On Aug. 24, when President Obama turned 87,500 acres of Maine forestland speckled with lakes, rivers, and ponds into the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, nine Maine high school juniors took note. They’d just spent two weeks exploring the area, learning about its history, natural history, and Mainers’ diverse opinions about its future. The trip was called the Katahdin Woods and Waters Expedition. To make it possible, Chewonki applied for and received a grant from the Quimby Family Foundation, created by the same family that gave the land for the national monument. The grant allowed all nine students to participate free of charge. “They were learning about a fascinating debate involving social, environmental, and economic issues,” says Chewonki Vice President Greg Shute, “while they were experiencing the place itself and learning wilderness skills. The Quimby Family Foundation understood and supported our concept of providing different perspectives. We’re so grateful to the foundation for giving these outstanding Maine students a unique opportunity.” To conservationists and those who believe the new designation will draw more outdoor enthusiasts and economic activity to the region, the creation of the national monument was a victory. To those who have suffered the demise of the paper industry, distrust federal ownership, and fear restrictions on their customary use of the land, it felt like a loss. The Katahdin Woods and Waters Expeditioners gained insight into these divergent points of view as they traveled on foot and by canoe through the spectacular region. They heard from 12 guests who shared knowledge as well as personal opinions about the proposed monument. Among the guests were a retired forester, a camp owner, a dam operator, and a Maine Guide. Expedition co-leaders Becca Abuza and Doug Soholt wrote after the trip that participants “walked away with a far more nuanced understanding of the region and the issues surrounding its use…and an appreciation for arguments on both sides, while still being able to hold an opinion of their own.” A student from Skowhegan Area High School commented, “We talked to so many people about the national monument…I liked hearing both sides. I felt as if I could make a more balanced opinion…Our group asked good questions. We had good conversations with the people who visited us; they weren’t just talking at us…” Another student, this one from South Portland High School, said, “I learned more about the…proposal, [had a] great experience camping and canoeing…met some people who I wouldn’t have met around my state–pretty cool.” We hope these young Mainers will return to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument again and again in the years ahead to discover all that it has to offer.