PORTLAND, Maine — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to keep the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine in federal hands, but he suggested he might recommend some alterations to the monument.

Zinke is not recommending removal of any of the 27 monuments under review by President Donald Trump’s administration but said “a handful” of them could be changed. Details on what changes, if any, are proposed for the Maine monument weren’t made available Thursday.

A spokesman for the foundation that donated the land was pleased with the recommendation but anxious to hear about any proposed changes.

“The devil’s in the details,” said Lucas St. Clair, son of entrepreneur and conservationist Roxanne Quimby. “We’re going to continue to keep an eye on what’s happening. I’m looking forward to speaking to the secretary.”

Zinke’s recommendation for the 87,500-acre (35,410-hectare) monument came a year to the day that then-President Barack Obama formally announced the land designation.

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.”

In Maine, the monument is supported by a growing number of residents who see a potential economic boost from tourism. But Republican Gov. Paul LePage is vehemently opposed, saying federal ownership could stymie economic development. He even went so far as to prevent state workers from installing road signs to direct motorists to the property this summer.

The land east of Baxter State Park includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and stunning views of Maine’s tallest mountain, Katahdin. Its history includes visits by naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

The private property was donated by a foundation created by Quimby, co-founder of the Burt’s Bees line of natural care products. The foundation also created a $40 million endowment to support the monument.

Zinke’s recommendation isn’t the final word. The White House will decide whether to take action on the monuments.

Some critics of federal land ownership hope the president will overrule his interior secretary. “President Trump made a promise when he was here campaigning that he would abolish this monument. I hope he holds to that promise,” said Anne Mitchell from the Maine Woods Coalition.

Gail Fanjoy, past president of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce, said she was skeptical that there’s a middle ground.

“Given our governor’s position, it’s going to be a stretch to make a recommendation that’s going to be satisfying to him and still maintain the integrity of the monument and the wishes of the family that gifted the land,” she said.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 doesn’t give the president power to undo a monument designation, and no president has ever tried. However, changes could be made to the scope or management of monuments, Zinke said.

In Maine, deed stipulations could limit the types of changes that are possible. For example, the deeds require the National Park Service, not a state entity, to control the land, St. Clair said.

Attitudes have changed about the monument, especially with the dismantling of paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket.

More residents are now more open to federal ownership, hoping that a bump in visitors could provide a much-needed economic jolt.

Millinocket Town Council Chairman Michael Madore, a former critic, said he’d like to see if an uptick in visitors provides a “tangible benefit” to the local economy before there are any major changes.

“Everybody would have a better understanding if they’d just stop the rhetoric and wait for the numbers to be crunched, and see if the monument is a boom or a bust. That’s fair to both sides,” he said.


This story has been corrected to show that Gail Fanjoy is past president of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce, not president.