Date: May 17, 2016
Contact: Jeffrey Olson, 202-208-6843
WASHINGTON –On Monday, National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan B. Jarvis joined U.S. Senator Angus King to meet with elected officials in the Millinocket area and to attend a public meeting at the University of Maine in Orono. Their joint appearances were scheduled so that Mainers could voice their opinions on a proposed donation of private lands in the Katahdin region that could result in a new unit of the national park system.
Jarvis thanked Sen. King for the invitation to visit the Katahdin region, his third trip to the area since becoming NPS director in 2009. Jarvis met with the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce in the morning and then joined Senator King to meet with elected officials in East Millinocket at noon at a meeting attended by community members.The public meeting in the evening in Orono included participants from the Katahdin region and across the state, who shared their thoughts about the proposed donation.
"Hearing from North, South, East, West and Central Mainers about this proposal provides important context as I consider my recommendations regarding a possible new national park site in the North Woods of Maine," said Jarvis.
The Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., (EPI) has proposed to donate about 87,500 acres of land to the National Park Service for a new national monument. The land EPI owns lies on both sides of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, east of Baxter State Park.
Jarvis toured the property on Sunday and emphasized its significance when a commenter at Monday's public meeting at the Collins Center on the University of Maine campus –questioned whether the land was worthy of inclusion in the national park system.
"The land in the North Woods area proposed for donation absolutely fits the National Park Service's criteria for national park sites, including suitability, feasibility and national significance. There is no other representative landscape like the North Woods in the national park system," said Jarvis. "The long history of philanthropic giving in the National Park System developed here in Maine, with the gifts of land from John D. Rockefeller that created today's Acadia National Park, and that tradition is alive and well today across the country. The people of Maine should be proud of this nationally significant natural and cultural landscape and the legacy of philanthropic conservation that took root here."
The Katahdin region is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and home to a wide diversity of wildlife and contains spectacular mountains, important historical resources, and areas of great cultural significance.
Several comments at the public meetings mentioned potential loss of snowmobile trails in the Katahdin region. The proposal from EPI would include continuation of traditional activities like snowmobiling, hunting, and fishing if the site becomes a part of the National Park System. The proposal includes a permanent trail to provide stability to recreational riders and to businesses that cater to and support this popular tourist activity.
The proposal also includes what Jarvis called an unprecedented $40 million endowment - $20 million on the day a national monument is created and another $20 million to be raised in three years. The endowment would help fund park operations and maintenance –a concern repeated during Monday's meetings in light of the $11.9 billion maintenance backlog in the national park system. Funds from the endowment could also be used to build initial visitor contact services.
At least three-quarters of the near capacity audience in the Collins Center appeared to favor establishment of a national monument.About 200 meeting attendees arrived on buses from Portland, Falmouth/Topsham, Hallowell/Augusta, Rockland/Belfast, Bethel and Patten/Medway and about 1000 people arrived independently. In addition to the people who spoke during the day's meetings, hundreds of people left written comments and questions.
Asked at a post-meeting news conference Monday night if he has made up his mind and was ready to make a recommendation to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell who would consult with President Obama, Jarvis said, "I have a lot to think about and a big stack of comment cards to read before I make a recommendation."
A link to EPI's Maine Woods park proposal is here.
A map of the EPI land is available here.
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