Resolution triggers debate on public land use

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(Host) A legislative resolution against new wilderness areas in Vermont has triggered a debate over whether more public land should be set aside as forever wild.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The resolution says 60,000 acres of the Green Mountain National Forest are already “forever lost to productive use” because they’ve been protected as wilderness. The resolution goes on to ask that Vermont’s congressional delegation fight new wilderness areas in the 400,000 acre forest.

Bennington County Republican Senator Mark Shephard is a chief sponsor. His one goal of the resolution is to educate the public.

(Shephard) “The effects are certainly the restricted use of it. Right now, it’s like 98-point-something percent of the people who go to the national forest do not use wilderness area. So it restricts those folks further, which is most of the general public.”

(Dillon) Logging and motorized vehicles are prohibited in wilderness areas. And the resolution says the forest will have more biological diversity if it’s actively managed.

But Jamey Fidel with the Vermont Natural Resources Council says the national forest also needs more old growth areas. He says the public also clearly wants more back-country recreational opportunities.

(Fidel) “The resolution as it’s worded is vehemently anti-wilderness. It would state that the General Assembly opposes the designation of the Green Mountain National Forest as wilderness. That means not one more acre, and that flies in the face of what polls have shown. Two polls have now been conducted showing that approximately two-thirds to three-quarters of Vermonters supporting additional wilderness and additional wilderness-like recreation in Vermont.”

(Dillon) The House is likely to debate the resolution next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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