December 18, 2017
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Leaked report advises Trump to open Maine monument to commercial forestry

By Nick Sambides, BDN Staff
Updated:
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Katahdin can be seen from an outlook on the Katahdin Loop Road in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke advised President Donald Trump to open Maine’s national monument to commercial forestry, according to a leaked summary of Zinke’s report to the president.

Zinke said the executive order creating Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument “should be amended, through the use of appropriate authority, including lawful exercise of the President’s discretion … to promote a healthy forest through active timber management,” according to the draft summary, which T he Washington Post published late Sunday.

Active timber management typically refers to the cutting of trees for commercial wood sales. Examples of that use include the manufacture of a host of wood products such as wood pellets, paper goods and housing materials.

Any other form of timber management — including forest maintenance and demonstrations of historic logging practices — is already allowed under the executive order that created the monument or National Park Service regulations, officials said.

Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the 87,562 acres east of Baxter State Park to the federal government last year, questioned whether logging is part of active timber management, a term the leaked report does not define.

Park service regulations make clear that commercial forestry is forbidden within monuments and a management plan is being developed that allows for many historic or cultural displays within the monument, if they comply with the regulations, St. Clair said.

“It’s not clear what they are recommending,” St. Clair said Monday. “The report does not define ‘a healthy forest’ or ‘active timber management.’ We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Sources briefed by Zinke when he first gave Trump the leaked report on Aug. 24 said it recommended making “some changes on allowable uses,” including the demonstrations of historic practices. The Trump administration has kept the report secret, despite several Freedom of Information Act requests.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said the report advocates for commercial logging within the monument, an idea he pushed in talks with Zinke over several months. Landowners allowed that before St. Clair’s mother, Roxanne Quimby, bought the land, he said.

“We must ensure that the hundreds of Mainers who make their living in the forest products industry are not impacted by this federal land acquisition,” Poliquin, R-Maine, said in a statement.

Several environmental groups and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills promised to sue to stop the elimination or significant alteration of 27 monuments Trump ordered Zinke to review in April, including Maine’s.

The Natural Resource Council of Maine said it “reserved the option to sue” but found the report vague and didn’t commit to legal action.

Commercial logging “could cause substantial harm to the natural resources protected by the monument and to the economic and recreation benefits” Katahdin Woods and Waters is creating, council Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann said in a statement.

But if Zinke advises timber management that restores “a healthy, natural forest … it could be consistent with the monument’s purpose,” Pohlmann added.

White House spokeswoman Kelly Love downplayed the leak.

“The Trump administration does not comment on leaked documents, especially internal drafts which are still under review by the president and relevant agencies,” Love told the Post.

Monument opponent Gov. Paul LePage will likely wait for an official release of the report or action by Trump before responding, according to Julie Rabinowitz, the governor’s spokeswoman.

The leaked report, which is marked “draft deliberative — not for distribution,” noted that some monuments remain controversial, but others “reflect a long debate process and are largely settled and strongly supported by the local community.”

The 2.6 million comments that the federal government collected for Zinke’s review were “overwhelmingly in favor” of maintaining monuments but “demonstrated a well-organized campaign” by several groups, the report stated.

Trump said he ordered the review because he felt that previous administrations had used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to make land grabs. He tasked Zinke with determining the legality of monument creations or expansions since 1996.

Critics said the vague report is sadly consistent with the secretive, and slipshod, way Zinke’s review has been handled.

“This whole review process by the Trump administration has been a waste of taxpayer money from the get go,” said Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine state director of The Wilderness Society.

“More anxiety and no clarity,” said Patten Selectman Richard Schmidt, a monument supporter. “The wait for more specifics continues.”


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