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'Spiteful and Destructive': Maine Gov. Bans Road Signs to Obama-Designated Monument

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'Spiteful and Destructive': Maine Gov. Bans Road Signs to Obama-Designated Monument
Katahdin Woods and Waters. National Parks Conservation Association.

Looks like you'll have to trust your map if you want to find the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Gov. Paul LePage has refused to put up any official signs along the four main roads to the 87,500-acre preserve, which is on the list of 27 national monuments under Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's review.


President Barack Obama established Katahdin under the Antiquities Act last summer on forestland donated by Burt's Bees founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby.

Gov. LePage, who believes the designation went against the state's wishes and undermines the timber industry, successfully lobbied the Trump administration to review whether Obama's order was valid.

Now, until the federal review is complete, there will not be any signs along Interstate 95 and Routes 11, 157 and 159 that lead to Katahdin, state officials said Friday.

"What we don't want to do is commit taxpayers' money to signage ... without knowing that it [the monument] is in place and that everyone is on board with it," Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot told the Bangor Daily News.

But Lucas St. Clair, Quimby's son and president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, told the Guardian that Katahdin is only under review because the governor requested it.

He called LePage's refusal to display signs "spiteful and destructive," and pointed out that the governor is also refusing to put up signs paid for with private funds.

"It's one of the most irresponsible things he could do for the region," continued St. Clair, adding that the actions are "petty" and "sophomoric."

Other supporters of the national monument say that the designation has brought many benefits to nearby towns.

"To my knowledge, Governor LePage has never even set foot in Patten and yet he insults our region by calling it a 'mosquito area,'" Jon Ellis, a local business owner, said. "The monument has brought new energy to our towns and helped unify the region."

Similarly, Terry Hill, owner of Shin Pond Village in Mt. Chase, said, "I am very disappointed that the governor would try to undo this new economic engine in our community without having even visited."

While visitors will still be able to find the monument, say with Google Maps, Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce president Gail Fanjoy pointed out "the fact that our governor is blocking signage is telling people that the region is not open for business."

"He should be doing the opposite of what he is doing," Fanjoy said.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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