MILLINOCKET, Maine (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday reiterated his support for a “made in Maine” solution that keeps intact the boundaries of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
In his final report to the president, Zinke recommended that timbering should be permitted on the property and that infrastructure upgrades and public access for “traditional uses” like snowmobiling and hunting should be prioritized in a management plan.
He held a briefing with reporters a day after Republican President Donald Trump took action to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. Several environmental and conservation organizations and Indian tribes responded with lawsuits.
Trump, who ordered a review of more than a two dozen monument designations, hasn’t signed off on any action regarding Katahdin Woods and Waters.
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Cathy Johnson, from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said Zinke’s statements to reporters and his reports haven’t resolved uncertainty for local residents.
“The implications of these recommendations for Maine’s monument remain unclear, so we cannot fully judge whether these recommendations are acceptable and consistent with the overwhelming view of Maine people, problematic for the intended purpose of this Monument, or illegal and likely to trigger action in the courts,” she said in a statement.
But Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District, said Zinke’s recommendation “strikes the right balance.” He called Zinke’s recommendation “a smart compromise that will help ensure traditional uses of the land and sustainable forest management are safeguarded, along with the jobs they support in the area.”
The 87,500-acre (35,410-hectare) property consists of mountains, streams and ponds next to Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin, the state’s tallest mountain.
Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land, said he remained optimistic that the president would retain the property for future generations.
Nearly 30,000 people visited the monument over the past year despite the fact that Republican Gov. Paul LePage, an opponent of the monument, forbade the Maine Department of Transportation from installing signs directing people to the property.
LePage said he didn’t want to expend resources on promoting the monument until Trump made a final decision on the future of the property.