Maine’s two U.S. senators are backing legislation that would expand the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King has introduced a bill that could add nearly 43,000 acres south of the national monument, close to Millinocket.
The land would be acquired only from landowners who are willing to sell, King said in a release announcing the proposed legislation. And he said the measure would protect traditional hunting, fishing and snowmobile usage on any newly acquired land.
“The expansions the bill authorizes would allow for a smoother entry into the park, bring visitors closer to the heart of the Millinocket community and further expand the Katahdin region’s tourism economy,” King said. “It’s an important step to support the future of the Monument and Maine’s outdoor recreation heritage.”
The proposed boundary changes include land that was initially contemplated for the national monument but did not become part of the original acquisition, said Matt Polstein, owner of the New England Outdoor Center near Millnocket.
The outdoor center leads guided trips and wildlife tours near the national monument, and Polstein said the proposed expansion could make it easier for his guides to access the park. New access routes could also attract more visitors to the region, he added.
“It appears to open up a corridor that comes down closer to the towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket, that might then allow for an access route directly from these towns into the monument,” Polstein said.
The proposed legislation would also allow the National Park Service to acquire buildings outside the boundaries of the park for visitor services or staff offices.
“The visitor experience is only going to get better as the roads are better developed and maintained and signage is added and bathroom facilities are added,” Polstein said. “People need to remember this monument is really in its infancy. It’s actually developing at a pace that’s pleasantly fast compared to what we thought it might.”
The bill has support from Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, as well as the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is a co-sponsor.
King, who serves as chairman of the Senate’s national parks subcommittee, said he plans to lead a hearing on the legislation later this year.
Katahdin Woods and Waters became a national monument back in 2016. According to National Park Service data, nearly 40,000 people visited the site last year and spent about $2.8 million on food, transportation and other services in the region.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.