A national park or a national monument? Maine North Woods groups shift focus

Unable to convince members of Maine’s congressional delegation to introduce legislation for a North Woods national park, supporters are now hoping President Obama will use his authority to designate a national monument as a step toward eventual park status.

In June 1916, President Woodrow Wilson accepted the donation of roughly 6,000 acres on Mount Desert Island to create the nation’s first federally owned park land east of the Mississippi River.

The place now known to many Mainers as simply “Acadia” didn’t start out as a national park but was, instead, among the country’s best-known parks that began life as “national monuments.” A century later, supporters of a North Woods national park in Maine are pursuing a similar strategy.

Faced with continued opposition from some local residents and a leery congressional delegation, the groups have pivoted toward bestowing national monument status on the land as a park precursor. It’s a calculated shift motivated both by the political realities – particularly opposition to the proposal among some in the Katahdin region – and President Obama’s willingness to use his executive authority to create new protected areas without going through Congress.

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