Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Opinion: Public Lands (including waterways) are Under Siege

Katahdin Woods and Waterways, Maine
Katahdin Woods and Waterways

I have been reading an alarming number of stories recently regarding the efforts of the Trump administration to roll back Obama administration designations of new public lands - and frankly, to go farther back into previous administrations' additions to our parks and refuges.These efforts have been emboldened by the court victory of Cliven Bundy and his fellow defendants against charges related to their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Closer to home here in the Northeast, the recently designated Katahdin Woods and Waters national monument in Maine has come under scrutiny by the Trump administration, urged on by Maine Governor Paul LePage.  

I am sympathetic to arguments and opposing opinions regarding the proper use of land resources. I do not think the exploitation of natural resources (logging, hunting, etc) is necessarily a bad thing. The myth that native peoples lived in a wild, untamed Eden before Europeans arrived is just that - a myth. Evidence suggests native peoples burned forests to promote the growth of nut bearing trees, and of berry bearing bushes - and to clear the undergrowth to make movement through the forests and the hunting of game animals drawn to fresh, post-fire plant growth easier. However, I would argue these people had an understanding of the environment far more sophisticated than any arriving European, and certainly a much lighter hand as they worked with natural processes.

Here's something I don't understand, however: the land donated for the Katahdin Woods and Waterways national monument was purchased by Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt's Bees, purveyor of "natural" products like their well known lip balm. As far as I am aware, no seller was unduly pressured to sell his or her land, and it was purchased with profits made by an American based business - profits earned in the free and open market in the face of competition. If an American citizen spends her own legally made U.S. dollars on tens of thousands of acres, then decides to gift those acres for a national monument, why is the allegedly small government/free market supporting governor of Maine against that? It seems inconsistent. One might even say hypocritical. A cynical mind might wonder for who's interests the governor is actually working. Certainly, the folks who oppose this national monument could have purchased the land themselves when it was for sale.They didn't. Roxanne Quimby did. Because of that, and her generous gift to our nation, every U.S. citizen can access those lands for purposes of recreation and enjoyment. The very same process of privately purchased lands donated to the nation (in this case via the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations) resulted in the development of Acadia National Park on Maine's seacoast. Today, Acadia is an economic engine, driven by tourist dollars, for Mt. Desert Island and surrounding areas - besides being an incredible jewel of natural wonder, offering myriad recreational opportunities, including kayaking (see my post Bar Harbor - Gateway to Outdoor Adventure).

In a recent Boston Globe piece discussing the threat to Kathadin Woods and Waterways, David Abel writes:
Environmental groups immediately questioned the president’s legal authority to reverse a previous president’s designation, but the Trump administration has suggested that some of the restrictions on mining, logging, and other commercial and recreational activities have gone too far.  
Note the reference to mining and logging restrictions, then ask yourself who is really behind these efforts - and how much money they might be funneling into Political Action Committees and other coffers.

If you believe in the idea of lands designated for the use of all citizens, and for the welfare of the animals and environment within them, then let your voice be heard. Because, I can assure you, those on the opposing side with money to spend will surely make sure theirs are heard.

- TB on the Water

Read the full Boston Globe article here:

Environmentalists vow to fight Trump on Maine monument

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