The majority’s national monument



By W. Kent Olson

Mark the date.

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, Maine became an even greater state, and America became an incrementally better country.

A day shy of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, in Acadia’s centennial year, President Obama invoked the 1906 Antiquities Act and proclaimed a Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

His pen stroke gave the state its fourth national park unit, complementing Acadia, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and St. Croix National Historic Site. There’s also Roosevelt Campobello, off Lubec, run by our park service and Canada’s. Quite a suite of public assets.

Katahdin Woods and Waters came from hands seen and unseen. Most notable are Roxanne Quimby, her son Lucas St. Clair and their family, whose Elliotsville Plantation Inc. donated 87,500 acres to America, a $100 million investment in Maine.

Happy birthday, National Park Service. It’s one hell of a gift.

It happened despite senseless, anti-free enterprise objections by a clinically ill governor who shills his business savvy but doesn’t get that public works spawn private markets, a message Acadia sends daily to any unplugged ear. MDI’s home park is a cash register. Ask any merchant.

Paul LePage undercut the Maine majority, which wanted the park, and joined in staged “hearings” to showcase the negative minority. It backfired. Area residents spoke four-to-one for the park.

Repeatedly citing straw votes local park opponents “won,” he ignored that 53 percent of voters stayed away and intimidation was reported. The tainted election results produced the impression that northerners opposed a park, a false reading that duped him and which he perpetuated.

Surveys over years showed Mainers support the park two-to-one minimum. A Poly-Sci 101 student knows more about sampling than LePage did, who failed the arithmetic—as did the legislature, which passed a frivolous anti-majority, anti-park bill.

Reporters who wrote that a monument would be established over objections of most locals and most Mainers had the facts reversed. They failed to distinguish between minority noise and majority numbers, between fierceness and substance.

Unless he resigns, Maine is stuck with LePage for two more oddball years. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, though, can be ushered out Nov. 7 and deserves the hook for his anti-park position alone. Add his brave refusal to say yea or nay on Trump, who, like LePage, is a quack for the record books.

Many people made Maine’s monument happen over the discord LePage incited. Behind Quimby and company were hundreds of trench workers and thousands of supporters. The lead nonprofit, the muscled, politically adept Natural Resources Council of Maine, the state’s premier environmental advocacy group, has worked conservation politics 10 times longer than LePage has, and it showed.

The NRCM was joined by Maine Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, Maine Audubon, AMC and others. Organizations educated, constructed coalitions, pumped citizen letters and op-eds and lobbied in Maine and Washington. The National Parks Conservation Association, The National Park Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Conservation Lands Foundation weighed in nationally.

Incisive editorial writing, especially by the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald, was critical in the victory of civics over governor-induced hysteria.

Now we turn to the monument’s generous essence: philanthropy, whose dictionary meaning is “love of mankind generally.”

Acadia sprang full blown from land-and-dollar donations, as did Baxter. Our newest conservation asset was delivered by sheer altruism prevailing over blusterous opposition led by the “mouth that roared,” who spoke for negligible numbers of the fearful and selfish.

As always, the Maine majority honored charitable motives, and the malcontents were seen to be – borrowing from “Macbeth” –“full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Or, in sparknote.com’s transliteration that seems an apt allusion to LePage, full of “emotional disturbance.”)

The task now is to develop the monument. The Maine majority welcomes the park service to its operational and community obligations, just a can-kick up the road from Mount Desert Island. If the monument attracts an Acadia-caliber staff, things will go well. Even so, a decade-plus, say, will be needed to smooth the expected roils and find a community-park rhythm.

Maine’s congressional delegation must upgrade the monument to fulfill the superior drawing power of the world-class label “national park,” as happened at Acadia.

I hope Elliotsville Plantation will create an organization similar to Friends of Acadia, financed by the $40 million proposed gifts. Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, an independent, local nonprofit, would make grants to the park and communities – as does Friends of Acadia, which donates about $2 million yearly to supplement, not replace, federal monies, often challenging governments to match Friends’ grants.

Primary message: an ecstatic Maine majority – repeat, majority – says in full heart, “Thank you, Mr. President and our wonderful philanthropists the Quimby/St. Clair family.

Ken Olson observes politics, the natural scene and other subjects from Bass Harbor.

 

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