November 14, 2019
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This could be the week we finally learn the fate of Maine’s monument

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is expected to issue recommendations this week telling President Donald Trump what he should do with 27 national monuments, including Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Trump sought the review of the monuments created since 1996, calling them a “massive federal land grab” that ignored the will of the people.

Zinke has already effectively “cleared” six of the 27 monuments, saying that he will recommend Trump leave them untouched.

Speculation is widespread, but no one really knows what the Trump administration will do.

Several national news outlets listed Katahdin Woods and Waters among the monuments for which Zinke could suggest the greatest changes. But the publications, including The New York Times, USA Today and Science magazine, don’t say much about why the monument is on that list.

“I think everybody’s laid their case out there and we will see what the secretary and the president want to do,” said Bob Meyers, executive director of Maine Snowmobile Association, which opposes the monument.

Zinke’s recommendation is due on the first anniversary of the monument, which has been the subject of bitter debate over the future of Maine’s north woods.

Zinke hinted during a June visit to Maine that he wouldn’t advise the president to reduce the size of the monument or rescind Obama’s order, though he might suggest Congress consider making it a national park.

Legal scholars have said that presidents lack the authority to eliminate monuments, although two presidents have shrunk them, and only Congress can create national parks.

Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the 87,462-acres east of Baxter State Park, reiterated his position when he said Monday that he doesn’t expect anything to change. Proponents have said the monument is a crucial element in the revitalization of the dormant Katahdin region economy.

The monument and its designation process, he said, met the tenets of Trump’s April 26 executive order seeking the review.

“We have done everything we can to engage the community,” St. Clair said Monday.

Yet the Antiquities Act of 1906, which allows a president to create monuments, stipulates that they have the smallest possible footprint, which might give Trump legal grounds for shrinking Katahdin Woods.

The deeds transferring St. Clair’s family lands specified that the parcels go to the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service — effectively tying Trump’s hands, St. Clair said.

St. Clair said that if Trump does rescind or significantly alter Katahdin Woods, he won’t sue the federal government, but he would cooperate with those who do. Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills and the California-based outdoor clothing chain Patagonia are among those who have said they would challenge Trump in court.

St. Clair has also said that he would rescind something himself — his family’s promise of $40 million in fundraising and endowments for park operations and future needs.

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