AUGUSTA — Citing concern of a “federal takeover,” Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday that the state will establish access to North Woods land that entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby wants to become a national park.

The provocative move puts the Republican governor in the middle of the contentious debate around the 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park near Millinocket.

It comes a day after members of Maine’s congressional delegation criticized the federal government for a letter that was noncommittal on whether President Barack Obama would make the property a national monument.

In a Friday news release, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands said it started to re-establish access to public land surrounded by Quimby’s property.

It said that despite the state’s crossing rights, roads to state land have been blocked and bridges removed. Once the state re-establishes access, the bureau said it intends to harvest timber on the public land.

The North Woods park idea is perhaps Maine’s hottest public debate: It was rejected last year in advisory votes in East Millinocket and Medway, but Quimby’s family, led by her son, Lucas St. Clair, has been lobbying Obama to give it national monument status, which — unlike a national park — doesn’t require congressional approval.

But LePage has urged Obama to steer clear of the park debate and in a Friday statement, he said “this proposal has now changed direction.”

“The time is right to clearly re-establish the public’s legal rights,” LePage said.

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