Looks like the National Park Service got a new present for its 100th birthday. On Wednesday, August 24, President Obama announced that the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument would become the 413th unit of the National Park Service. Roxanne Quimby and her nonprofit Elliotsville Plantation Inc. donated 87,500 acres, $20 million for operational needs and an additional $20 million for future goals with the monument.
“Through this incredibly generous private gift for conservation, these lands will remain accessible to current and future generations of Americans, ensuring the rich history of Mainers’ hunting, fishing and recreation heritage will forever be preserved,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in a press release.
Some locals fear that the monument, located in the north woods of Maine next to Baxter State Park, will not generate the economic or population growth the surrounding cities need to thrive. Neighboring towns Milinocket and East Millinocket (affectionately known as “The Mills”) have been declining economically ever since the booming Great Northern Paper Company closed in 2011. While a park might spark enough jobs and attraction to keep The Mills progressing, some Mainers feel that a monument is simply not enough.
“Our economy is in free fall. Unemployment exceeds the national average. You have excess housing stock. The projection is that 2030 the population will decline by another 30 percent if we do nothing,” said Anita Mueller, a former Millinocket councilwoman in a USA Today article.
The White House, however, seems to believe the monument will increase jobs and attract tourists to enjoy the gifts the Katahdin Woods has to offer. Such benefits and activities include “the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe, and cross-country ski,” as the White House stated.
Whichever viewpoint nature lovers take in regards to this new monument, it is certain that the state of Maine is flooded with natural beauties and the National Park Service is eager to preserve all it has protected for the last one-hundred years.
McGee Nall is a travel intern with Paste and a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.