Last month, when U.S. Sen. Angus King brought the national park director to Orono, King had the support of the powerful environmental interest group, the Natural Resource Council of Maine. In fact, NRCM and other environmental advocacy groups coordinated attendance at the meeting and paid to transport six busloads of supporters from across Maine to the meeting. They even rented parking spaces for supporters of the monument.
Of course, when you “follow the money,” this is no big surprise: These groups receive plenty of “operating support” from Roxanne Quimby’s nonprofit that is holding the property in question. In fact, NRCM alone received $75,000 in one year from Elliotsville Plantation Inc.
Lucas St. Clair, who is the Elliotsville Plantation Inc. frontman and son of Roxanne Quimby, also was prompted at King’s meeting to “present the facts” of the proposal, as it was described in a news release from King’s office. Dan Sakura of the National Park Foundation was invited to discuss how the foundation intends to financially support the proposal.
The wealthy Quimby family has spent more than $1 million at Hilltop Public Solutions in Washington, D.C., to convince President Barack Obama to use his authority to designate this area a national monument. At the same time, the National Park Service already has a $12 billion backlog in maintenance work at national parks. Wildfires in western states on federal land owned by the National Park Service are the result of poor management of the forest. We cannot risk that kind of environmental disaster in Maine.
The people of rural Maine do not want a national park. Town after town has voted against it. Folks from the Katahdin region managed to show up — via their own transportation, by the way — and there were no special parking spaces waiting for them.
Maine has a history with this issue. In 2011, the Maine Legislature addressed the creation of a national park in the Katahdin region by passing, nearly unanimously, a joint resolution informing the president that the Legislature “opposed the creation of a national park in Maine’s north woods” and requested the secretary of the interior “deny requests to conduct a feasibility study concerning establishing a national park in Maine’s north woods.”
This year, the Legislature enacted and I signed a bill denying the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over any national monument in Maine. The wealthy Quimby family, with their highly paid lobbyists, focus groups and opinion pollsters, and King are trying an end run around the Maine people by pressuring President Barack Obama to declare the land as a “national monument.” It’s the first step in creating a national park.
Last year, I wrote to King about this important matter facing the Katahdin region; I have yet to receive a response. Maine people deserve an answer.
Maine’s economy is still heavily dependent on natural resourced-based industries, and these types of designations harm working Mainers the most. I have been clear about my position to support the people in the Katahdin region in opposing the federal government’s intrusion on our land.
In an effort to ensure that the National Park Service understood how the majority of local Mainers, the Legislature and our administration feel about the president’s overreach of power, my Chief Legal Counsel Avery Day spoke at King’s May 16 meeting. (Not surprisingly, King did not invite — or even notify — the governor’s office directly.)
So, while King refuses to tell Maine people how he really feels, this newspaper caught King as he listened to Day. I don’t need a thousand words to describe the look on King’s face, just one: angry.
Then again, if I had a nickel for every time this newspaper posted an unflattering photo of me, I could retire with as much money as these rich, special interest lobbyists have spent to campaign against the will of Mainers.
Paul LePage is the governor of Maine.