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LePage, in DC, Casts Cloud Over New National Monument

A congressional committee heard testimony on Tuesday from Gov. Paul LePage, who raised questions about the value of designating the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. (J. Sheaffer)
A congressional committee heard testimony on Tuesday from Gov. Paul LePage, who raised questions about the value of designating the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. (J. Sheaffer)
May 3, 2017

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Maine Gov. Paul LePage fired another shot on Tuesday in the nation's capital against the recently-designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

LePage was among several who testified before a congressional committee that is examining presidential authority to create national monuments.

Jeremy Sheaffer, Maine State Director for The Wilderness Society, attended the hearing. Sheaffer took issue with LePage's claim that tourists won't want to visit the monument because it sits on cut-over forestland populated by mosquitoes.

"And not to head over 'mosquito area,' that's an insult to the Katahdin region," Sheaffer stated. "The fact that the governor has no idea where tourism ranks in terms of money brought into the state - which ranks number one - is just a little bit shocking."

According to Sheaffer, in addition to increased tourism, real-estate prices are going up and businesses have been expanding since President Barack Obama designated the monument last year.

LePage said he also was concerned about the fire dangers posed by the increase in activity on public lands.

Le Page testified before the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The committee is chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who is an outspoken opponent of the Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the authority to protect national monuments.

Sheaffer said while it is true that some people opposed the monument when it was proposed, many in the region have changed their minds and now support the designation, in part because it is generating positive economic benefit.

"The New England Outdoor Center, which is a phenomenal facility, had an 81 percent increase in business this past winter. We have a $5 million investment for a new outdoor center next to the national monument," he explained. "So, the only thing that this is doing is casting a cloud over that, unnecessarily."

LePage also testified that the National Park Service sided with special interests over the views of Maine residents in designating the monument. But Sheaffer pointed to the five years of public outreach on Katahdin, and said some of the hearings were among the best attended in the nation.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME