Maine’s North Woods are something special. An incredible contrast to the lobsters and rocky beaches of the coast, there are scores of moose; freezing, trout-filled, rivers; geometric mountain peaks; and vast expanses of green. It’s a different world, which President Obama recognized today when he designated 87,500 acres of Maine’s North Woods as the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The monument wouldn’t have happened absent the generosity and work of Roxanne Quimby and her family, who donated the land to the federal government yesterday.
Growing up on Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, I have seen firsthand what federal protections can mean for a place. This designation will improve habitat for wildlife like bears, trout, Canada lynx, and, of course, moose! It will complement adjacent protected land at Baxter State Park, where thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail complete their 2,180 journey by summiting Mount Katahdin. It will also enhance recreational opportunities like hiking, camping, and fishing—all of which bring people and money to Maine.
For me, one of the biggest benefits is that this monument designation will protect the land surrounding the Appalachian Trail, the Maine section of which I hiked in high school. While much of the land near the trail is untouched, sometimes I’d summit a peak only to realize the surrounding mountains had been completely clearcut.
Tomorrow, the National Park Service turns 100. Since 1916, it has preserved land for the benefit of the public—us! As I was reminded recently by a visitor from Chile, we should never take this for granted. We are incredibly lucky, as Americans, to have these places to visit and enjoy. And I can’t think of a better way for the country to celebrate this success than designating more special places across the nation like Maine’s North Woods.