As a Maine resident and a pastor in Bangor, it is with great joy that I welcome a gift that our region and the nation will cherish: The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. This new national monument will bring spiritual, economic and ecological significance to our region for generations to come.
As a Christian, I believe that if I have wonder and awe for my creator, my only logical response is to demonstrate reverence for God’s creation. As human actions have damaged the climate and imperiled the integrity of creation, it is now more important than ever to teach our communities, and particularly the next generation, about our humbling, sacred calling to understand, cherish and serve as caretakers for the treasures in our backyard. Through this national monument designation, we will have new opportunities to raise community awareness and appreciation for the natural wonders in our midst.
This monument designation will enhance our sense of place — both in the nation and the world. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument includes 87,500 acres in the Katahdin region. In the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the tallest mountain peak in Maine, the monument will be adjacent to the northernmost terminus for the Appalachian Trail, which extends 2,200 miles south all the way to Springer Mountain in Georgia. This monument designation is a fitting way to nationally recognize the northern end of this ancient mountain range. Next time someone asks you, “Where are you from?” consider mentioning your proximity to the highest mountain peak in Maine and to one of the oldest mountain chains in the world to add a “wow factor.”
By making this area a national monument, we have permanently protected and guaranteed public access to nationally significant forests and ponds for generations to come. Forests are like the lungs of our planet, and protecting an old-growth forest will help our communities and future generations breathe easier. The monument includes four major watersheds: the East Branch of the Penobscot River, the Seboeis River, and the Sandy and Wassataquoik streams.
The area is known for its lush forests and watersheds, where wildlife can get a fighting chance at adapting to a changing climate. The area provides unrivaled habitat for Canada lynx, ruffed grouse, brook trout, deer, moose, bears and loons. This monument will serve as a unique place where these creatures can fulfill their Genesis calling to be fruitful and multiply.
Strong communities also share a collective memory about our heritage. The national monument will strengthen our common understanding of history. Under the management of the National Park Service, the monument will interpret the rich history of the Wabanaki people, to whom Mount Katahdin is sacred. It also will commemorate the early American conservation movement through the stories of Henry David Thoreau, President Theodore Roosevelt and Gov. Percival Baxter. It also will honor and interpret the history of logging and the paper industry in Maine.
As a pastor, I’m painfully aware of some of the economic struggles our region has faced because of the closing of five paper mills in the last three years. Every person needs a job with dignity, and the ability to provide for their family. Religious communities often are on the front lines of helping people cope with economic downturns. I have faith that our community will be resilient, and this monument can help.
Elliotsville Plantation Inc., which donated the land to the federal government for the monument, is setting up a $40 million endowment to support the operation and maintenance of the monument. These dollars will support local jobs in the monument. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument also will draw new people to our region, and may boost the outdoor recreation industry.
The Psalmist declares such wonder in Psalm 104:24: “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom, you made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.” May our wonder at all the works of our creator grow as we embrace new economic, ecological and spiritual opportunities afforded by our new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Rev. Dr. Mark Allen Doty is the senior pastor of Hammond Street Congregational Church in Bangor.