PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The leader of the successful effort to get the federal government to protect land near Maine's tallest mountain says he's feeling optimistic after a telephone chat with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Lucas St. Clair received a telephone briefing Monday from the interior secretary, who recommended last week that all 27 land and sea monuments under review by the Trump administration remain open but left open the possibility of changes to some of the monuments.
St. Clair came away from the conversation reassured that Zinke wants the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument to be managed for conservation and recreation by the National Park Service. St. Clair said Zinke told him he'd be comfortable with Zinke's recommendation.
"I'm feeling very optimistic," St. Clair told The Associated Press.
St. Clair said he still doesn't know the full details of Zinke's recommendation, and the White House will have the final say. Zinke told him details would be coming soon, he said.
Trump, who ordered the review, has accused previous administrations of turning a 1906 law that lets the president protect federal land into a "massive federal land grab."
National monuments, which are similar to national parks, can be created by presidents without congressional approval, granting federal protection to land or historic sites deemed to be significant.
Former President Barack Obama announced a year ago the creation of the 87,500-acre (35,410 hectare) Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, fulfilling the wishes of St. Clair's mother, entrepreneur and conservationist Roxanne Quimby.
The land east of Baxter State Park includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and stunning views of Maine's tallest mountain, Katahdin.
Quimby, co-founder of Burt's Bees, began acquiring the land in the 1990s with the hope of one day donating it to the National Park Service. The Quimby-supported foundation that donated the land also created a $40 million endowment to support the monument.
Zinke toured the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in June. Zinke did some hiking, took in a panoramic vista, and paddled in a canoe.
St. Clair acknowledged that he doesn't have full details of Zinke's recommendation. But he said he believes Zinke sees the worth of the land from a standpoint of natural beauty, cultural importance and an economic benefit for the region.
"He doesn't want to see any of the economic or recreational benefits jeopardized. He heard that loud and clear from the people in the region," St. Clair said.