WINTER HARBOR — Maine’s congressional delegation and Governor Janet Mills welcomed Secretary of the Department of the Interior Deb Haaland last week, which culminated in a press conference June 18 at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor.
It was Haaland’s first time to Acadia and first visit to a national park in her capacity as part of President Biden’s cabinet.
Haaland, the first Native American woman to be a Cabinet member, spent time with tribal leaders from the Wabanaki Nations, visited the Cadillac Mountain summit and watched the sunrise at the Schoodic Institute while renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed, a moment that Mills said represented harmony, including “harmony among peoples.”
“I was very grateful for that moving experience,” Haaland said of the gathering at sunrise.
Haaland discussed the Great American Outdoors Act, which was passed by the Senate last year, and includes $7.6 million in funding for the rehabilitation of Schoodic Point water and wastewater systems.
The conservation legislation also will help fund backlogged maintenance projects in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and American Indian schools.
“One of the best investments we can make is in stewarding the lands and waters that sustain us and the generations to come,” Haaland said.
The bill also provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
U.S. Sen. Angus King noted that despite deep political polarities dividing the country, the Great American Outdoors Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation, and passed with 73 votes, a figure he said is high by today’s standards.
“Congress and the administration can work together and can get important things done for our country,” he said.
King also expressed how 2020 was a “terrible” year.
“It was so terrible, only 2.7 million people visited Acadia,” he joked, adding that projections show 3.5 million will visit the park this season. King and Haaland noted how national parks, including Acadia, are working to manage issues of congestion from high visitation.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins reported that all members of Maine’s congressional delegation co-sponsored the legislation, making Maine the first state with all members as co-sponsors.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents Maine’s First District, chairs the subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies, which includes the budget for national parks. She noted how budget items would include funds for addressing climate change and treaty relations.
All members of Maine’s delegation and Haaland spoke of the value national parks bring in educating children.
“It is a very worthy investment,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Maine’s Second District.