No country for old moose?
- By: Paul Doiron
In Maine today there are few proposals more controversial than the one being put forward by businesswoman Roxanne Quimby to donate seventy thousand acres of her own land to create a national park in the woods east of Katahdin. Politically, the idea was a nonstarter for many years, but the closures of the Millinockett mills have prompted many people (including officials in Medway and the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce) to call for a feasibility study.
Mainers are probably unaware that Henry David Thoreau was the first advocate for a Maine woods national park. He wrote: “The kings of England formerly had their forests ‘to hold the king’s game,’ for sport or food, sometimes destroying villages to create or extend them . . . Why should not we, who have renounced the king’s authority, have our national preserves, where no villages need be destroyed, in which the bear and panther, and some even of the hunter race, may still exist, and not be ‘civilized off the face of the earth,’ — our forests, not to hold the king’s game merely, but to hold and preserve the king himself also, the lord of creation,—not for idle sport or food, but for inspiration and our own true recreation?”
I used to have misgivings about a North Woods National Park, primarily out of a respect for the Maine communities that would be most affected by its creation. (Some sort of preserve modeled on Adirondack Park was always my preference.) Attitudes in the Katahdin region seem to be changing, however, and the current system is leading to the piecemeal dismantling of the woods, beginning with the largest planned housing development in Maine history around Moosehead Lake. How this will all play out is unanswerable by my Magic 8 Ball, but I don’t see the point in objecting to an impartial feasibility study, as some grandstanding politicians have chosen to do.
One of my concerns is this: By the time Mainers finally decide whether they want a North Woods park, will global climate change have already transformed the boreal forest into someplace subtropical? Instead of the Canada lynx will we have the feral pig, and instead of the sugar maple, will we have the pecan? I call this dystopian vision of the future: “No Country for Old Moose.”
- By: Paul Doiron