The review doesn’t immediately threaten Maine’s monument, but Trump has said the examination will determine whether the executive order creating it exceeded federal law. At issue is whether then-President Barack Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in August “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders,” the Department of Interior said in a statement released Friday.
The agency also plans to launch a formal public comment period on the targeted monuments, according to the statement.
The announcement ended confusion that began when Trump signed an executive order requiring the review on April 26 to determine whether the size and scope of the targeted monuments are within the intent of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The administration did not list Katahdin Woods as under review and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared to exclude it when he said that the review would include monuments that are 100,000 acres or larger.
Katahdin Woods is 87,563 acres but many Katahdin region stakeholders have complained bitterly that their wishes were ignored. Monument proponents have countered that a survey of 500 respondents across the 2nd Congressional District in 2015 showed that 67 percent favored a federal park in northern Maine.
Attorneys general going back to the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt have said that presidents are not legally empowered to rescind executive orders creating monuments. Congress can eliminate monuments through legislation.
But the Trump administration has indicated that reversals might be possible under a clause in the law that confines monuments to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
Monument proponent Lucas St. Clair told a House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee on Tuesday that the Maine monument was reduced from an originally proposed footprint of about 150,000 acres out of regard for the clause Trump cites.
The monument was created after dozens of meetings with stakeholders who shaped it to include ATV riding, hunting and snowmobiling — offerings atypical to monuments. It has already produced benefits for the struggling Katahdin region, whose leaders have accepted it, St. Clair said.
St. Clair could not be reached for comment on Friday. His family, including Burt’s Bees entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, donated the family-owned land east of Baxter State Park to the National Park Service.
Gov. Paul LePage told the subcommittee that he doubted that the monument would ever benefit Maine. He described Obama’s executive order as an example of federal overreach that ignored the will of Katahdin region residents, three town votes, the State Legislature and LePage himself.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, have urged LePage to back off in his fight against the monument, saying rescinding the monument would be a mistake. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican representing northern Maine, has been noncommittal.
The new comment period signals a return of the bitter debate over a federal presence in the North Woods, which dates back to Quimby’s first significant land purchase in 2001.
“I believe this review is unnecessary and only reignites controversy in a region that was beginning to heal and move forward,” King said in a statement released Friday. “I am deeply concerned that this review will stifle that progress by threatening future investments and hampering economic growth when it is needed there now more than ever before.”
Comments on the monument may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.