President Obama on Wednesday created a new national monument in northern Maine on 87,000 acres donated by the co-founder of Burt's Bees, fulfilling conservationist Roxanne Quimby's goal of gifting the land during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the AP reports. The Katahdin Woods and Waters monument adjacent to Baxter State Park includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and stunning views of Maine's tallest mountain, Katahdin. The land is cherished by Native Americans, and its history includes visits by naturalist Henry David Thoreau and President Theodore Roosevelt. Quimby began buying the timberland in the 1990s with earnings from the Burt's Bees line of natural care products. She wanted to see her vision become a reality this year during the centennial anniversary.
Supporters say the move will create hundreds of jobs in a region hurt by the closing of paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket. But critics fear that property maintained by the National Park Service would hinder efforts to rebuild a forest-based economy. This spring, Maine's legislature passed a symbolic bill saying the legislature didn't consent to the federal government acquiring the land. And Republican Gov. Paul LePage opposed the proposal, calling it an "ego play" that was supported by "out-of-state liberals." Quimby's son, Lucas St. Clair, who's marshaled the effort, brushed aside such criticism on Wednesday. "Many parks over the history of the park system have been criticized upon creation. Gov. LePage is not the first governor to oppose the creation of a new park. But when we look to the future, we see huge amounts of success," St. Clair told the AP. (Read more Maine stories.)