President Obama already was credited with conserving more wilderness land and than any other US President in history, but that did not stop the 44th President from continuing his legacy. This month he designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, and expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii. Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, Obama has now designated 25 national monuments totaling more than 265 million acres of land during his two-term presidency.
The announcements were ideally timed with the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.
“As the National Park Service begins a second century of conservation this week, the President’s designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument serves as an inspiration to reflect on America’s iconic landscapes and historical and cultural treasures,” Secretary Jewell said in a statement. “Through this incredibly generous private gift for conservation, these lands will remain accessible to current and future generations of Americans, ensuring the rich history of Mainers’ hunting, fishing and recreation heritage will forever be preserved.”
The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument encompasses 87,500 acres of land including the East Branch of the Penobscot River, which is a cultural and spiritual watershed for the Penobscot Indian Nation. A portion of the Maine Woods is also included in the monument designation.
The newly established monument is rich in biodiversity and is locally known as a fantastic outdoor recreation destination. There are opportunities for wildlife viewing, hiking, canoeing, hunting, fishing, and cross-country skiing. The protected area neighbors Maine’s Baxter State Park to the west creating a large natural landscape of protected public lands.
“The National Park Service marks its centennial this week with a renewed commitment to tell a more complete story of our nation and to connect with the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Centennial and underscore our mission than by adding this extraordinary piece of Maine’s North Woods to the National Park System, and sharing its stories and world class recreation opportunities with the rest of the world.”
With the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, the monument became the largest marine protected area in the world. Created in 2006 by President George W. Bush, the monument was later designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. President Obama increased the existing Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the monument to an unprecedented 582,578 square miles. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is home to more than 7,000 marine species. Most notably, the marine conservation area protects whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and black coral, the longest-living marine species in the world that is known to live longer than 4,500 years.
According to a White House press statement, “President Obama has sought to lead the world in marine conservation by combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, revitalizing the process for establishing new marine sanctuaries, establishing the National Ocean Policy, and promoting ocean stewardship through the use of science- based decision making.” He is expected to visit Hawaii next week.
In addition to land conservation, the Obama Administration developed the Every Kid in a Park program, which provides free admission to all public lands to fourth-grade students and their families. President Obama has also recognizes native people of the Untied States by renaming the tallest mountain in North America “Denali” reflecting the heritage of Alaska Natives. The administrations also “reformed energy development on America’s public lands and waters” and “defended iconic landscapes and natural treasures, including taking action to block damaging uranium mining around the Grand Canyon and designating Alaska’s Bristol Bay as off limits from future oil and gas leasing.”