Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nature Girl 3000

And from yesterday's New York Times, there's this story on a woman in Maine who's looking to turn Baxter State Park and the surrounding area into a national park. A good idea, right? I mean come on, we all like the idea of national parks. I'm sure my regular readers know exactly where this is going.

First, I wonder whether the story's author, Felicity Barringer, has ever been to northern Maine. The article seems to take a peculiar anti-timber company perspective, which most people who are familiar with the northern Maine woods would find as odd. After all, it's been timber company land for a long time, and timber company ownership has been the primary factor in keeping the vast majority of the northern Maine woods undeveloped. (And you don't hear it in the story, but give thanks to capitalism. After all, the land in northern Maine remains undeveloped because the timber companies have found it more profitable to leave it undeveloped and available for logging purposes.)

The subject of the story is Ms. Roxanne Quimby, who has bought over 75,000 acres of land as part of her own efforts at preservation and her own efforts to create a national park. My problem with an activist like Ms. Quimby is that her priorities seem a bit screwy. She wants to create a national park, but her real desire is not to open the land up to the public. She essentially wants to keep the land from the public and return it to its pre-logging state. In other words, she wants to enjoy nature her own way and no one else’s.

On the first 50,000 acres of land she purchased, Ms. Quimby does not allow any hunting or snow mobiling. This is in contrast to adjacent Baxter State Park, which allows snow mobiling on marked trails and hunting in certain northern sections of the park. Baxter, by the way, currently stands at 204,733 aces, one of the larger state parks in the nation.

National parks, in general, are subject to much more stringent regulations than state parks. Snow mobiling is allowed in some national parks, but hunting is generally prohibited in all but a select few. The uproar among the locals in regards to Ms. Quimby's purchases and land restrictions are indicative of her real motives. Again, this is about preservation as she wants it, and she says a better opportunity for her goals through national channels. (After all, the locals all disagree with her.) Personally, I just find there to be something incredibly arrogant about someone who wants to tell other people what they should do about the land in their community.

I am sympathetic to Ms. Quimby's effort's to protect nature. However, northern Maine has remained beautiful for decades without the involvement of the federal government. When I think of national parks I think of crowded places with a lot of traffic where I can't find a place to camp. I've never had those problems in my many trips to northern Maine. In the case of Baxter, you’re talking about a 200,000 plus acre park that is already protected, surrounded by hundreds of thousands more acres of undeveloped timber company land. Why mess with a good thing?


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