Obama Names Maine's Katahdin Woods and Waters a National Monument

Obama Names New National Monument in Maine
KatahdinBill Duffy

The newly protected area offers abundant opportunities for outdoor activities.

On this 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, President Barack Obama designated nearly 90,000 acres in the north woods of Maine the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. This majestic region, about 220 miles north of Portland, is bordered on the west by world-renowned Baxter State Park and with the branch of the Penobscot River running through its core.

The land—donated to the public through the federal government by Elliotsville Plantation, a private foundation—offers abundant opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, hunting and fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

The national monument will be managed by the Park Service. Monument protection will help ensure that future generations will be able to explore and enjoy these extraordinary forests, bogs, rivers, and streams.

More than 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau, who wrote of the need for “the tonic of wildness,” was drawn to Maine’s vast forests during his travels throughout the Northeast. In his book The Maine Woods, he marveled at the untamed beauty of the region, much of which is relatively unchanged—even after decades of logging. Protecting this area that inspired a great work of literature is not only good for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts, but it will also be a boon for the local economy, creating much-needed jobs and attracting tourists from around the world.

Monument designation was backed by the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Katahdin Area Rotary Club, the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor City Council, and the Maine Innkeepers Association, as well as more than 200 Maine businesses. This year, at the invitation of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis participated in a town hall meeting on the proposal at the University of Maine, Orono. Well over 1,000 people joined the listening session, with the vast majority expressing strong support for the new monument and giving Jarvis a standing ovation. With the designation, perhaps Thoreau would have, too.

Mike Matz directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. public lands project.