The park service won’t address the national park concerns of your reps in Congress. It’s a shame

I rarely have enough time to blog about all the stuff I’d like to. The debate about a proposed national park or monument in the Millinocket region is one of those subjects that’s been hard to keep up with this month.

In an earlier post I wrote about Acadia National Park’s acquisition of land on Schoodic Peninsula that basically usurped the process and boundaries established by Congress in 1986. This process was supposed to include running the possible acquisition by a local citizens’ board, which didn’t happen with the land in question. I went on to note that the Schoodic Peninsula acquisition was the most recent example of why park opponents are justified in their concerns about the reach of the federal government.

The acquisition also undermines the idea that park opponents, such as myself, suffer from irrational fears or paranoias.

The acquisition is also an example of the park service overriding the wishes of the folks to whom they are accountable: Congress — which wrote the law the park service usurped and funds its department.

This trend continues as the debate about the Millinocket region drags on. In November, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, along with Rep. Bruce Poliquin jointly signed off on a letter to the president expressing specific concerns about the possibility of an executive order creating a national monument in the region.

Proponents of a national park have suggested having the land owned by Elliotsville Plantation declared a national monument as a step toward a national park.

S.W. Cole map courtesy of Maine Woods Coalition

S.W. Cole map courtesy of Maine Woods Coalition

More than two months later, they received a response from Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, rather than the president’s office. Jarvis’ letter acknowledged the delegation’s concerns but failed to address them or review them in any way.

Instead, Jarvis’ letter extols the purported virtues of a potential park, which Collins, King and Poliquin have all heard before from park proponents.

They asked about things they haven’t heard before, things that are of great concern to the citizens they represent, the citizens to whom they are accountable, citizens who “have a long and proud history of private land ownership, independence and local control, and do not take lightly any forced action by the federal government to increase its footprint in our state.”

The signing members of our delegation brought up many issues including :  traditional recreational use access, forest management and timber harvesting, the independence of private and state lands “contiguous, adjacent, nearby, or any inholdings” in the area of the proposed site.  The delegates also bring up the possibility of the U.S. Forest Service managing the land in question and the importance of preference for local contractors and suppliers should a national monument designation move forward.

Jarvis did not directly address any of these concerns.

Jarvis referred to visiting the proposed site in 2014 (something I don’t remember reading about) as if his visit alone should quell the delegates reservations. As if Collins, King and Poliquin have no knowledge of the area themselves, and Jarvis’ description of his visit should enlighten them about land in their own home state. I found that part of the letter kind of insulting actually.

I mean, does Jarvis finding the region so attractive erase the long list of concerns and stipulations compiled by the members of our delegation? And if the president (one of Jarvis’ bosses) asked Jarvis to respond on his behalf to his other bosses (members of Congress) shouldn’t the response involve actually answering their questions?

I was curious to see how the delegation would react, and only Poliquin has stepped forward to question the administration’s response. Poliquin has requested a meeting with the administration to discuss the unanswered concerns further, but I was hoping at least one member of our delegation was going to suggest politely that Jarvis failed to do the job that they or the president asked him to do.

I was also hoping one of them would ask for clarification about the Schoodic Peninsula acquisition process.

Among the concerns and stipulations in the letter sent by Collins, King and Poliquin is a request to create a local advisory board, if the designation moves forward.  Acadia National Park has a local advisory board established in the same 1986 law that created boundaries beyond which the park was not supposed to expand. The park was expanded beyond the boundaries, and the local advisory board did not know until after the acquisition was completed, which makes it seem silly to ask for similar agreements in the Millinocket region.

It’s hard not to view such endeavors as empty promises on the part of the park service when it turns out they were just empty promises as far as the 1986 law governing Acadia is concerned.

If Jarvis and the Park Service are not accountable to Congress and our delegation, just who are they accountable to?

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.