Michaud Introduces Bill to Create Maine Coastal Islands Wilderness

Sep 21, 2011 Issues: Environment

13 coastal islands managed by the Department of Interior proposed for wilderness designation

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Mike Michaud introduced the “Maine Coastal Islands Wilderness Act of 2011,” which designates 13 islands of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Representative Chellie Pingree is an original cosponsor of the bill, which is supported by numerous Maine conservation organizations and local businesses. Stephanie Martin, a board member of the Friends of Maine Seabird Islands, presented Michaud with a letter of appreciation today for his efforts on the bill. Martin is in Washington for the Great Outdoors America Week, and a photo of Martin with Michaud in his Washington office can be downloaded here.

“This designation will help to further elevate the profile of these unique coastal islands and boost tourism in Maine,” said Michaud. “In addition, it will benefit the current efforts to restore and preserve this critical wildlife habitat for future generations to enjoy.”

The Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge supports a wide array of biological communities ranging from coastal islands to salt marshes. Its 48 islands and four mainland units provide habitat for many species of migratory seabirds and waterfowl as well as host a diversity of plants and other wildlife. As a result of the refuge’s comprehensive conservation planning process, which included public comment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended that 13 of the refuge’s islands (totaling 3,125 acres) should be designated as national wilderness due to their wild character and ecological features.

“Wildlife watching and ecotourism bring millions of dollars into Maine's economy every year. Not only for the guides and boats that bring people to these beautiful places, but for hotels, restaurants, and stores that also serve them. This classification will be an incredible asset to promoting the world-class resources we have here in Maine and building on this sustainable piece of our economy. With a new Seabird Islands Visitors Center in Rockland, it couldn't come a better time either. I am proud to help bring this local, Maine driven idea to DC,” said Pingree.

Wilderness lands are open to the public for activities such as wildlife viewing, hiking, camping, boating, photography, hunting, fishing, research and non-motorized recreation. During the refuge planning process, several issues came up about how a wilderness designation would impact public safety, private landowner access, and adjacent activities, such as aquaculture and commercial fishing. These issues were dealt with in the refuge’s comprehensive conservation plan and are specifically addressed in the wilderness designation under Michaud’s bill.

“Representatives Michaud and Pingree are showing real leadership with this legislation,” said Michael Thompson, a local business owner and chairman of the Friends of Maine Seabird Islands. “These islands are gems. There was overwhelming public support for protecting them during comments on the management plan. This legislation ensures that the islands will pass, unspoiled, to future generations of Maine citizens and tourists for walking, wildlife viewing, photography, picnicking, camping, and boating.”

Congress enacted the Wilderness Act in 1964, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), and reserved to Congress the authority to designate wilderness areas. The NWPS designation protects federally managed land areas for preservation in their natural condition. There are currently two wilderness designations in Maine. In 1973, two wilderness areas were designated in Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. In 1990, the Maine Wilderness Act designated Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness area in the Maine section of the White Mountain National Forest.

The following is a list of the 13 islands impacted by the legislation and the towns they are near.

  • Outer Heron Island and Outer White Island: Boothbay
  • Little Marshal Island and John’s Island: Town of  Swan’s Island
  • Bois Bubert Island: Milbridge
  • Inner Sand Island: Addison
  • Halifax Island: Jonesport
  • Cross Island Complex (six islands in a geographic cluster), which includes Old Man, Mink, Outer Double Head Shot, Inner Double Head Shot, Scotch, and Cross Islands: Cutler