- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Three members of Maine’s congressional delegation told President Barack Obama they have serious reservations about a proposal to have more than 100,000 acres of Maine’s northern woods designated a national monument.

In a letter to the president dated Friday, Sens. Susan Collins, Angus King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said no decision about the future of the land should be made without taking into account the opinions of Maine residents who live near the land in the Mount Katahdin region.

“While we acknowledge the right of private land owners to donate their land, we have serious concerns about the executive branch using its power to unilaterally designate a national monument in our state,” said the letter, dated Friday. “Mainers have a long and proud history of private land ownership, independence and local control, and do not take lightly any forced action by the federal government to increase its footprint in our state.”

Lucas St. Clair, the president of the foundation that owns the land, said he welcomed the letter because it encouraged discussing the details.

But U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree voiced support for designating land in Maine’s North Woods a national monument or national park.

“I continue to believe a monument or park would greatly benefit the state by bringing in thousands of visitors and creating hundreds of jobs for the region,” she said in a statement issued Monday.

The land is owned by a foundation created by the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, Roxanne Quimby, which would like to donate the land to create a national park, but the creation of a national park would require an act of Congress.

The letter said that St. Clair has been in discussions with the Department of the Interior to bypass Congress and seek a national monument designation, which can be declared by the president.

While some in the region support the proposal for a national park, others are opposed fearing it would lead to the loss of traditional uses of the land such as public access for hunting, fishing, hiking and camping.

“The conditions outlined are consistent with the feedback that we’ve received through hundreds of meetings in the Katahdin region, and we believe that they can be achieved,” St. Clair said in a statement Monday.

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