A century and a half ago, Henry David Thoreau envisioned the creation of a "national preserve" in the heart of the Maine Woods. Today, Thoreau's dream could become reality. As we enter the new millennium, we have an extraordinary opportunity to save, for all time, the largest remaining wilderness east of the Rockies.
We all know it is too late for many areas. Open space is being devoured at a breathless pace. Yet there are a few special places in America where it is still possible to create magnificent national parks; parks which can join Yellowstone, Denali, and Grand Canyon as world- class protected landscapes. The Maine Woods is such a place.
The Maine Woods is a land of superlatives. It is the largest surviving part of the great North Woods that once stretched unbroken from Maine to Minnesota. It is a land with unsurpassed natural values-deep forests, rugged mountains, clear waters, and abundant wildlife. It is a land with rich cultural values -- spectacular scenery, challenging recreation, colorful history, and time-honored traditions. Most of all, the Maine Woods is a BIG land, encompassing jaw-dropping, horizon-to- horizon, seemingly endless expanses of rolling forest that are more like Alaska than the rest of the lower 48 states.
The need to protect this national treasure grows more urgent with each day. These wildlands are in jeopardy and can vanish if we do not muster the will and the funds to save them. Quite simply it is up to the people of Maine and America to seize this opportunity, for it will not come again. Our children and their children and their children will thank us for having the wisdom and resolve to restore the heart of the legendary Maine Woods to the public domain as America's next great national park. May they never look back and marvel that we did not.
Choosing Our Future
For many generations, the Maine Woods was owned by those who knew and cared
about Maine. This is why much of the region's wild grandeur survives today. But change is inevitable. As the global economy has expanded, most of the forest has been sold to timber and paper corporations. Today those companies are driven more by short- term profit than by local concerns or long- term forest health.
Indeed, clearcutting and other unsustainable logging practices have diminished vast acreages in the Maine Woods. In one short generation, an area larger than the state of Delaware has been clearcut, tens of thousands of miles of logging roads have been built, and millions of acres have been sprayed with toxic pesticides. Key tracts have been subdivided and thousands of houses have been built or expanded, especially along remote, unspoiled lakeshores. Pressures continue to mount for new powerlines, pipelines, dams, energy plants, waste dumps, mines, and more. At the same time, more than half of the lands in the Maine Woods have changed ownership in the last two decades, exacerbating the instability of the region. In less than a month in the autumn of 1998, more than 2.5 million acres of forestland have been sold. South African Pulp & Paper (Sappi) has sold 905,000 acres to Plum Creek Timber Company of Seattle. Bowater has sold a million acres to J.D. Irving Ltd. of New Brunswick and 656,000 acres to McDonald Investment Company of Alabama.
The crisis in the Maine Woods also offers an historic opportunity. For a price of $250 an acre or less, some of these industrial forest lands could be purchased and preserved as a new Maine Woods National Park and Preserve -- returning this irreplaceable part of our heritage to the people of this and future generations. Such a national treasure may never be as affordable again.
We can no longer depend on the ways of the past to preserve the forest for the future. As millions of acres of forestland are put up for sale, we are presented with a clear choice -- try to patch together a failing status quo or purchase some of the most important lands and restore them as a great Maine Woods National Park.
Protecting Our Natural Treasures
The proposed Maine Woods National Park and Preserve would protect one of the most important concen-trations of ecological, recreational, and cultural features in the United States. This majestic park would encompass:
3.2 million acres of wildlands, an area larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, making it the second biggest national park in the contiguous U.S.;
thousands of miles of clear-running rivers and streams, including the headwaters of five of America's legendary rivers -- Allagash, Aroostook, Kennebec, Penobscot, and
a wide variety of natural wonders, including some of New England's last old-growth forests; scenic landscapes of lush green forests punctuated by steep mountains; powerful waterfalls and rapids; scores of remote lakes and ponds; and deep canyons and gorges;
critical habitat for endangered and sensitive wildlife, and the rare opportunity to restore a healthy ecosystem that includes the full range of native species;
wilderness recreation on an Alaskan scale, featuring more than 1,250 miles of hiking trails, including the famed Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail; the lake portion of the legendary Allagash Wilderness Waterway; hundreds of miles of wild streams; and world-class angling and hunting opportunities;
a hundred centuries of human history, including Native American sites, places explored by Henry David Thoreau and other adventurers, and important early logging-era artifacts.
Providing a Sanctuary for Wildlife
Not so long ago the Maine Woods was covered with old-growth forests of spruce, fir, pine, maple, oak, birch and other northern hardwoods and evergreens. These, along with innumerable rivers, lakes, wetlands, mountains, and meadows, provided habitats for a rich diversity of wildlife.
Most native wildlife species still live here. The black bear, moose, beaver, loon, broad- winged hawk, and blue-spotted salamander are common. But overhunting, overfishing, and industrial logging have diminished the numbers of many species. The spruce grouse, Canada lynx, American marten, and wild Atlantic salmon are rare or threatened. The wolf, cougar, wolverine, and caribou have been driven out altogether.
