“I’M Interested In Creating Wilderness To Allow Natural Processes To Evolve, And Where Human Impacts Are As Minimal As Possible,” She Said In Response To Questions About Her Intentions. Many People Would Be Pleased To Hear Their New Neighbor Say That, But Not The Mainers I Met.
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When I Stopped In A Convenience Store On My Way To Gulf Hagas, I Saw A Pile Of Bumper Stickers On The Counter That Said “No Roxanne,” With A Red Circle And A Slash Through Her Name. The Guy Behind The Counter Practically Started Spitting When I Asked Why He Didn’T Like What She Was Doing. Seems That When Timber Companies Own The Land, Local Folks Can Do Whatever They Want There. Many Of The Locals Lease “Camps”; They Can Drive In On The Logging Roads, Hunt Whatever Is Legal, And Cut Firewood. If You’Re A Logger Or A Truck Driver, Even Your Paycheck Comes From The Timber Company.
Now Some Rich Woman Wanted To Close Some Of The Logging Roads, Raise The Rents, And Halt The Killing And Cutting, And The Locals Were Mad As Hell About That. Her Response Was Gutsy: “Irving [The Former Owner] Didn’T Give Me This Land. I Didn’T Inherit It. I Didn’T Win The Lottery. I Sweated And Worked For Years And Earned The Privilege Of Being The Steward.”
But She Doesn’T Want To Stay The Steward Forever. Her Dream Is That The Property She Purchases Will Someday Become Part Of A New National Park That Would Wrap Around Baxter State Park, Providing Even More Habitat For Birds And Beasts. The Forests Would Be Allowed To Recover.
“As I Get Into The Second Half Of My Life,” Quimby Said, “I Ask Myself, ‘What Have I Left Behind?’ And, ‘What Is My Legacy?’ “She Finds Inspiration In The Legacy Of Baxter State Park’S Founder, Percy Baxter.
Baxter Came From A Wealthy Family And Was Active In Maine Politics In The Early 1900s. He Was Also A Student Of History And Knew That Timber Barons Had Gotten Rich From What Rightfully Belonged To The Citizens Of The State. Baxter Lived In The Worst Possible Era For Anyone Who Loved Forests. The Virgin Timber Had Mostly All Been Cut, And The Fresh Scars Covered The Land. Whatever Original Forest Was Left Was Falling Quickly. Baxter Longed To Preserve Some Of It As A Sanctuary For “Wild Beasts And Birds,” As Well As For The Benefit Of The People. He Set His Sights On Maine’S Most Famous Mountain, Mount Katahdin.
At A Speech He Gave In 1921, Baxter Asked, “Shall Any Great Timberland Or Paper-Making Corporation, Or Group Of Such Corporations, Themselves The Owners Of Millions Of Acres Of Maine Forests, Say To The People Of This State, ‘You Shall Not Have Mount Katahdin, Either As A Memorial Of Your Past Or As A Heritage For Your Future’?”
But Indeed, The Corporations Did Say That, And Even His Political Influence Didn’T Help. Time After Time, Baxter Introduced Bills To Purchase Katahdin As A State Park, And Time After Time, They Were Defeated.
So He Did It The Old-Fashioned, American Way With Private Capital. After He Retired From Politics, He Started Buying Land And Donating It To The State. By The Time He Died, He Had Purchased And Donated More Than Two Hundred Thousand Acres For Baxter State Park, Acquiring The Last Parcel When He Was Eighty-Seven Years Old. Like Quimby, Baxter Wanted The Land To Be “Forever Wild” And Didn’T Allow Hunting In The Park.
William O. Douglas Was A Supreme Court Justice For Thirty-Six Years, From 1939 To 1975. He Was Probably The Last True Naturalist To Serve On Our Nation’S Highest Court And The Only One To Hike The Entire Appalachian Trail. He Famously Argued That Trees And Other Natural Resources Should Have Legal Standing And We Should Be Able To Sue For Their Preservation. About Baxter State Park, He Remarked, “No Cutting Of Trees. No Killing Of Animals Or Birds. No Roads. This Is The Kind Of Wilderness For Which Men Pray.”
It’S Also The Kind Of Wilderness That Makes Some Locals Fighting Mad. I’M Sure There Were Some Who Hated Baxter In His Time Too, But Today He Is Considered A Visionary And A Hero, And Hundreds Of Thousands Of People Visit His Park Each Year.
Yesterday, I Took Some Environmental Economics Students On A Forest Tour, Describing To Them What An Old-Growth Forest Would Look Like. One Of The Students Asked About The Relationship Between Forests And Carbon Dioxide. “How Important Are The Forests In Lowering Carbon Dioxide Levels And Reducing The Rate Of Climate Change?” Another Asked, “Do Older Forests Sequester More Carbon Than Young Forests?” Good Questions. To Answer Them, We Need Instruments That Measure Carbon Dioxide Fairly Easy To Obtain And Forests Of Varying Ages On Which To Install Research Plots. I Shared With The Students The Story Of One Particular Research Plot In Maine Where Some Of Their Questions Were Being Answered.
In The 1980s, The Environmental Protection Agency Initiated The Mountain Cloud Chemistry Project. Research Stations Were Set Up In Forests In The Mountains Of North Carolina, Virginia, New York, And Maine, And The Federal Government Helped Pay For Research Instruments. These Sites Would Be Monitored For Air Pollutants, Such As Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, And Sulfur Oxides; The Rain Would Be Analyzed For Acidity And Pollutants; And Trees In Select Plots Would Be Measured And Monitored. By Comparing Results Across A Wide Geographic Area, Perhaps We Could Better Understand How Human Actions Were Affecting Forests.