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May 15, 2024

Chairman King Touts Impact, Support of Katahdin Access Bill

National Parks Associate Director tells Senator that the legislation is a “priority”

To watch or download the exchange click here

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, today led a Subcommittee hearing with National Park Service (NPS) Associate Director of Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands, Michael Caldwell, to discuss a range of challenges and opportunities facing America’s iconic public recreation areas. During the hearing, Chairman King pressed Caldwell on the importance of improving access to Katahdin Woods and Waters (KWW) National Monument.

Senator King recently reintroduced refined text of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Access Act to authorize additional access points to KWW by giving the National Park Service (NPS) permission to acquire land from willing donors or sellers, either in fees or as an easement. Should NPS exercise its new acquisition authority, it would then use that land to better connect the Monument to the Millinocket region and major roadways – boosting the appeal of the park and economic activity in the region. The additional access would only occur with willing landowners and the bill expressly forbids the use of eminent domain.

Senator King began his opening remarks by discussing the hard work and engagement with the Millinocket stakeholders to ensure that the additional access points help the surrounding community.

“[The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Access Act] is legislation I've produced to provide greater regional access to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Senator Daines will remember that we looked at similar legislation to years ago in the last congress. As a result of that hearing, we heard a lot of feedback from the community and have been working closely with regional stakeholders to modify the legislation significantly based on their suggestions. The result of this engagement is that instead of authorizing a 42,000 acre acquisition, this bill authorizes roughly 2,500 acres, and the change was made at the request of the Trust for Public Lands, which owns the majority of the potential addition, and TPL is separately working to transfer the balance of the adjacent land to the Penobscot Nation as a working forest. As you can see from this map, what we are really talking about here is a road, a road that will connect the town of Millinocket, which is the principal town and community in the region of the national monument, with the monument itself rather than the current pathway to get to the monument, which is a long circuitous route up one side. So, this would be an incredible boon to the economy of that region. And that is why I have been working so hard on this for several years,” Senator King said.

Senator King then asked Caldwell about how the NPS will negotiate the additional land needed for the access way.

Senator King asked, “You testified that you support the legislation I mentioned at the beginning that would improve access to the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument. If it is passed, the Park Service could then negotiate to either purchase the fee of the road or a right-of-way. Given your experience, how long do these kinds of negotiations usually take?”

Well, I think each situation is different, but knowing the players that are involved up at this particular unit, I would guess those discussions have already begun as this legislation was introduced. I don't want to give it a timeline, but certainly with Katahdin Woods in particular, given the proposed legislation and the access that you spoke to earlier, we realize it is a priority, and I know the park staff, regional staff, and lands office staff in the Washington office would take it as priority,” Caldwell responded.

The conversation ended by asking Caldwell about NPS’s ability to provide appropriate maintenance resources to upkeep KWW National Monument.

Thank you. Finally, on this bill, there is a provision that allows the Park Service to acquire up to 10 acres for operations and maintenance. Would this provide sufficient flexibility for you to adequately be able to operate the monument?” Senator King asked.

Caldwell replied, “Yes, certainly. In that particular unit, where we are there to protect the resources and preserve those resources, having the ability to be able to set up administrative facilities on lands outside of that particular boundary will be much more conducive to us to set up that operation and give us an opportunity to make sure those resources we are there to protect stay that way. But also, to be able to-- whether it’s tie-in with local utilities and things like that-- it is a wise way to go.

Senator King responded,” I want to be clear that what this bill does is provide access. It is essentially a road, either ownership of a road or a right-of-way, not significant additional land added to the size of the National Park. We are talking about access, not additions to the acreage of the monument.

Correct. That is correct. This is about access to the National Monument,” Caldwell concluded.

The authorized acquisition in the updated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Access Act is significantly reduced from the 42,000 acres that was proposed last Congress. This change was made at the request of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), which owns the majority of the land that would be involved in a potential transfer. TPL is separately working to transfer the balance of the adjacent land to the Penobscot Nation, as a working forest. Additionally, since the last introduction the State of Maine has acquired the easement necessary for the ATV trail from Millinocket to Medway ensuring there will be no impact on that important east-west connection for ATVs and snowmobiles.   

View a map of the proposed parcels HERE.

As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks and a lifelong advocate for conservation, Senator King has spent decades championing environmental stewardship and advocacy. Senator King was an active participant in discussions to ensure that the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument would not be designated against the will of local citizens. After it became clear that the monument had widespread public backing, supported Maine’s longstanding outdoor traditions, and yielded economic benefits to the region, King pushed against a 2017 Department of the Interior review that threatened to roll back the designation. Senator King previously introduced a version of the Katahdin Woods and Waters Access Act in a previous Congress. Senator King also led the Great American Outdoors Act to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks. For his continued leadership, Senator King was awarded the inaugural National Park Foundation “Hero” Award.


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