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May 25, 2017

King Urges Interior Secretary to Reaffirm Designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

In a letter sent today, King says extensive public input helped create the Monument and it is already beginning to reap economic benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior urging him “in the strongest possible terms” to let the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument stand. In his letter, Senator King asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to complete the review promptly and outlined the extensive public input that was considered over a span of several years prior to the Monument’s designation and highlighted the economic boost it has provided for the region.

“I know that this Administration is serious about growing jobs in rural areas; I am absolutely convinced that the prompt conclusion of this review and reaffirmation of the Monument designation would be a positive step in this direction,” Senator King wrote. “I therefore urge Interior to work with the community and help the KWW Monument to move forward. This Monument is some of the first positive news for the Katahdin region in a long time; please don’t let it be taken away.”

Additionally, Senator King, who has previously said that the review is unnecessary and a step backward, told Secretary Zinke in the letter that he has heard that the review is having an “economically chilling effect” on the region, which has caused many local elected officials who had previously opposed the Monument to reverse their positions and work towards it success.

The complete text of Senator King’s letter can be read HERE and is below:

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May 25, 2017

 

The Honorable Ryan Zinke

Secretary

U.S. Department of Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

 

Dear Secretary Zinke:

I write today regarding the Katahdin Woods and Waters (KWW) National Monument that is currently under review following the President’s Executive Order (EO) 13792 and urge in the strongest possible terms that the review be completed promptly and the designation reconfirmed.

After the EO, the Department of Interior released a list of monuments it would consider under review. The KWW Monument appeared to receive special attention as the solitary monument listed that is under 100,000 acres in the special category of “National Monuments being reviewed to determine whether the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”  It is worth noting that since 1996, 29 monuments have been designated that consist of less than 100,000 acres, yet the adequacy of the public outreach or stakeholder coordination of none of these monuments is being questioned – with the one exception of KWW.

As David Bernhardt, nominee for the Deputy Secretary of Interior, recently stated during an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, adequate public outreach prior to a monument establishment would mean that, “public meetings were held, the views of the state representatives, the views of congressional representatives were all part of making an informed decision,” and would also include the views of local businesses and the public at large.  I couldn’t agree more.  The KWW Monument, created through the private donation of land, had years of public input and stakeholder outreach leading up to the designation in August 2016, including but not limited to the following interactions:

-       Interior Secretary Salazar first visited the area in August 2011, five years prior to the Monument designation, to hear from people in the Katahdin region about the proposed donation to the Department of Interior at a gathering that was reported to have more than 300 people where he stated that, “there will be nothing done with this process that does not include the people in this region.” 

-       In 2012 Lucas St. Clair, son of the owner of the property that was to be donated, began community outreach with four focus groups in Millinocket, 80 in-depth interviews with stakeholders, and state-wide polling. He continued to have countless local meetings and sit-downs with area residents right up to the date of the designation.  

-       In March of 2015, more than 200 state businesses endorsed a 150,000-acre park and recreation area. 

-       In April 2015, Governor LePage sent a letter to President Obama opposing the establishment of a 150,000 acre National Park and Recreation Area.

-       In June of that year, Park opponents of a Park won public non-binding referendums in East Millinocket and Medway.

-       Prior to the designation, the Katahdin Area and Greater Houlton Chambers of Commerce endorsed the Monument. 

-       In November 2015, the congressional delegation submitted a letter to the President outlining the conditions that should be met if a monument were to be established in the area.  By and large, these conditions have been or are being met. 

-       In May 2016, I hosted National Park Service Director Jarvis at a three-hour meeting in Millinocket with elected officials from all of the towns near the proposed Monument; members of the general public were also present at this meeting and were invited to ask questions or offer comments.

-       Director Jarvis later the same day hosted an open forum at the University of Maine where he answered questions and heard from hundreds of constituents on their support or concerns about the Monument, with the first statement coming from the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel.  Every person desiring to address Director Jarvis at this forum, which lasted for more than three hours, was given the opportunity to do so. 

-       As a result of these meetings with Director Jarvis in May, hundreds of comment cards were submitted to the Department of Interior, the vast majority of which were in support of the Monument. I urge you to review the files on this Monument at the Department, which will also help demonstrate the amount of public comment received.

-       Later in June, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in E. Millinocket where witnesses included Gov. LePage and Congressman Bruce Poliquin. Following the official witness testimony, many members of the public voiced their opinion of the Monument, the majority of whom were in support.

In short, there was extensive public input over a period of more than five years prior to the Monument designation, and a great deal of this input (such as the allowance of hunting and snowmobiling on a portion of the property) was incorporated in the final proclamation.  It is hard to imagine a process involving a higher level of public outreach and engagement than took place in this case.

Unfortunately, the mere presence of the KWW Monument on Interior’s review list is having an economically chilling effect in the Katahdin region, where real signs of new economic activity as a result of the designation are being seen.  I have heard directly from many businesses in the area, including hardware store owners, lumber retailers, grocery store owners, recreational equipment suppliers, lodge and inn operators, and realtors, who all state that, over the period starting with the designation of the Monument last August until recently, there has been a notable and significant economic uptick in the region.  Yet, despite this upturn, we have also heard that some banks, concerned about the permanency of the KWW Monument designation, are reluctant to grant loans to businesses in the area that are looking to expand, solely due to the uncertainty created by the Monument being on the review list.  These and other factors have caused many local elected officials who had previously opposed the Monument to send a letter to Interior opposing the review of the KWW Monument. Their letter encourages Interior “to do everything in your power to ensure that this Monument is a success.” I have attached that letter for your review.

I know that this Administration is serious about growing jobs in rural areas; I am absolutely convinced that the prompt conclusion of this review and reaffirmation of the Monument designation would be a positive step in this direction.  I therefore urge Interior to work with the community and help the KWW Monument to move forward. This Monument is some of the first positive news for the Katahdin region in a long time; please don’t let it be taken away.

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