Official: US ownership of Maine wilderness ‘settled’

MILLINOCKET, Maine (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday that federal ownership of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is “settled,” although the wilderness acreage in northern Maine might be opened to timber harvesting.

Zinke also said it’s possible the designation of the 87,500 acres (35,410 hectares) of wilderness could change from national monument to national park, the Portland Press Herald reported. That was the original goal of former property owner Roxanne Quimby.

President Donald Trump ordered the review of more than two dozen national monuments, including Katahdin. Opponents of the Maine monument include Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who testified against its creation in Congress. LePage has charged that federal ownership of the land will slow economic development in the area, and questioned whether it was beautiful enough to warrant preservation.

LePage’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Zinke visited the wilderness this week and first signaled on Wednesday he’s inclined to keep it in public hands. But he also suggested Wednesday, and again Thursday, that it could be opened to “traditional uses,” such as timber harvesting, hunting and fishing.

Zinke said early in his visit that it was important to make sure local stakeholders had a voice in then-President Barack Obama’s creation of the monument last year. He met with the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday and was scheduled to meet with local officials, leaders of the Penobscot Nation and others.

(Copyright (c) 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)