House passes resolution against new wilderness areas

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(Host) The Vermont House has gone on record against new wilderness areas in the Green Mountains. Lawmakers endorsed a resolution on Tuesday that calls on the congressional delegation to oppose new wilderness in the National Forest.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) There are 60,000 acres in the Green Mountain National Forest set aside for wilderness protection. For the majority of House members, that’s more than enough. The Republican-controlled House defeated by 20 votes an amendment that acknowledged some support for new wilderness areas.

Warren Democrat Kinny Connell asked lawmakers to consider the potential benefits of land that’s forever wild. She pointed out that just one percent of the state is now wilderness.

(Connell) “The majority of Vermonters support wilderness and additions to it. By one poll from the Center for Rural Studies, 73 percent support additions to wilderness; 68.5 [percent] agree or strongly agree in designating more areas for wilderness designation, according to the 2002 Vermont outdoor recreation report that was conducted by the Vermont Department of Parks and Recreation. You wouldn’t know that from the votes today.”

(Dillon) Connell said she recently received an e-mail from a friend who is now serving in Afghanistan. He asked her to support wilderness areas in the state.

Logging and mechanized vehicles such as snowmobiles are not allowed in wilderness areas. Representatives from many of the towns within the national forest were fiercely opposed to setting aside additional land. Mary Morrissey, a Republican Representative from Bennington, was the lead sponsor of the anti-wilderness resolution.

(Morrissey) “Wilderness as its defined in the complex bureaucratic world of national forest planning means closing off automobile access, snowmobile trail closures, prohibits timber cutting and management. And it reduces our wildlife population including deer, moose, grouse, rabbits songbirds etcetera because it is certainly well-documented that wildlife needs forest re-growth for food and shelter.”

(Dillon) The resolution was advisory only. A similar measure is pending in the Senate.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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