(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the U.S. House will vote later this week on legislation to expand wilderness areas in the Green Mountain National Forest.
The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee had threatened to delay consideration of the bill indefinitely but Sanders says it appears that the problem has been worked out.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) The legislation would create roughly 42,000 acres of additional wilderness area and it’s been on a Congressional roller coaster for the past 2 months.
The Senate passed the bill in late September but as it went to the House for its consideration, Governor Jim Douglas urged Republican leaders to scale back the plan. Douglas had concerns that the bill would affect small logging operations in the southern part of the state.
Logging and motorized vehicle use are banned in wilderness areas. Lower impact activities such as hunting, fishing and hiking are allowed.
Near the end of the regular session in October, Douglas and the state’s Congressional delegation reached a compromise that called for 6000 fewer acres. But time ran out and the issue was bumped into the current lame duck session.
The House was set to pass the bill on Monday but then House Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte objected to the plan and the issue was postponed once again.
Sanders says he thinks everything is back on track:
(Sanders) “This has been the strangest piece of legislation that I’ve ever worked on. It’s been up and down up and down. Yesterday was down. Now we are cautiously optimistic that it may come to floor, and then we’re going to need two thirds to get it passed. Whether we can do that remains to be seen. But we’re going to be working very hard to make that happen.”
(Kinzel) Sanders says he came away from a meeting with Rep. Goodlatte with the impression that the Virginia congressman might drop his objections to the bill.
(Sanders) “To say the least, he’s not a great fan of wilderness. Some of us talked to him. We hope he has reversed his position. I think he may have and we will see what happens.”
(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s also optimistic that the legislation will be passed this week:
(Leahy) “The wilderness bill is looking better. It’s had a lot of ups and downs partly because of being stalled for a number of reasons before the elections. The elections are over now and we’ve had both republicans and Democrats who’ve said let’s move it and I think it will.”
(Kinzel) The legislation also creates additional wilderness areas in New Hampshire.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier