PORTLAND, Maine >> The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument created by Democratic former President Barack Obama doesn’t comprise enough land to trigger an automatic review under an executive order signed today by Republican President Donald Trump.
But it could be scrutinized nonetheless if the interior secretary determines the federal land designation on 87,500 acres was made “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”
Trump accused the previous administration of turning a 1906 law that lets the president protect federal land into a “massive federal land grab.”
Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who previously called Obama’s creation of Katahdin Woods and Waters a “terrible decision,” joined several members of Congress in watching the president formally sign the executive order that triggers the review of dozens of federal monument designations.
Such land is generally off limits to timber harvesting, mining and pipelines and commercial development. Many national parks, including Maine’s Acadia National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, started with monument status.
But there was confusion because the order applied to land exceeding 100,000 acres and the smaller Maine monument was left off a Trump administration list of 24 larger monuments targeted for review.
The Maine land designation still could be reviewed, however, if Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke finds local residents were left out of the process.
“The secretary has not yet made a determination on any monument but he is very interested in listening to the concerns of the people most affected,” said Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift.
LePage took to Twitter today to make his thoughts on the matter clear.
“Local referendums, county commissioners, Legislature voted against Katahdin Woods,” he tweeted. “Didn’t have adequate public outreach.”
Obama created the Maine monument last summer on privately donated land east of Baxter State Park, home to Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain.
Regardless of the outcome of Trump’s review, it’s unclear if the president can undo such a land designation. The Antiquities Act doesn’t give the president power to dissolve a monument designation by a previous president. So far, no president has ever taken such a step.
In northern Maine, critics fear federal ownership could stymie economic development in the Katahdin region. But supporters are hoping for an economic boost from the people visiting the region to see the land.
In the Katahdin region, local officials were left to wonder about what happens next. Millinocket Town Council Chairman Michael Madore said he’d be discussing the matter with fellow councilors Thursday.
“I find the latest development in the debate whether to overturn the monument disturbing because of the uncertainty,” he said.
The land east of Baxter State Park was bought by Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, whose foundation donated it to the federal government.
Her son, Lucas St. Clair, urged the governor this week to pay a visit to the land before declaring it to be unworthy of federal protection.
Peter Steele, the governor’s communications director, said LePage knows the area because he used to work in the forest products industry.
“The governor knows the back ways and logging roads of the Maine forest better than the state troopers who used to patrol Aroostook, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties,” Steele said.