March 12, 2019
WASHINGTON D.C. – The President today signed a public lands package into law that includes language authored by U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to address issues raised by communities near Acadia National Park (ANP). Specifically, the law clarifies about boundary issues affecting ANP and the surrounding communities, protects the use of intertidal zones by harvesters of clams and worms, and permanently reauthorizes the Acadia National Park Commission, among other provisions. The bill also permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a conservation and outdoor recreation program that has long benefited the State of Maine.
The legislation passed Senate by a vote of 92 to 8 in February, and the House by a vote of 363-62 later that month.
“The President’s signature of this law is a significant milestone for the residents of communities surrounding Acadia National Park,” said Senators King and Collins. “Acadia is one of our state’s most precious natural treasures and a key driver of the regional economy. This newly-signed law takes many important steps to clarify important questions surrounding ANP’s border, asserts that Maine clammers and wormers can continue to earn a living by working in the intertidal zone, and permanently reauthorizes the Acadia National Park Commission so the body can continue to facilitate important dialogues between the park and the surrounding communities. Through these actions, we can ensure that Acadia National Park will continue to be a good neighbor and a vital part of the Mount Desert Island community for years to come.”
In 2015, ANP was deeded more than 1,400 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula by an anonymous donor. This gift was welcomed by the local towns and communities. It was only after the land was transferred to ANP that the NPS informed the public that the legal authority they used for the transfer came from a 1929 law that many in the Bar Harbor area believed had been repealed in 1986, after successful efforts to pass a law that set boundary limits on the park. The boundary law was crafted due to growing concerns about the size of the park and its impact on the tax bases.
Further, harvesters of clams and worms in the intertidal zone near ANP raised concerns that they would not be able to continue their traditional harvesting due to enforcement measures taken by the NPS. While the NPS has come to an agreement to allow these traditional harvests to continue, this legislation would ensure that this traditional harvest can continue uninhibited into the future.
Senators King and Collins’ bill originated when the local towns and residents voiced concern upon learning that ANP relied on the 1929 law for the Schoodic transfer because it could potentially set precedent for the NPS to use it again. Residents contacted the Maine Congressional delegation to express their concern and request a repeal of the 1929 law, while at the same time keeping the Schoodic land transfer. In July 2016, Senators King and Collins introduced a bill in the Senate to resolve the issue. Later, the bill was amended to address other concerns regarding Acadia National Park, including lifting restrictions on a parcel in Tremont and allowing for traditional harvesting of clams and worms to continue.