August 25, 2019
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LePage, St. Clair set for showdown before U.S. House committee on monument

BDN file | BDN
BDN file | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage and leading monument proponent Lucas St. Clair will testify before Congress on Tuesday about whether Maine’s national monument represents a form of presidential abuse of power.

The House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee hearing will be seen live here starting at 10 a.m.

LePage has made no secret of his disdain for the executive order issued by President Barack Obama on Aug. 24, 2016, that placed the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designation upon 87,563 acres east of Baxter State Park. St. Clair’s mother, Burt’s Bees entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, donated the land to the National Park Service.

In a two-page letter dated Feb. 14, the Republican governor asked Trump to reverse the designation “before economic damage occurs and traditional recreational pursuits are diminished.” LePage was on hand when Trump signed an executive order on April 26 telling the U.S. Department of the Interior to review at least two dozen national monuments created by presidential decree. Though Katahdin Woods is not specifically listed among those targeted, some believe it will be reviewed because of a secondary provision in the order.

The order calls for the review of monuments 100,000 acres or larger, created since 1996 by presidents and those, regardless of size, that the Secretary of the Interior determines were designated “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is 87,563 acres, but was created within the timeline Trump specified, and many Katahdin region stakeholders have complained bitterly that their wishes were ignored. St. Clair has said he believes the public outreach from his campaign was more than enough to satisfy Trump’s stipulation.

It is unclear whether Tuesday’s congressional hearing will factor into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s consideration of whether to include Katahdin Woods in the review. His spokeswoman has only said that Zinke could review the monument.

Committee majority members believe the Obama administration stretched the meaning of the Antiquities Act of 1906 by creating or expanding 27 of the nation’s 86 national monuments ― including Maine’s — or other forms of federally-managed land, committee spokeswoman Molly Block said.

Obama used the Antiquities Act 34 times to lock up 553,599,880 acres of land and water as national monuments. This represents 66 percent of all the land and water ever designated as a national monument — more than any other administration in history. Katahdin Woods was the first National Park Service designation Obama created that lacked legislation in Congress establishing the area as an NPS unit or authorizing a special resource study, Block said.

A background memo issued by Block on Monday lists the Maine monument as restricting “traditional recreational uses of the land, including hunting and snowmobiling,” yet the Park Service webpage dedicated to Katahdin Woods lists hunting and snowmobiling as permitted within areas of the site.

When apprised of this, Block clarified that she was referring to a portion of the monument known as the multi-use recreational area, which Quimby and St. Clair created to assuage concerns about the loss of traditional uses of the land in or around the monument.

Less than 40 percent of the total monument lands are allotted for hunting and less than 20 percent for snowmobile usage, Block said.

 



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