If you've spent time in the woods in Maine, you know how hard it is to describe the peace and wonder that come with being amidst such natural beauty. Henry David Thoreau probably said it best when he wrote that "the tops of the mountains are the unfinished parts of the globe" and the gateways to the secrets of the gods.
On Wednesday, August 24, 2016, almost a hundred years to the day since the National Park Service was created, this area achieved federal recognition when the Obama Administration declared it a National Monument, paving the way for its intended use: to serve as a national park. A fitting way to celebrate the National Park Service's centennial!
In one hundred years, "America's best idea" has ushered in protections for incredible and vulnerable lands, allowing forests and prairies and bodies of water to thrive, and preserving natural and historic formations and other unique geological features.
In Maine's North Woods, pristine forests that have been preserved for hundreds of years have recently seen dramatic and unpredictable shifts in ownership. Continuing this way would have been risky for the North Woods' future.
With amazing views of Mount Katahdin, rare plant species, seven ponds, many hiking trails, and wildlife like eagles, moose, and Canadian lynx, this region is incredibly valuable and its protection is well deserved.
Further, it's estimated that a national park would bring needed jobs and investment to an area whose economy sorely needs it.
President Obama's protection of Maine's North Woods honors the legacy of his many predecessors of both political parties who have used the Antiquities Act to protect our natural and historic heritage while creating the recreational and economic opportunities these wonders generate. In the United States, we're incredibly lucky that we can experience everything from climbing mountains to sailing enormous lakes to exploring the Grand Canyon and more. Without leaving our borders, we have access to some of the world's most breathtaking scenery and natural beauty.
In the National Park Service's first 100 years, we have celebrated our most valuable and iconic natural surroundings by investing in their care and protecting them for future generations. This is successful, inspiring, and worthy of praise: these lands and the history saved within them will be handed down to future generations of Americans to visit, enjoy, and revel in. It's no wonder that Presidents tend to establish these monuments and parks while envisioning their legacy.
In the past decade, there has been growing awareness of our most valuable and vulnerable marine resources have not had the same level of attention and preservation measures. Hidden out of sight, it's easy to forget that entire mountains and forests exist under the surface, too, brimming with marine wildlife and supplying much of the oxygen we breathe.
As we move into the next hundred years of National Parks, it's time for a shift in focus toward #blueparks - the next frontier of conservation in America.
President George W. Bush created the first Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean in 2006. With no areas afforded the same protections in the Atlantic, President Obama now has a historic opportunity to do the right thing and protect special underwater places from commercial extraction.
As we celebrate the North Woods Monument designation and 100 years of National Parks, we also call upon President Obama to turn his attention to our Atlantic ocean and protect New England's Ocean Treasures.