Maine’s monument fight is nothing compared to Utah’s

Posted March 09, 2017, at 1 a.m.
Last modified March 09, 2017, at 9:27 a.m.

Google and a major outdoor clothing retailer are producing a high-tech film and publicity campaign to save a new national monument in Utah, but the North Woods monument’s leading advocate doesn’t expect a similarly high-profile push to discourage President Donald Trump from getting rid of Maine’s controversial landmark.

Lucas St. Clair, president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, applauds Patagonia for opposing Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s signing of a bill urging Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument.

The son of Burt’s Bees entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, St. Clair led the campaign that culminated with President Barack Obama’s executive order creating the 87,563-acre monument east of Baxter State Park on Aug. 24. Obama signed an order creating the 1.35 million-acre Utah monument on Dec. 28. Quimby worked to create a national park in northern Maine since at least 2001.

The Bears Ears designation is opposed by the Utah Legislature, which wrote the resolution Herbert signed. Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s effort, a letter to Trump seeking to have him reverse Obama’s order creating the monument in Maine, is opposed by most of the state’s federal delegation and has seemingly drawn little support, St. Clair said.

“I think it’s important to keep this on the local level and let our advocates in the state [do their work]. I don’t know if we need a big glossy media campaign at this point,” St. Clair said Wednesday.

Patagonia released a video, “ This is Bears Ears National Monument,” powered by Google’s 360 technology, on Tuesday. The 10 short films within it highlight the cultural and economic significance of the desert monument. The two companies touted their production in a banner advertisement atop the New York Times website on Wednesday.

The California-based Patagonia also has threatened to pull out of Utah and canceled its participation in a major outdoor trade show in Utah, with company President Rose Marcario releasing a blistering condemnation of the Utah resolution, which Herbert signed Friday.

The resolution, Marcario said via the company’s website, makes it clear “that he [Herbert] and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits — $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs — that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state.”

Managed by the National Forest Service, Bears Ears is in the “center of the southeastern Utah landscape,” according to Obama’s executive order. Utah has been one of the nation’s biggest battlegrounds over the president’s executive orders, with federal representatives from that state calling for a peeling back of the executive authority that allowed Obama to create Bears Ears, which is named after two mesas.

It remains unclear whether presidents can abolish national monuments, but Congress can.

The Katahdin Woods monument doesn’t have a publicity campaign, but it soon will have a documentary on its creation. “ The Mountain and the Magic City” is a feature-length documentary in production that aims, co-director and producer Ben Severance said, for an objective, balanced examination of the multiyear struggle.

“We are striving to show the humanity of people on both sides of the process,” Severance said.

The documentary will be submitted to film festivals in early September, he said. Severance and co-director Bridget Besaw eventually hope the film will gain theaters and Netflix release.

“We are hoping to have screenings in the region, that it will be a tool for bringing people together,” Severance said.

A member of Maine’s federal delegation who opposed the monument, Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, hasn’t given up the fight against executive orders he believes have over reached. He plans to resubmit to Congress a bill he initially introduced in 2015 that would require executive orders creating monuments to first have approval from host governors and state legislatures, spokesman Brendan Conley said Wednesday.

“This bill will clarify designations so that they have to go through a more democratic process and not a unilateral process,” Conley said.

It cannot legally apply to Katahdin Woods and Waters.

Gail Fanjoy, president of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Friends group, said that while most Katahdin region residents seem to have accepted the monument, “I do believe there are people still behind the scenes working against the monument.”

“I have to believe the governor didn’t just dream up this letter to Trump,” Fanjoy said.

St. Clair said he is busying himself with Friends activities. His family’s foundation, meanwhile, has literally bankrolled monument road repairs and other activities with “the better part of about $250,000 right now.”

Congress has not yet added the monument to its National Park Service budget. The park service is paying only for the salaries of the people working directly for it on monument business, St. Clair said.

 

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