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May 18, 2017

King Presses Interior Department Nominee on Review of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed the nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department about the ongoing review of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

In his questioning of the nominee, Mr. David Bernhardt, Senator King asked him what he would consider “adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders” – the standard being used by the Interior Department to review Maine’s National Monument, despite the Department having originally said that only national monuments surpassing 100,000 acres would be reviewed. Katahdin Woods and Waters is 87,500 acres.

            “Well, my expectation would be that public meetings were held, the views of the state representatives, the views of congressional representatives were all part of making an informed decision,” Mr. Bernhardt said.

            “Local businesses?” Senator King questioned as a follow-up, to which Mr. Bernhardt responded: “Of course – local businesses, the public at large.”

            “Open meetings involving the Department of the Interior?” Senator King then asked. “Absolutely, sir,” answered Bernhardt.

In May 2016, then-National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis visited the Katahdin Region and held two meetings regarding the possible designation of a National Monument – one in Millinocket with local elected officials followed by a public meeting in Orono that was attended by an estimated 1,400 people. Between both meetings, elected officials, business owners, and citizens of the state were offered the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Those meetings were also supplemented with a Congressional field hearing that was held in East Millinocket in June 2016 by the House Committee on Natural Resources, during which the thoughts of elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels were solicited, along with the thoughts of Maine people who attended. Furthermore, those three meetings had followed years of public outreach conducted by the land’s owner.

In his opening remarks to Mr. Bernhardt, Senator King noted that Mr. Bernhardt had grown up next to a national monument in Colorado and asked him if it contributed to the economy of the region and if it was a positive driver of economic activity.

            “Absolutely. It is,” Bernhardt answered.

Senator King has previously noted how Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument has begun to yield real economic benefits to the region with no negative impact on the state’s forest products economy. He has expressed concern that the ongoing review will stifle that progress by threatening future investment and hampering economic growth.

He has also noted how, following the public input process, Maine’s National Monument was specifically tailored to honor Maine traditions, which is why recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling are all permitted while in other national monuments they are not.

Senator King has said that the review is “unnecessary” and “only reignites controversy in a region that was beginning to heal and move forward.”

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