On the eve of the National Parks Centennial (tomorrow, August 25th), the Obama Administration announced the addition of Katahdin Woods National Monument to the National Parks system.
Katahdin is located in Maine. It’s east of Baxter State Park, and it's home to 875,000 acres of land and rivers rich in a biodiversity that can be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, kayakers, hunters, fishermen and anyone looking to breathe a sigh of relief.
It’s a $100 million gift from the Quimby family, who own Burt’s Bees. At double the size of Acadia National Park, the Monument will be governed by the Park Service and protected from private and industrial concerns.
Not all monuments are governed by the parks. They can also be governed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and even the Department of Defense.
If you're wondering what the technical difference between a National Park and a National Monument is, you're not alone. Here's the skinny: Land is deemed a National Park for its scenic, recreational and educational value. It’s governed by the National Park system and is completely preserved and managed solely for the enjoyment of the people. Only Congress can designate a National Park.
And that’s the key reason for the National Monument status of Katahdin: Presidents can designate National Monuments, but Obama knew he couldn’t get Katahdin on the Parks list without help (from Congress ... good luck with that). National Monuments are deemed worthy because of their historical, cultural and scenic interests. The Statue of Liberty is a National Monument. But so are some tracts of land, like Katahdin.
Maine governor Paul LePage actually denounced Katahdin's new status, calling the donation an “ego play for Roxanne Quimby and Sen. Angus King," before going on to say that it's "sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.”
Why is LePage is so adamantly opposed to the initiative? As reported by the Portland Press Herald, there is a fear among rural Mainers that government interference "could hamper industrial redevelopment in the area while leading to restrictions on outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, hunting and trapping."
Supporters, meanwhile, will point to the fact that studies have shown that every dollar spent on our parks generates $10 for the local community; since its inception in 1919, Acadia National Park has generated roughly $250 million annually for Mainers. And that’s just the obvious financial benefit. There are also the longer-term environmental benefits and health benefits, such as the fact that visiting the woods improves your immune system and mental state.
And thusly, we'd like raise a glass to the charity of the Quimbys, the skill of our current administration, and the beauty of Mother Nature.