PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The governor has asked Republican President Donald Trump to undo Democratic former President Barack Obama’s designation of a national monument and give back the land that was donated for it.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage asked Trump to take the unprecedented step of returning land in the northern part of the state to private ownership in a Feb. 14 letter.
Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby’s foundation last August donated 87,000 acres to the federal government for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine’s North Woods. Burt’s Bees is a personal care products company that calls itself “Earth friendly” and says it has a triple bottom line: people, profit, planet.
LePage said if the land remains a federal monument the state should manage it to avoid economic damage and protect traditional recreational use of it. He said he hopes Trump will create jobs and “make the Maine woods great again.”
The monument’s creation was opposed by state lawmakers and critics who said they feared it would hinder efforts to rebuild a forest-based economy in the region. But supporters, including local businesses and environmental groups, have said the appeal of a national monument would help revitalize a struggling though lovely rural area.
The governor said he’s hopeful Trump will heed opponents of the monument in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which sent Trump an electoral college vote in the November election. It was unclear what Trump planned to do, if anything.
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said on Wednesday during a Maine Public radio interview that it’s a “real legal question” whether Trump can undo the designation.
“Towns have started working together to make the best of the situation,” she said.
The governor, in his letter, said there are those who would say a president can’t “undo a national monument because it has never been done before.”
“They also never envisioned President Trump,” LePage said.
Quimby’s son Lucas St. Clair, who had previously said he was “pretty confident” Trump wouldn’t get involved, called LePage’s letter disappointing.
“There’s been great investments happening already, and the economy of the Katahdin region is getting to show positive results from the designation,” he said. “And I think most people are excited and are moving on.”
St. Clair rebuffed LePage’s claim that the national monument limits recreational pursuits and said the national monument has more relaxed rules for snowmobiling and hunting than Baxter State Park does.
He said the foundation chose a national monument over a state park because of research showing an increased benefit to rural economies.
“While I love Maine state parks,” he said, “the governor in his most recent budget decreased the funding for our state parks.”
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