In the wake of a push by some for a new national park in the Katahdin region of Maine, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has introduced legislation that would require any national monument designation by President Obama to be approved first by the affected state’s governor and its legislature.
Poliquin, a Republican who represents the 2nd District, submitted the bill – the Preserving State Rights Act – on Monday evening, according to his spokesman, Brendan Conley.
Supporters of a North Woods national park say that persuading the president to designate a 75,000-acre parcel east of Baxter State Park as a national monument may be their only option. The land would largely be donated by Roxanne Quimby, the business entrepreneur and conservationist.
Since taking office in 2009, Obama has used his executive authority to designate 17 new national monuments – a process that allows him to create new protected areas without going through Congress. His administration has not taken a position on designating the Maine land.
Poliquin’s bill, which would need approval by the House and Senate, as well as the president’s signature, would effectively limit the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives a president the ability to quickly protect historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest on federally owned land.
“Any process to incorporate federal land in Maine must have strong support from the local community,” Poliquin said Monday in a news release.
“The legislative process is set up to create checks and balances and to ensure constituent voices are heard in Washington. Bypassing the legislative process – to unilaterally designate land as federal land – resulting in fundamentally changing a region in Maine, or anywhere, is not democratic,” Poliquin added.
Poliquin said the Preserving State Rights Act would still give the president the authority to designate monuments, but would require that “any governor, in any year or state, and state legislature sign off on any such designation.”
“This is a common sense solution to ensure that local voices are heard and considered,” Poliquin said.
Last week, Poliquin and Maine’s U.S. senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, sent a letter to Obama expressing both “serious reservations and significant concerns” about a proposed national monument designation.
In late August, Republican Gov. Paul LePage sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation expressing his concerns about the president’s power.
“This law and the power it gives to the President is a complete abdication of Congressional authority by allowing the President unilaterally to declare land off limits,” he wrote. “The potential for misuse of this power is concerning.”
Opponents of creating a national park in Maine say it would interfere with outdoor activities such as snowmobiling and hunting and could hurt the forest products industry.
Some of the country’s best-known national parks – including the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Zion – started as national monuments.