Maine Woods National Park would be a vast sanctuary for wildlife, safe from logging and industrial development. This new park would provide critical habitat for all the native creatures which today call this region home. It would allow for the eventual recovery of species that are now endangered or missing from the Maine Woods. Finally, the park could be the foundation of an even larger system of interconnected public parks and reserves stretching across the North Woods from Maine to the Adirondacks, and across the border to the wildlands of Canada.
Preserving World-Class Recreation
The possibilities for recreation in the proposed Maine Woods National Park are enough to lift the spirits of any hiker, angler, backpacker, camper, hunter, canoeist, snowshoer, snowmobiler, cross-country skier, naturalist, kayaker, rafter, birder, photographer, ambler, peruser, and anticipator of the infinite, the unexpected, the rare, the beautiful, the wild. In fact, the recreational opportunities are so rich and numerous that a lifetime of exploration may not exhaust them.
Those who suggest that such recreational opportunities already exist in Maine, are not looking far enough ahead. Without public protection, over time these resources inevitably will be degraded, diminished, and lost to public access. Already, over 2 million acres of private lands in Maine are posted against trespassing. As additional lands are developed and posted the public can expect to lose access to more areas. The Maine Woods National Park could preserve public access to more than three million acres to ensure people's right to enjoy them forevermore.
Fueling a Healthy Economy
The economy of northern Maine is in serious trouble. The forest products industry, traditionally the economic backbone of the state, is declining. Thousands of jobs have been cut due to mechanization, phasing out of inefficient mills, and overcutting of the forest. In the past two decades, more than 40 percent of logging jobs and 20 percent of mill jobs have been lost. Unemployment in Maine's northern counties typically runs several times higher than the national average.
National parks offer economic opportunity to local communities. Each year Acadia National Park helps to bring over $100 million to the economy of coastal Maine. One study found that a Maine Woods National Park could generate several times that amount in annual retail sales, and support up to 20,000 new jobs. Clean service industries are drawn to national parks because of the high quality of life they offer to employees. New jobs could include education, trade, information, finance, business, health care, legal services, transportation, and other well-paying professions. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the commercial forestland in Maine would remain available to support timber jobs.
A new Maine Woods National Park would add enormously to the economic potential of tourism, also. Indeed, tourism already employs more people in Maine than any other business, including forestry. Most tourists want to visit big, beautiful, natural places, not industrial landscapes. Protecting
the wilderness character of the heart of the Maine Woods would be one of the most rewarding investments that the people of Maine and America could make.
Moving from Vision to Reality
The Maine Woods National Park and Preserve (MWNP) proposal is the result of years of careful planning. The full range of possible options was considered before reaching the conclusion that a national park is the best way to preserve the region's outstanding features and crucial values.
The creation of the MWNP will take an act of Congress. This will require the support of people in Maine and across America.
Virtually all of the lands in the proposed MWNP are in "unorganized territories" where there are no towns. The small number of people living within the proposed park area could retain their homes or camps.
Maine has the largest concentration of industrial ownership and one of the lowest proportions of public land (under 6%) of any state. Creation of a national park would help restore the balance of public and private ownership. Outside of the park, four-fifths of Maine's commercial timberlands would remain unaffected. State-owned lands within the MWNP, such as Baxter State Park, would stay under state ownership.
The proposed MWNP would be a combination of national park and national preserve, guaranteeing public access for the full range of recreational uses. Fishing would be allowed throughout. Hunting and snowmobiling would continue in the preserve portion. Other traditional recreational uses would continue in both the park and preserve.
The MWNP proposal takes into account the needs of local people. It allows public access in accordance with longtime Maine Woods tradition; provides for assistance to the state and nearby communities to help them manage opportunities for tourism and economic development; calls for the establishment of a citizen advisory commission to provide public oversight of management decisions; and requires federal payments in-lieu-of-taxes (which are estimated to be higher than current property taxes).
As with many of our greatest public reserves -- such as Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, White Mountain National Forest, Adirondack Park, and Maine's Baxter State Park -- much of Maine Woods National Park would need to recover from past industrial damage. As lands come under public ownership, logging and other resource extraction would be phased out. Core areas would be restored to a wild condition. Appropriate road access would continue in other areas.
What You Can Do
Maine Woods National Park is not only a bold vision. It is a practical solution. Over the last decade, conservationists have tried virtually every strategy available to save the forests of Maine -- except the creation of a new national park. Unfortunately, none of the other strategies has worked. Meanwhile, time continues to run out.
Now, more and more people are coming to believe that our last best chance to preserve and restore the glory of the Maine Woods is to return the heart of the region to public ownership as a magnificent national park. A small state like Maine alone does not have the money to acquire and protect these immense forest lands. It will take the support of the American people and the resources of our national government to meet this challenge.
Please join us in creating America's next great national park!
