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A rare opportunity.

As I stood on the deck of a tour boat in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska this summer, listening to the crack of "white thunder"--the noise created when chunks of ice break off or "calve" from a glacier--I marveled at the lack of human imprint on the land. Here, nature is supreme.

Some national parks in the Lower 48 offer such an experience, but great expanses of unbroken land are few and far between, especially along the hyper-developed East Coast. One such place is the 3.2-million-acre Maine Woods.

In this issue, we explore the proposal to transform this area into Maine Woods National Park and Preserve. The land, no longer needed by the paper mills, is for sale. (See story, page 20.)

According to polls, a majority of Maine residents would like Congress to designate the area a national park. Some oppose the proposal, fearing a loss of access to traditional recreation and hunting areas. No matter which side you are on, most everyone agrees that the opportunity to preserve this much land is rare.

Maine residents may look to Alaska for guidance. Although some resisted the landmark Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which 25 years ago created or expanded 15 national parks including Glacier Bay, many today embrace the park idea. The parks draw thousands of tourists and bring in millions of dollars. In the process, these lands are preserved for generations to come to enjoy. What's not to like?

Linda M. Rancourt

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Author:Rancourt, Linda M.
Publication:National Parks
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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