The area, known as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, spans 87,500 acres of the state’s stunning northern woods. The area is named for Mount Katahdin, which is Maine’s highest mountain and is located within the adjacent Baxter State Park.
Katahdin Woods and Waters is open to the public 24 hours a day, year-round, according to the Portland Press Herald. It’s currently free, but the paper notes that the National Park Service could potentially charge entrance fees in the future.
Activities like camping, hiking, kayaking and skiing are allowed throughout the area, but hunting and snowmobiling are permitted only in select parts.
A video from the White House showcases the region’s beauty and notes that the president has helped conserve hundreds of millions of acres of land.
Many conservationists are characterizing the news as a win for nature, but not everyone is thrilled with the decision.
The land previously belonged to Roxanne Quimby, one of the co-founders of the personal care company Burt’s Bees. Quimby and her family have been trying to get the property converted into a national park for years, but have faced opposition from some local residents for a variety of reasons. Some want the land available to be used in the forest products industry ― an enterprise that once thrived in the region but has been steadily spiraling downward for years. Other locals don’t want to see activities like hunting and snowmobiling curbed. And some people simply don’t think the federal government is competent.
That’s one reason the area ended up as a national monument rather than a national park, the Portland Press Herald reports.
National monuments are similar to national parks — both are federally protected and managed. But while a national park can only be created through an act of Congress, a president can designate a national monument unilaterally through the power of the Antiquities Act of 1906. And according to the Press Herald, Quimby and her family couldn’t get Maine’s congressional delegation to introduce legislation to make the area a park.
That said, plenty of Mainers do support the decision. The Natural Resources Council of Maine, the state’s leading environmental group, is “thrilled” with the decision, executive director Lisa Pohlmann told Maine Public Broadcasting.
“We can think of no better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service than with the addition of the wonderful Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument,” she said.
CLARIFICATION: The National Park Service will manage the new national monument in Maine. An earlier version failed to point out that national monuments are managed by a variety of federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.