For more information about the Maine Woods National Park proposal, contact:
RESTORE: The North Woods
7 North Chestnut St.
Augusta, Maine 04330
Maine Woods National Park & Preserve: Questions and Answers
In 1994, RESTORE: The North Woods proposed a 3.2 million- acre Maine Woods National Park. As a first step, we have called for a feasibility study of the park idea. Here are some of the questions we are most commonly asked and our answers:
What makes this place so special? The proposed Maine Woods National Park would lie in the heart of the largest remaining wildland east of the Rockies. This new park would encompass (1) the headwaters of major Maine rivers, including the Allagash, Penobscot, and St. John; (2) most of Moosehead Lake and hundreds of remote ponds; (3) critical habitat for the lynx, bald eagle, wood turtle, Atlantic salmon, and other sensitive wildlife; (4) 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail and other spectacular recreational opportunities; and (5) unique historical sites important to Native Americans, loggers, and Henry David Thoreau. This is a place that stands alongside Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and other existing national parks as one of America's great natural treasures.
Isn't the Maine Woods already being well cared for? Most of the region is now owned by a few large corporations based far from Maine. Driven by global pressures to maximize short-term profits, they have been clearcutting the forest, spraying toxic pesticides, building new logging roads, and subdividing pristine shorelands. To cut costs, they have sought tax breaks and eliminated thousands of jobs. Without protection the Maine Woods -- and a valued way of life for Mainers -- may soon be lost.
Why a national park? The world-class values of the Maine Woods face global threats. The State of Maine alone cannot protect such a large area. But a Maine Woods National Park would make it possible to safeguard the land for the public benefit. It would protect the forests, watersheds, and wildlife while restoring past damage; ensure public access for backcountry recreation; and bring new economic benefits to the region. And the strong public support for existing national parks makes it more likely that we can gain support for a new one.
How would the Maine Woods National Park & Preserve affect the economy of northern Maine? It would help by revitalizing and stabilizing the troubled economy of the region. A recent study showed that over-reliance on the forest products industry has seriously weakened the economy of Maine and the number of forest industry jobs will continue to decline even if logging increases. While forest industry jobs dwindle, service sector jobs in Maine are growing, especially where environmental values are protected. By contrast, the rapid industrialization of the Maine Woods is putting Maine at a comparative economic disadvantage by damaging the wildland values that can be the basis of a healthy economy. Under existing programs the park could also pay more to state and local governments than property taxes now provide. The MWNP would help diversify the economy, while leaving four-fifths of Maine's commercial timberland unaffected.
What kinds of uses would be allowed in the park? The proposed park would actually be a park and preserve, guaranteeing public access for traditional recreation. Hunting, trapping, and snowmobiling would continue in the preserve portion. Other traditional recreational uses would continue in both the park and preserve portions. The public would decide the size and location of park and preserve areas during the study process.
How would the Maine Woods National Park & Preserve affect traditional fishing and hunting opportunities? It would help by protecting habitat and securing public access. Fishing and hunting are not as good as they used to be in northern Maine. The Maine Woods National Park & Preserve would improve this by providing more diversity. Rather than having virtually all of our woodlands managed as an industrial "working forest," lands within the park and preserve would be protected from logging, herbicide spraying, development and other activities destructive to habitat. In both park and preserve areas fishing would continue. In preserve areas hunting and trapping would continue without the worry that access might suddenly be cut-off by changes in private land ownership. In other words, MWNP would expand the area of Maine where hunting and trapping are assured. MWNP would also reduce conflicts with non-hunters by providing some areas free of hunting.
How would the Maine Woods National Park & Preserve affect existing sporting camps and private camps? It would help by providing longer term stability. Camps on lease lots could continue within the MWNP, but they would probably be eligible for long-term leases, rather than the increasingly expensive short-term leases common now. On owned lots, if camp owners wanted to sell, there could be a willing buyer. If they just wanted to keep their camps and pass them on, they could. Moreover, camp owners would not have to worry about the forest around them being ruined by industrial forest practices. They would have much more assurance than they have now of being in a high quality natural environment.
How would the Maine Woods National Park & Preserve affect snowmobiling? It would help by securing access. Today snowmobilers worry about being cut off by private land owners. In preserve areas of the MWNP snowmobiling, like hunting and trapping, would be a primary use.
Would crowds and over-development be a problem? Wildland values would be protected on park lands. No new commercial development would be allowed. The park would provide vast open space for people to spread out and restored wildlands for those seeking solitude. Nearby towns could take advantage of new economic opportunities. Working together with park staff, the towns could guide growth, prevent unwise development, and protect their quality of life. The proposed feasibility study would assess these issues.
Who will decide whether or not to create the park? The public will decide. The proposed study would assess the feasibility of a park, consider alternatives, cooperate with landowners and state officials, and ensure public participation. The study would give people the information they need and the opportunity to give their viewpoints. If the study showed strong public support, this could lead to a new law to authorize the park.
Is creating a Maine Woods National Park feasible? Earlier this century, efforts to protect the White Mountains and Mount Katahdin were called "politically unrealistic." Yet today these areas are magnificent public reserves. Similarly, the vision of a new Maine Woods National Park could bring together the public support and financial resources needed to make it a reality. Vast tracts of land could be acquired from willing sellers. The total price tag: less than one B-2 Stealth bomber. Now is the time to act for this and future generations.
For more information contact RESTORE: The North Woods at www.restore.org