Opinion

An open letter to Governor LePage

Although I’m an independant, when it comes to being a conservative, my record speaks for itself. I am a supporter of both LePage and Trump. I’ve always voted conservative. I grew up as the son of a Southern preacher in the bible belt of the South. I spent six years in the U.S. Marine Reserves.

I have spent my entire adult life as a citizen of the great State of Maine (20-plus years now). I have raised all six of my children here in this beautiful state. I also served for a time as a Forest Ranger in the Maine woods not far from the new national monument. I have risked life and limb to protect our country and to save national forests from wildfires. As I am sure you know, those national forests I risked my life to save from wildfires are often harvested for their timber. So please don’t discount my heartfelt plea as just another critical liberal that opposes you.

Now to my point:

I humbly plea with you to withdraw your request to President Trump to rescind the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Timber has always been a large part of the Maine economy, and we all hope that it continues to be. But its primacy has decreased over the years with the waning needs for paper and other wood products. Maine has put “all its eggs in a basket” of timber that has been tipping for decades. It is long past time for us to further diversify the use of our natural resources.

Please consider that this monument was private land before it was given to our nation as a monument. Regardless of the politics of the owner, as conservatives, are we not for less government intrusion on private owner rights? When it was Quimby’s, was it not hers to do with what she wanted, within the purview of the regulations of our state? She had the right to shut off almost 90,000 acres from hunting and other recreational uses. Now we have assurances (from both Lucas St. Clair and the president that formed it) that those lands are now, and will remain, open to hunting and other recreational uses, even timber harvests.

Early reports are showing there has already been an economic uptick in the regional economy as a result of the monument. This trend, if given the chance, will continue. This is precisely the type of diversification our state so desperately needs.

I spent my formative years in the shadow of the Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. Every weekend I would take my ‘65 Ford Fairlane and cruise the main streets of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge — towns that have thrived as a result of the tourism brought to our backwoods region by the national park.

Indeed, even the townspeople around the beloved Yellowstone National Park were adamantly opposed to the creation of that park. But I assure you that, if you tried to take those parks from the surrounding towns now, you’d have to “pry it from their cold dead fingers.”

I would respectfully suggest that your current position will put you on the wrong side of history.

Our Maine Forest used to be owned by a few very large timber companies. Those days are gone. The severe forest fragmentation going on is robbing our children of a heritage that we all cherish. 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau envisioned our Maine woods becoming a national park before our country had parks, so that — unlike in Europe — the people could have access to such beautiful places. If we don’t act soon, there will be nothing left to preserve except little pockets of unused swamps and marshes so fragmented from one another that they can do nothing in the way of providing habitat for the fauna and flora that God intended to call this state home.

It was a bold move by Obama to bypass Congress and conserve these lands as a monument. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as we used to say. Just because a liberal administration stretched its authority to conserve this space, does not mean that it should not be conserved. It should.

I have explored the North Maine Woods by dogsled, jeep, snowshoe, hiking boots and canoes over the past several years. It is the last great contiguous forest east of the Mississippi that is unprotected. Many argue that there are no great geographical features on the North Maine Woods that merit preserving. I’d suggest that those who say so have not explored its beauties, and are too nearsighted to see the potential beauty of creating for our children, glorious old growth forests that alone can be inhabited by the creatures God originally intended to call Maine home. As a conservative, as a Christian, we should care more for its conservation than anyone. This is our children’s heritage we are debating.

You are quoted as saying the creation of this monument is a “grave injustice to the people of Maine and the forest economy.”

To the second point of your comment I will say, first of all, that this monument will not end timber harvests in the monument region. Indeed, the Osceola National Forest I fought wildfires in, was not only a protected forest, but also a crop, that was routinely harvested. Secondly, when Quimby owned the land, was it not then closed off to our “forest economy.”

To your first point I will say, it is a grave injustice to future generations of Maine people, and the people of our great nation, not to preserve these beautiful places for posterity.

Governor, I know that you are not afraid of going against the tide of popular opinion. Perhaps this monument in particular, and the idea of a national park in general, is not popular. But I assure you, if we conservatives start to champion conserving land for our children and grandchildren, it will set us on the right side of history. So I plead with you to spearhead a movement to put the word “conserve” back into Conservative.

Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes of Fort Kent has a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Maine at Fort Kent and he studied conservation management at Antioch University, New Hampshire.

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