12/19/2011 03:13 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2012

Paper Mill Owner: Maine Woods National Park No Threat to Wood Supply

TOWNSHIP 1 RANGE 8, Maine -- In a blow to opponents, the owner of the two Katahdin-region paper mills told a north woods forum he doesn't think the proposed Maine Woods National Park would threaten his industry's wood supply.

Speaking before about 75 Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce members Dec. 13 at River Driver's Restaurant just outside Millinocket, Great Northern Paper Co. LLC President Peter Hanson said he felt a national park and his industry could co-exist well. He added he would "have a concern" about answering to federal air-quality standards.

"It's not something that would affect the area's wood supply in any major fashion," Hanson said Tuesday during a question-and-answer session that followed the Chamber's quarterly dinner, "unless a large [additional] amount of additional land suddenly came under" federal control.

The comments deal a serious blow to one of opponents' key claims against a proposal to use 70,000 acres plus a $40 million maintenance endowment to form the nation's 59th national park. Opponents have often said a new park would idle the area's paper mills by tying up land used to supply wood mills. The 70,000-care proposal amounts to less than 1 percent of the state's forested area.

Regarding Hanson's concerns about air-quality standards, Friends of the Maine Woods founder Cynthia Ann Dill said it's well known that a new national park in Maine would not trigger new standards for existing mills.

"Any national park formed after 1977 is what's known as a Class II park, which does not trigger new air standards," she said.

"What Mr. Hanson's enlightened comments show is that the way forward for the North Woods includes industry and conservation, hand in hand, and that opponents who claim timber mills would suffer are merely reciting ideological talking points.

"We're glad to see people of diverse opinion joining the 60 percent of people statewide who merely want to see a full economic study of the proposal."

To view the Critical Insights study that shows wide support for the proposal throughout Maine, see page 42 of the polling data here.

For more information on Hanson's comments, read the Bangor Daily News story here.

To join the growing movement to establish the Maine Woods National Park, sign our petition here, and write Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to request an economic reconnaisance study of the proposal. You can also e-mail Secretary Salazar at