Controversial Quimby wants to donate Maine national park

View from Maine's Baxter State Park.

Mention Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of Burt's Bees, among Maine conservationists, sportsmen, and outdoor enthusiasts and you're likely to hear some rather strong opinions.

She's a preservationist "from away" who wants to ban humans from the outdoors, some say. She's a visionary, like Governor Percival Baxter who bought and donated "forever wild" Baxter State Park to the people of Maine, say others. A 2008 Yankee magazine profile called her "the most controversial woman in Maine."

Quimby who sold her shares of Burt's Bees to an investors group and then Clorox for roughly $350 million total, has been buying acres of North Woods land in Maine for years with the intent of forever preserving it. In some cases she's removed or changed access rights for hunters and motorized vehicles. In recent years though, she's won over some of her most vocal critics (though not all) by reaching out with compromises.

Quimby ultimately wants to give 70,000 of her acres east of Baxter State Park to the federal government to create a Maine Woods National Park. Another 30,000 acres could become a state park, allowing hunting and snowmobiles.

Property rights, access, outdoor recreation, land preservation versus conservation, natural resources, and politics make for a complicated mix. Not only is Quimby a lightning rod, but so is the North Woods National Park concept.

According to an Associated Press article by David Sharp, Quimby would like to time her donation for the National Park Service's 100th anniversary in five years.

Read the AP article on Quimby's plans for the land.

Filed under: Places, People & Organizations


73 reviewer rep
303 forum posts
March 28, 2011 at 5:28 p.m. (EDT)

Can't argue with the donation... and I, seriously, would like to know why any outdoors/conservationist would.  Is there a constructive argument against this?

389 reviewer rep
1,124 forum posts
March 28, 2011 at 6:13 p.m. (EDT)

I'm kinda divided on this. I would rather her open up areas to the public on her own. I would hate to see some of it sold off for lumber, drilled, or mined. Once you give the land to any government special intrest groups will get a say on how it might be used. As a sole owner you can do as you see fit, build camp grounds, trails, and even open up some ATV snow mobile trails. She could hire people to take care of the land and inforce the rules and conduct of its users.

848 reviewer rep
3,890 forum posts
March 28, 2011 at 7:35 p.m. (EDT)

It's actually a very political issue for many, especially within Maine.

The Yankee magazine article, though dated by a few years, covers a lot of it.

A big issue is that the timber companies allowed a range of public uses (hiking, hunting, snowmobiles, ATVs, etc) on their private land for years.

Then they sold off the land for economic reasons and once she was the land owner Quimby blocked or changed access to some of the land she now owned, primarily stopping (or trying to) hunting and motorized use. She's since reached out and made compromises with sporting groups though (as mentioned in the AP article).

Other issues are economic (jobs, taxes), property rights, conservation, land use, and more.

Quimby used to be on the board of RESTORE: The North Woods. One of its missions has been the "creation of a 3.2-million-acre Maine Woods National Park." While a national park may sound positive to many, others see RESTORE as a bunch of outsiders coming in to change things and affect the local economy.

"RESTORE Boston: Leave our MAINE way of life alone" is a popular bumper sticker among some Mainers.

Quimby's own nonprofit is Elliotsville Plantation:

Our Mission: Acquisition and conservation of land and the preservation of open space for the benefit of the public and for the conduct of educational and stewardship programs in furtherance of land conservation.

It's a complicated and very charged issue where emotions can run high.

119 reviewer rep
142 forum posts
March 28, 2011 at 8:18 p.m. (EDT)

When my wife told me that her beloved stick of Burt's Bees costs somewhere in the 6 dollar ballpark, I laughed.  I guess I know where all of that money went.

On a more serious note, I would definitely be willing to hear what people are really disagreeing with here.  If Quimby gives this land to be a national park, that doesn't make her "Park Czar", does it?  As long as she is giving the gift as just that (a gift), intended to be a national park, then good for her – and better for us!  I won't scowl at my wife for dropping 6 bucks on chap stick anymore.

Seth Levy (Seth)
625 reviewer rep
1,178 forum posts
March 29, 2011 at 8:26 a.m. (EDT)

Maine does have a peculiar relationship with land ownership.  Though we gripe about "rich land owners tellin' us where to go," I don't know a Mainer that isn't beaming proud of Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park.  Acadia was a gift from the Rockefeller family, Baxter, a gift from the former governor.  Regulations around Baxter are so strict as to not permit dogs.

It would be hard to make a serious argument that a national park wouldn't have a massive economic benefit to the north woods of Maine, a place whose economy is.....gone.

848 reviewer rep
3,890 forum posts
April 11, 2011 at 8:17 a.m. (EDT)

Another AP article on this topic:

Roxanne Quimby's big idea runs into resistance

PORTLAND -- Judging by the reaction of Maine's congressional delegation, a wealthy conservationist has some convincing to do if she's to sell her idea of another national park in Maine.

While no one rejected Roxanne Quimby's idea outright, all four members of Maine's delegation expressed some level of concern about the proposal by the founder of Burt's Bees personal care products to turn over more than 70,000 remote acres to the National Park Service.

The Park Service finds the idea intriguing, especially since it thinks people in the Northeast have fewer parks than other areas of the country. The park's acreage would be roughly double the size of Maine's Acadia National Park, which draws more 2 million visitors a year.

But it's Congress that would have the final say. And the project wouldn't even make it out of the starting gate without support of the home-state delegation.

Read full article>>

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