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Congressman Bruce Poliquin

Representing the 2nd District of Maine

Pushing Congress to Act on Boundary Issues and Harvesting Disputes at Acadia, Rep. Poliquin Calls for a Committee Hearing on His Legislation

September 26, 2017
Press Release
Poliquin sent a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee urging for a hearing on his bill

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02) is pushing Congress to act on important revisions to boundary policies at Acadia National Park (ANP) and to resolve recent disputes between local harvesters and the National Park Service (NPS). Congressman Poliquin is urging the House Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing on his legislation, which he introduced earlier this year with Senator Angus King’s companion legislation in the Senate. Congressman Poliquin and Senator King held a joint press conference in Ellsworth in January to announce their legislation.

 

In his letter, Congressman Poliquin writes:

 

“Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It is truly one of Maine’s gems and holds a very special place in my heart, just like I know it does for so many other Mainers and Americans.

 

“I’ve met with dozens of wormers, clammers and other harvesters who have told me that unpredictable enforcement in the intertidal zone in and around Acadia is threatening their livelihoods. Many of those harvesters and their families have been working on those mud flats for generations. In recent years, park officials have begun taking action to limit commercial harvesting in the intertidal and some harvesters report having been forced to dump the buckets of worms or clams they spent hours digging, losing their day’s pay.

 

“I have worked closely with all stakeholders to draft this bipartisan bill, including seeking input from several informed local, state and federal organizations and individuals, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, the Maine Clammers Association, the Independent Maine Marine Worm Harvesters Association, the Town of Cranberry Isles, the Town of Mount Desert, the Town of Tremont, Acadia National Park, Acadia Disposal District, the Alewife Harvesters of Maine, the Maine Elver Fisherman Association, local bait shops, and several individual clammer, wormer, mussels, and periwinkle harvesters.

 

“As you can see, this comprehensive, common sense bill addresses a number of time sensitive issues. Without this legislation moving forward, I fear that the uncertainty for the local communities and for the hardworking shellfish harvesters will create unnecessary stress and conflict within the Bar Harbor Region. Thank you for your consideration of this request to hold a hearing on this important legislation as soon as possible so that we can start the process of moving this bill forward.”

 

Congressman Poliquin’s legislation would address a wide range of issues related to Acadia, including:

 

  • Allowing for the 2015 Schoodic Woods land transfer to the NPS while making clear that the 1986 boundary law remains permanent.
  • Releasing restrictions on a parcel of land in Tremont that has been unusable for decades so it can finally be utilized for public purposes as determined by the local community.
  • Making the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, which ensures important local input in park issues, permanent.
  • Ensuring that traditional uses of the intertidal zone are protected and harvesters’ rights upheld.

 

Background:

 

In 2015, ANP was deeded more than 1,400 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula by an anonymous donor. This was a welcome gift from the local towns and communities. It was only after the land was transferred to ANP that the NPS informed the public that the legal authority they used for the transfer came from a 1929 law that many in the Bar Harbor area believed had been repealed in 1986, after successful efforts to pass a law that set boundary limits on the park. The boundary law was crafted due to growing concerns about the size of the park and its impact on the tax base.

 

The local towns and residents were extremely concerned when they learned that ANP relied on the 1929 law for the Schoodic transfer because it could potentially set precedent for the NPS to use it again. Residents contacted the Maine Congressional delegation to express their concern and request for a repeal of the 1929 law, while at the same time keeping the Schoodic land transfer.

 

In August 2016, Congressman Poliquin hosted a roundtable in Ellsworth with local clammers and wormers to learn about the challenges their industry is facing and to commit to protecting traditional access to Maine’s waters and woods, including the harvesting of marine resources. In September 2016, Congressman Poliquin introduced a bill to provide a comprehensive and long-term solution to resolve the boundary disputes and to protect the traditional uses of the land.

 

In January this year, Congressman Poliquin and Senator Angus King held a joint press conference in Ellsworth to announce their legislation.

 

Items to Note:

 

 

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Click HERE to see a PDF version of the letter.

 

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Full text of Congressman Poliquin’s letter:

 

Chairman Rob Bishop                                                                                    

House Natural Resources Committee

1324 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Chairman Tom McClintock

Subcommittee on Federal Lands

House Natural Resources Committee

1324 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Chairman Bishop and Subcommittee Chairman McClintock,

 

I write today to respectfully request the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands hold a hearing on H.R. 763, the Acadia National Park Boundary Clarification Act. Specifically, I request that this hearing be scheduled prior to the end of the calendar year.

