Evidence that President Obama will use his authority under The Antiquities Act to declare a national monument in Maine's North Woods came Tuesday when nearly 90,000 acres of land owned by Burt's Bees heiress Roxanne Quimby was transferred to the federal government.
Neither the White House nor the National Park Service had any immediate comment. But according to a story in the Bangor Daily News, the "Penobscot County Registry of Deeds confirmed the 13 deeds passing the 87,563 acres from Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. to what was listed simply as 'The United States of America' came in at 10:10 a.m."
Copies of the deeds indicate the land is situated east of Baxter State Park. The deeds for the individual parcels were signed by Quimby as the grantor and by Rachel McManus, deputy realty officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, as the grantee. The total acreage is nearly twice the size of Maine’s Acadia National Park.
There long have been efforts to create a new unit of the National Park System in northern Maine. More than a decade ago there were calls to create a 3.2-million-acre national park. As envisioned, it would have been one of the country's largest national parks, larger by almost a third than Yellowstone National Park. But the plan was not well-received, in large part because some opposed Ms. Quimby's offer to donate 150,000 acres of her own lands towards a park.
That proposal evolved into a proposed Katahdin Woods and Waters National Park and National Recreation Area, which would offer a blend of allowed activities and, according to proponents, involve less than 1 percent of the state's timber resources. Just two hours from coastal Acadia National Park, the lands abut Baxter State Park and has spectacular views of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Strong opposition led to a significantly downsized vision, one that even lost the "National Park" cachet in favor for the somewhat lesser "National Monument" attribution. The change was part of a strategy that would allow President Obama to designate the monument without congressional action, something not considered likely at this point.
The odds of preserving a large swath of the Maine North Woods seemed to have grown with National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis' visit to see the area in May, a trip that involved not just touring the lands in question but meeting with elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Angus King, and local residents.
"Hearing from North, South, East, West and Central Mainers about this proposal provides important context as I consider my recommendations regarding a possible new national park site in the North Woods of Maine,” Director Jarvis said at the time.
The plan offered the federal government by the Quimby family, through Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., included $20 million on the day the unit is established for an endowment for the park and promise to raise another $20 million in the ensuing three years. The $40 million would be earmarked for maintenance and operations.