After decades of fighting to protect the land east of Baxter State Park, 87,000+ acres of Maine’s North Woods, along the East Branch of the Penobscot River has been designated as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The declaration, made the morning of Wednesday, August 24, 2016, comes a day before the National Park Service’s Centennial Anniversary. The agency will be tasked with overseeing the monument along with 412 other national park system units across the United States.
While once envisioned as a 2+-million-acre national park, the 87,654-acre national monument takes the top spot as Maine’s largest national park unit, more than doubling Acadia National Park’s acreage. The two parks, however, are very different. Acadia, which is currently celebrating its own Centennial season, protects the hills, mountains, lakes, and rocky shores on and near Mount Desert Island along Maine’s coast. The Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument will appropriately reflect a different side of Maine, one that highlights industry and the region’s lumber history, as well as the native history of the Penobscot River’s East Branch.
The new monument lies in the shadow of Maine’s iconic Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park, the final destination for the Appalachian Trail’s through-hikers. Beyond Katahdin’s Baxter Peak, a new adventure begins, as the International Appalachian Trail continues on, through the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument and off toward Canada.
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument includes vital habitat for moose, bear, lynx as well as Atlantic salmon. The animals require large ranges to maintain viable populations, and the new monument will ensure a secure corridor for all wildlife moving between Baxter State Park and land owned by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Public Lands. The new monument also protects prime hiking, canoeing, fishing and hunting locations in the state.
Secretary Jewell will visit the national monument lands in Penobscot County, Maine, to celebrate the designation with state and local officials and members of the public. National Park Service staff will be on site to assist with the first steps to open the park.
“As the National Park Service begins a second century of conservation this week, the President’s designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument serves as an inspiration to reflect on America’s iconic landscapes and historical and cultural treasures,” said Secretary Jewell. “Through this incredibly generous private gift for conservation, these lands will remain accessible to current and future generations of Americans, ensuring the rich history of Mainers’ hunting, fishing and recreation heritage will forever be preserved.”