A mon­u­men­tal is­sue in Maine

North Woods dwellers want Trump to re­verse an Obama land grab

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Robert Knight Robert Knight is a se­nior fel­low for the Amer­i­can Civil Rights Union.

Buried un­til re­cently un­der sev­eral feet of late sea­son snow, com­mu­ni­ties in mid- and north­ern Maine are see­ing grass again af­ter tem­per­a­tures soared into the 70s for a cou­ple of days and then had highs re­main­ing in the 50s. As spring fi­nally be­gins, Maine’s po­lit­i­cal wa­ters are as tur­bu­lent as the streams roar­ing with snowmelt. Cam­puses are awash in “re­sist” mes­sages and Democrats are plot­ting re­venge. Repub­li­cans are nav­i­gat­ing the tricky cur­rents of the me­dia-hys­ter­i­cal Trump era.

A Demo­cratic state se­na­tor from Saco is propos­ing a bill to re­call all pub­lic of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the gover­nor, who hap­pens at the mo­ment to be the color­ful, con­tro­ver­sial Repub­li­can Paul LePage.

Mr. LePage will leave of­fice due to term lim­its next year, and Su­san Collins, a four-term Repub­li­can U.S. se­na­tor, is pon­der­ing a run. Ms. Collins has a life­time rat­ing from the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union of 46 out of 100, mak­ing her one of the most lib­eral Repub­li­can sen­a­tors. Most of her Demo­cratic col­leagues, how­ever, have ACU rat­ings of less than 10.

A me­dia fa­vorite for her pe­ri­odic “bi­par­ti­san­ship,” Ms. Collins’ pos­si­ble can­di­dacy is be­ing hailed by a ma­jor state news­pa­per as a “heal­ing” mea­sure for the state, which split its two Elec­toral Col­lege votes be­tween Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton. “Heal­ing,” of course, is short­hand for mov­ing left­ward.

A ma­jor po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy con­tin­ues over one of the na­tion’s new­est fed­eral ar­eas. On Aug. 24, 2016, Pres­i­dent Obama signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der creat­ing the 87,563-acre Katahdin Woods and Wa­ters Na­tional Mon­u­ment. It’s right next door to 200,000-acre Bax­ter State Park, home to the state’s high­est peak, 5,269-foot Mount Katahdin, the north­ern ter­mi­nus of the Ap­palachian Trail.

The North Woods or­der was one of 33 land takeovers by Mr. Obama, who fed­er­al­ized a to­tal of 553 mil­lion acres of lands and wa­ters us­ing the 1906 Amer­i­can An­tiq­ui­ties Act. The to­tal acreage Mr. Obama grabbed in Maine is nearly twice as big as Maine’s Aca­dia Na­tional Park, the ninth most-vis­ited na­tional park.

Ms. Collins, a ma­jor­ity of the state Assem­bly, Repub­li­can Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Mr. LePage, along with polled res­i­dents of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, op­pose what they see as a fed­eral land grab that could stunt devel­op­ment and cost jobs.

Demo­cratic Rep. Chel­lie Pin­gree (ACU rat­ing of 5.3) and In­de­pen­dent Sen. An­gus King, a de facto Demo­crat (ACU rat­ing of 5.7) and for­mer Maine gover­nor, sup­port Mr. Obama’s or­der.

Mr. LePage was es­pe­cially an­gry, say­ing, “If av­er­age Main­ers don’t re­al­ize by now that the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is rigged against them by wealthy, self-serv­ing lib­er­als from away, this is a se­ri­ous wake-up call.”

One of Mr. Trump’s first ma­jor sup­port­ers, Mr. LePage will head to Wash­ing­ton in late April or May to lobby for him to over­turn the Obama or­der. Mr. Trump, who stumped in Maine numer­ous times along with two of his sons, was crit­i­cal of the mon­u­ment’s cre­ation. At an Oct. 15 rally in Ban­gor, he said, “No con­sid­er­a­tion was made for lo­cal con­cerns, im­pacts on jobs, or the Maine forestry sec­tor, which is so im­por­tant.”

The land was do­nated by Burt’s Bees co-founder Rox­anne

Quimby, who had moved to Maine in the 1970s and met bee­keeper Burt

Shavitz. The two cre­ated a beeswax-based soap busi­ness, and Quimby came up with the fa­mous lip balm in 1991 that launched the per­sonal care prod­ucts em­pire. In 2007, she sold Burt’s Bees to Clorox for nearly a bil­lion dol­lars.

Her per­sonal worth is around $350 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Bos­ton Globe, which ranks her as the third-rich­est per­son in Maine af­ter L.L. Bean Chair­man Leon Gor­man and au­thor Stephen King.

Ms. Quimby an­gered lo­cal res­i­dents by buy­ing thou­sands of acres be­gin­ning in 2001 and clos­ing them to snow­mo­bil­ers, fish­er­men and hunters. She evicted peo­ple from land leased from tim­ber com­pa­nies and burned down sev­eral of their cab­ins, creat­ing what the Globe called “a PR night­mare.” Her son, Lu­cas St. Clair, as­sumed con­trol in 2012 and re-opened much of the land in 2013. Mr. St. Clair helped calm the wa­ters, but bit­ter­ness re­mains.

Un­em­ploy­ment is a ma­jor is­sue in a re­gion where two pa­per mills have closed since 2008, the lat­est in 2014. Mon­u­ment op­po­nents want to re­vive the tim­ber in­dus­try, while sup­port­ers say the des­ig­na­tion will bring tourists and might lead to a new na­tional park. In any case, while the elites tell those seek­ing work to take a hike, it’s a long way from be­ing over.

“Pres­i­dent Obama is once again tak­ing uni­lat­eral ac­tion against the will of the peo­ple, this time the cit­i­zens of ru­ral Maine,” Mr. LePage said in a state­ment. “The Quimby fam­ily used high-paid lob­by­ists in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to go around the peo­ple of Maine.”

In a Feb. 14 let­ter to Mr. Trump, Mr. LePage wrote, “‘Those cold timid souls who nei­ther know vic­tory or de­feat’ ar­gue that you, as pres­i­dent, can­not undo a na­tional mon­u­ment be­cause it has never been done be­fore.

“They also never en­vi­sioned Pres­i­dent Trump.”

Rox­anne Quimby an­gered lo­cal res­i­dents by buy­ing thou­sands of acres be­gin­ning in 2001 and clos­ing them to snow­mo­bil­ers, fish­er­men and hunters. She evicted peo­ple from land leased from tim­ber com­pa­nies and burned down sev­eral of their cab­ins.


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