U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (left) chats with outdoor enthusiasts during a tour of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in June 2017. The visit was the start of a four-day visit to New England. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Maine’s national monument should not be shrunk in size or feature commercial forestry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his recommendations to President Donald Trump, Zinke confirmed a Washington Post-reported leak and said that he has advised Trump to keep Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument at present size.

His 20-page report, released Tuesday, does not recommend commercial forestry for Maine’s monument, despite its featuring the words “active timber management,” which is typically part of commercial forestry.

“We think a ‘Made in Maine’ solution works better and that’s promoting a healthy forest,” Zinke said in a telephone press conference on Tuesday. “It is the best practices, best science and greatest good” in the uses of a forest ― not merely leaving a forest totally untouched, as environmental preservationists would typically advocate.

Timber management, Zinke said, represents the planting, growth and thinning of a broad diversity of trees, forest-fire and blight prevention, and landscaping improvements. All have been Maine forestry practices for generations, he said.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters monument has been among Maine’s most controversial public properties since then-President Barack Obama created it with an executive order in August 2016.

It was among 27 monuments created by presidential order since 1996 that Trump ordered reviewed in April, saying that he felt that previous administrations had used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to make land grabs.

Trump has yet to take any action on Katahdin Woods and Waters. He signed a proclamation on Monday shrinking Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents northern Maine, said he was pleased that the monument would employ Mainers managing the forest.

“It is a special, rare process that he is recommending to the president,” Poliquin said Tuesday.

It was unclear whether the monument’s management plan could or would have included forestry management activities anyway. The plan is under development, and National Park Service officials have said it will take two years to finish.

Federal law provides limited authority for cutting of timber within national parks to preserve historic objects.

Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land to the park service, had already opened the parcels to hunting before Obama’s executive order.

Snowmobiling trails are permitted within parts of the monument, said David Farmer, spokesman for St. Clair.

Park service and local ATV clubs were working to include all-terrain vehicles in the monument, but had hit a snag. Federal law allows ATVs to use roads through monuments if they are registered with license plates, but Maine’s ATV registration system does not use plates.

Farmer said that now that Zinke’s report is released, and recommends little change to the monument, Mainers should come together to begin promoting and building out Katahdin Woods and Waters.

“We are gratified to know that there is also talk in there about investment in infrastructure to bring more people into the monument. We think that is a good sign and a good sign for the community,” Farmer said.

“The monument is showing that it is growing and that it is having a positive impact on the region. If we could all work together to further that, it would be good for the whole state,” Farmer added.

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