Gov. Paul LePage has asked President Donald Trump to reverse an executive order and return the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument to private ownership.

In a two-page letter dated Feb. 14, the Republican governor asks Trump to enact the reversal “before economic damage occurs and traditional recreational pursuits are diminished.” The Bangor Daily News obtained a copy of the letter Wednesday, and it was verified by LePage spokesman Peter Steele.

Calling President Barack Obama’s executive order creating the monument “a grave injustice … to the people and our forest economy,” LePage attached a letter from April 22, 2016, detailing his own objections to the order.

If a return to private ownership is not feasible, LePage said, “I believe the land should be managed by the state of Maine to ensure it can benefit all Maine people and accommodate the region’s economic and regional needs.”

Leading monument proponent Lucas St. Clair’s first reaction to the news when reached Wednesday was that the $40 million in endowments and fundraisers his family promised in support of the monument would vanish.

“They would be losing a $40 million endowment,” St. Clair said Wednesday. “I would do what I could to keep it from happening. I would work with the thousands of people who support this. But if it did (get rescinded), the investment would go away and the contractual law (that established the monument) with the federal government would be in jeopardy.

“It is a terrible, terrible idea,” St. Clair added.

Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway, who has been an opponent of the creation of a national monument in Maine, said early Wednesday afternoon that he had not heard about LePage’s letter to Trump.

“My reaction is that this is all in the federal government’s hands now, and as far as I know there is nothing we can do,” Stanley said. “The governor can make his recommendations, but our hands are tied. I think the governor is doing what the people want.”

Stanley, who told the Bangor Daily News after Obama’s monument designation that Maine should make the best of it, said he’s concerned there is too much activity in motion to scuttle the project.

“The only concern I have now is when it became a monument, people started investing money in the area,” Stanley said. “What do we do with all these people who are investing on projects right now?”

In November, St. Clair, son of Burt’s Bees entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, said he didn’t think it would be abolished.

The Quimby family donated 87,563 acres on Aug. 23. Counting the cost of the land, a $20 million endowment and an additional $20 million in fundraising Quimby has promised, the gift is worth $100 million, according to the National Park Foundation.

A national park managed by the National Park Service was long a dream of Quimby’s. Quimby’s quest to federally protect Maine’s northern woods took root more than a decade ago, when she began buying land near Baxter State Park in 2001. Quimby announced for the first time publicly in 2011 some of the details of her dream — that she intended to donate about 70,000 family-owned acres east of Baxter as a national park.

BDN writers Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

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