 

Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It is truly one of Maine’s gems and holds a very special place in my heart, just like I know it does for so many other Mainers and Americans.

 

In 2015, a generous donor gifted 1,441 acres, known as Schoodic Woods, to Acadia. The surrounding communities and residents welcomed and celebrated this gift to the Park. There was consensus that this expansion would benefit visitation and tourism, while also strengthening conservation.

 

Many community leaders, residents, local legislators and the Maine congressional delegation were led to believe that the legal authority for the transfer lay in the Land and Water Conservation Act. It was only after the transfer took place the National Park Service (NPS) posted a notice in the Federal Register that the boundary change was made “pursuant to appropriate authorities.” When pressed on what those “appropriate authorities” were, NPS cited a 1929 law that authorized the Secretary of the Interior to accept donations to the Park.

 

This was extremely disturbing news for the local communities. In 1986, after years of poor relations between the surrounding towns and Acadia due to a diminishing tax base as the Park continued to expand and acquire land, the Maine delegation at the time successfully passed a bill in Congress that established a clear boundary. President H.W. Bush signed this bill into law. This law was specifically meant to replace the 1929 law, and the 1986 law’s implementation greatly improved relations between the local communities and Acadia.

 

The authority used for the Schoodic Woods gift threatens the good will that the National Park Service has built with the Bar Harbor Region. I have heard from hundreds of constituents that are pleased with the Schoodic Woods expansion yet are very concerned as to whether the transfer is legal and-- if yes—if it sets a precedent for other expansions that could occur in the future. That is what led me to introduce this important legislation.

 

This bill would make it clear that the 1929 law is repealed and would confirm the firm boundary that was described in the 1986 law. In the course of drafting this legislation, I also learned about several other issues where legislative action would be helpful so I included them in this bill as well, including an ongoing situation involving Maine wormers, clammers and other shellfish harvesters.

 

I’ve met with dozens of wormers, clammers and other harvesters who have told me that unpredictable enforcement in the intertidal zone in and around Acadia is threatening their livelihoods. Many of those harvesters and their families have been working on those mud flats for generations. In recent years, park officials have begun taking action to limit commercial harvesting in the intertidal and some harvesters report having been forced to dump the buckets of worms or clams they spent hours digging, losing their day’s pay.

 

I assured the hard-working individuals that I’ve met with that I am committed to protecting traditional use of Maine’s waters and woods, including the harvesting of our marine resources. I promised them I would fight to ensure they can work on those mud flats without fear of losing their harvest or the pay that their families depend on. That is why I have included a provision in this legislation that addresses this issue. Maine’s public trust doctrine, which is unique to Maine and is often referred to as the “colonial law,” has guaranteed for 350 years that Maine citizens have the right to access the intertidal zone to fish, fowl and navigate regardless of whether it is owned by a public or private land owner.  This bill protects the rights of Mainers to harvest shellfish in the intertidal.

 

Finally, this legislation includes several other provisions that are important to my constituents, including that NPS fulfills a 1986 financial commitment to give $350,000 to the Acadia Disposal District so area communities can improve their solid waste facilities, makes the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission permanent, and removes restrictions on a parcel of land in the Town of Tremont that has been unusable for decades so that it can finally be used for public purposes.

 

I have worked closely with all stakeholders to draft this bipartisan bill, including seeking input from several informed local, state and federal organizations and individuals, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, the Maine Clammers Association, the Independent Maine Marine Worm Harvesters Association, the Town of Cranberry Isles, the Town of Mount Desert, the Town of Tremont, Acadia National Park, Acadia Disposal District, the Alewife Harvesters of Maine, the Maine Elver Fisherman Association, local bait shops, and several individual clammer, wormer, mussels, and periwinkle harvesters.

 

As you can see, this comprehensive, common sense bill addresses a number of time sensitive issues. Without this legislation moving forward, I fear that the uncertainty for the local communities and for the hardworking shellfish harvesters will create unnecessary stress and conflict within the Bar Harbor Region. Thank you for your consideration of this request to hold a hearing on this important legislation as soon as possible so that we can start the process of moving this bill forward.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Poliquin

Member of Congress