Republican Governor Paul LePage has decided to ban all signs that direct people to Katahdin Woods and Waters, a tract of land in Maine that's designated as a national monument. With the fate of many national monuments designated by Obama when in office now up for question after Trump ordered a federal review of the parks, it seems that the Governor of Maine has taken things into his own hands.
It means that there will be no signage pointing people in the right direction to the park from the freeway, in what many conservationists and members of the family who donated the land for the monument think is a cynical move by the governor to stifle visitor numbers.
According to a state transportation spokesman, Ted Talbot, the decision is designed to save money until after the federal review is complete. “While it is under review, we really have to wait for that decision,” said Talbot in the Bangor Daily News. “What we don’t want to do is commit taxpayers’ money to signage or any type of project without knowing that it [the monument] is in place and that everyone is on board with it.”
This argument is curious for a number of reasons, not least that private organizations were willing to foot the bill of the signs. Also, the federal review ordered by President Trump is largely only going to look at national monuments that were designated after 1996 by executive order and that are over 40,500 hectares (100,000 acres) in size.
This means that 27 national monuments are now up for review, but it also means that Katahdin Woods and Waters, which is 35,400 hectares (87,500 acres) in size, should not be included in the reassessment. Governor LePage lobbied the current administration to include it, despite being smaller than the limit, leading many to think this latest move by LePage is simply “spiteful and destructive”.
But more than that, the reassessment of the national monument is effectively an attempt to remove protection from government land that has the potential for industrial activity such as mining and logging. Curiously, the land that was used to create Katahdin Woods and Waters was never the governments in the first place, but was donated by a private family, meaning that the state of Maine never even had the right to drill or mine on the land in the first place.
The son of the family who owned the land questions LePage’s motives. He says that their family only bought the parcel of land after the timber industry decided that it was no longer economical to log, and that the tourism and recreation industry in the region would be far more profitable.