2005 Maine North Woods
In the mid-1970s, Roxanne Quimby relocated to rural Maine to live close to the earth, without electricity or running water. A decade later, she partnered with beekeeper Burt Shavitz and began making beeswax candles, polishes, and eventually the lip balm that turned Burt’s Bees into a multimillion-dollar personal-care company. In 2000, Quimby started buying up land in Maine’s north woods, near Mount Katahdin, with some of her profits. She accelerated the process after she sold Burt’s Bees for hundreds of millions of dollars (she had previously bought out Burt). Quimby now controls 120,000 acres of woodland wilderness, and is seeking to donate most of it as a national park.
Quimby’s desire to catalyze a park has proved controversial. A liberal environmentalist, she closed access to land she purchased, banned hunting and fishing, tore up roads and bridges, and stopped snowmobiling. This sparked a loud outcry from locals, who were allowed easy access to the land for personal enjoyment by the paper companies that were the previous proprietors. In addition to the curtailed recreational use of this vast swath of land, many residents of the Maine woods fear losing forestry jobs and development opportunities if land becomes locked up in a national park. In response to the backlash, Quimby and her son, Lucas St. Clair, have been reopening some of their holdings to recreational use. Whether Congress will designate a Maine park that Quimby can seed with her land remains to be seen.