There’s lots to talk about at the national monument meetings Monday

I am bummed I can’t go watch the meetings with National Park Service director, Jon Jarvis, Sen. Angus King, and proponents/opponents of a national park or monument in the Millinocket region on Monday. The meetings will be taking place in East Millinocket and in Orono.

I am anxious to hear what kind of concerns and questions are raised.  Like, will anyone ask King why he voted against modifying the president’s authority to designate national monuments in February? The Senate voted on such an amendment, and it failed by one vote.  Senator  Susan Collins voted in support of modification; King voted against.

And will anyone ask Jarvis how locals could possibly trust any agreements reached with the federal government in light of an acquisition at Acadia National Park that happened recently, and appears to have happened in violation of congressional law?

Hopefully someone will ask Jarvis to address the $11.9 billion maintenance backlog at the park service. Even if it comes with a $40 million endowment (which, compared to $11.9 billion, seems like some yellow writing in some wicked deep snow), how is another acquisition justifiable?

And maybe someone could ask Jarvis why the park service isn’t listening to free market environmental specialists like Holly Fretwell and Shawn Regan? Regan wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal called “National Parks:  Lost in the Wilds of Neglect.” In it he paints a picture of our current system that is troubling. A recent investigation by NPR painted the same picture and included quotes from Jarvis himself.

In the WSJ article, Regan offers five suggestions for salvaging our parks system. These recommendations are:  stop acquiring new lands; sell unneeded lands; affirm park managers’ authority to set their own fees and keep revenues locally; tap the local economy to tackle infrastructure challenges and park operations; and, create a franchising system for new national parks.

His idea of a franchising system would involve new parks being “owned and managed by private entities.” Interesting idea. Another interesting an idea would be for Congress to honor the importance of our park system by taking care of it, by addressing the maintenance backlog and reshaping the larger system so it can be viable in the future — before adding anything new.

Or as Regan said:

The National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary later this year. An appropriate gift for the system would be to find ways of making it less reliant on Washington politicians.

That’s not a bad suggestion.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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