My memories of the Maine North Woods come in unique, distinct moments. Watching a pair of loons nurture a fuzzy chick; the sun setting in brilliant colors over a freshwater lake, the slippery silhouette of a fish as it leaps out of the water after a fly. As part of a National Geographic Young Explorer grant, I traveled to the Maine North Woods in each of the four seasons, including the Katahdin Woods and Waters area that today became a new national monument.
“I’m extremely excited,” says Lucas St. Clair, instrumental in the movement for the monument. “This has been an incredible experience for me both personally and professionally, and to be able to work in a community, or several communities, that feel so passionately about the natural resources that they live amongst has been just such a wonderful experience for me.”
Though the national monument issue was often political and contentious, St. Clair also added, “I’m also really excited for these communities, because I know the majority of people there fought really hard for this and they put their blood, sweat, and tears into this effort… So I know how much it means to them to actually have some potential success coming down the road here, and to have this landscape recognized in the same vein as Yellowstone and the Everglades and the Grand Canyon is a pretty powerful testament for just how remarkable the landscape is.”
The fact sheet published by the White House today highlights not only the communities surrounding the new monument, but also the recreational and environmental benefits the area will provide:
“The new national monument – which will be managed by the National Park Service – will protect approximately 87,500 acres, including the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski.”
The face sheet also describes the importance of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for increasing climate resiliency for the region’s forests.
Today, I close my eyes and picture the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. I visited as the sun was descending on a warm, September afternoon. The East Branch of the Penobscot River sparkled in the bright light, green summer leaves just beginning to turn the red, orange, and gold of the autumn season. It is my hope that the new National Monument will bring more people to the Maine North Woods to experience what I did. Much more land could be protected, and locals and visitors alike can continue to support sustainable forestry efforts as well as conservation initiatives throughout the region.