledge to work with Baxter.

All-terrain vehicles are barred from monument land until Patten ATV Club and federal officials can reach an agreement over access.

October

— Some Patten-area businesses report an uptick in customers due, they say, to monument visitors.

November

— President Donald Trump is elected. Republicans in Congress begin pushing to abolish monuments created by his predecessor, but it remains unclear whether the law grants presidents that power. St. Clair threatens to withdraw $40 million in private funds — a $20 million endowment and $20 million the Quimbys hope to raise — if the monument is abolished.

— The monument Loop Road closes for the season. Hudson reports that its last traffic count registers 1,762 vehicles for the year, including 1,215 after Obama issued the executive order. That total count exceeds the 2010 census estimates of the populations of East Millinocket, 1,723 people; Medway, 1,349; Patten, 1,017; Sherman, 848; and Mount Chase, 201. The largest town in the Katahdin region, Millinocket, had a population of 4,506 residents, according to the 2010 census.

— In a sign of the continued strength of the forest products industry, Canopy Timberlands, LLC, sells two major blocks of forestland totaling more than 290,000 acres to Tall Timber Trust, for commercial forestry. One tract begins less than 10 miles north of Baxter State Park, starting at Millinocket Lake.

2017

January

— Millionaire philanthropist Gilbert Butler, founder of the Butler Conservation Fund, announces plans to build a $5 million outdoor education facility near Baxter and the monument, with hopes of opening it later in the year. Butler’s interest in the region predates the designation by five years, but the monument adds to the attractiveness of the investment, he says. Mainers not exposed to outdoor activities will be taught kayaking and other recreations at the center.

February

— In a two-page letter, LePage asks Trump to reverse the monument executive order and return the land to private ownership “before economic damage occurs and traditional recreational pursuits are diminished.” Southern Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, Collins and King urge LePage to back off. Poliquin is noncommittal.

— St. Clair helps form and is elected president of a monument advocacy group, the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters.

March

— The founder of Patagonia, a California-based outdoor clothing retailer fighting to save a national monument in Utah, slams LePage as part of extending the company’s efforts to protect Maine’s national monument.

April

Theodore Roosevelt IV slams LePage’s two-page letter and its use of a quote from Roosevelt’s great, great, great-grandfather, President Theodore Roosevelt, about “those cold timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.” Roosevelt calls LePage “an American character” whose “bluster roars out of Maine as though the north wind sired him.”

President Trump signs an executive order that appears to include Katahdin Waters as among the monuments created since 1996 that will be reviewed by the Department of the Interior for their legality under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Attorneys general since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt have said that the Act does not allow for the rescinding of monument designations, but the Trump administration has said it believes that a clause in the law that confines monuments to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected” could allow for reversals.

May

— LePage and St. Clair testify to a U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the national monument. Both give vastly differing accounts on the impact of the monument upon northern Maine and the process that created it.

Nineteen Katahdin-area leaders, including many former opponents, write Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke asking him to do “everything in your power to ensure that this monument is a success.”

— LePage bans monument signs from state roads until the federal review is complete. Critics slam the decision as mean-spirited. Some residents make signs. State workers confiscate at least one, citing safety concerns.

— Delayed by muddy conditions, the monument opens completely for its first full year on May 25. Attendance is sparse. Its northern entrance had opened 12 days earlier.

June

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin calls upon Zinke to recommend that the state take control of Maine’s national monument, regardless of whether Trump rescinds Obama’s executive order. Poliquin’s three-page letter says that “Maine knows best how to manage its land and abundant natural resources.” Zinke sought Poliquin’s opinion for his review.

— Speaking before the House Interior Appropriations Committee, Zinke announces plans to visit the monument. “I can’t wait to see it. My understanding is that I am going to go canoeing, which is something that Maine is known for,” he says.

July

Natural Resources Council of Maine announces that their research reveals that a ll but 67 of the 192,052 comments about Maine’s monument submitted to Interior’s website from May 11 to July 4 supported it. Critics scoff, saying that many comments appear bogus — “zombie messengers who are spewing out form letters from NRCM and the Sierra Club and other big-money organizations.”

— A dozen representatives of local loggers, landowners, truckers and National Park Service officials discuss how they are working to prevent crashes on the private roads leading to the monument. That many are in poor shape is evident. State emergency responders express confidence that they can access the monument parcels.

Maine Beer Co. of Freeport announces that it is holding the first major fundraiser to help Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters and St. Clair raise $20 million for park maintenance, a $100 per ticket fundraiser for which 200 tickets will be sold. The event is set for Aug. 24, the monument’s one year anniversary date.

August

— Patten opens the new Patten Gateway to the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway, which includes a kiosk with local history displays and a map of the 89-mile tourist route. The grant-funded station is meant primarily to advertise the byway, but also highlights its connection to the monument.

— Sources briefed by Zinke tell the BDN that he advised Trump to retain the monument as a federal property but to order “some changes on allowable uses.” This quashes anti-monument hopes that it would be abolished or given to the state to manage.

September

― The Washington Post reports that a leaked summary of Zinke’s report to the president recommends that Katahdin Woods be opened to commercial forestry. The summary is marked “draft deliberative — not for distribution.”

October

― St. Clair announces his candidacy for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, saying his experience running the monument campaign was a key element in his decision. If he tops a June Democratic primary field, St. Clair would challenge Poliquin. Ten days later, St. Clair and his wife, Yemaya, finalize the purchase of a home in Hampden valued at $430,800.

November

― Monument Superintendent Hudson announces the closing of Katahdin Woods’s main Loop Road for the season and says that the monument will, as a conservative estimate, likely draw at least 15,000 visitors by the end of the year, more than four times the number drawn during its first season.

December

― Secretary of the Interior Zinke confirms the essence of the Washington Post leak that Katahdin Woods will not be reduced in size, and says that commercial forestry will not be allowed within its borders. His use of the term “active timber management” cited in the Post story refers only to healthy forest management practices, despite the term’s more typically being thought of as a reference to commercial woodcutting. Zinke is against environmental preservationism, which would entail allowing forests to grow without thinning, wildfire protection or control of blight.

 


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