WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Tuesday unanimously passed legislation to increase designated wilderness areas in Vermont and New Hampshire. The bipartisan New England Wilderness Act of 2006 combines the efforts of Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy (D) and Jim Jeffords (I), and New Hampshire Senators Judd Gregg (R) and John Sununu (R) to pass the Vermont Wilderness Act and the New Hampshire Wilderness Act.
The legislation closely tracks the Forest Service’s Management Plan for the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF), with proposed additions in the Breadloaf, Big Branch and Peru Peak areas that are nearly identical to the Forest Service plan. In addition, the legislation adds two new wilderness areas in the Glastenbury and Romance/Monastery Mountain areas. Finally, the Act would establish the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, which has the strong support of the various communities and local partners in the area. The New England Wilderness Act now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“I was pleased to work with Senators Jeffords, Sununu and Gregg to pass this bipartisan New England Wilderness Act,” said Leahy. “This bipartisan legislation reflects Vermonters’ and Granite Staters’ commitment to appropriately supplement wilderness areas in the Green Mountain and White Mountain National Forests. In many ways this legislation is an endorsement of the superb work done by the Forest Service staff in our two states. The many public meetings and thousands of letters, emails and calls from Vermonters indicate broad support for this step, which honors and builds on the stewardship legacy we hold in trust for our children and grandchildren.”
“I am proud to join my colleagues from Vermont and New Hampshire in advancing this legislation,” said Jeffords. “Our National Forest has been expanded since I joined Senators Stafford and Leahy to sponsor the Wilderness Act of 1984, and designating additional wilderness now is in keeping with the wishes of so many Vermonters.”
The last major expansion of wilderness areas in Vermont was enacted in 1984, and since then the GMNF has grown by an additional 110,000 acres. The GMNF now encompasses approximately 400,000 acres, constituting about six percent of Vermont. Of these 400,000 acres, roughly 59,000 are currently designated as wilderness. This legislation would increase the number of wilderness acres in the GMNF to a total of about 107,000 acres.
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Summary of the New England Wilderness Act of 2006
In the Romance/Monastery Mountain area the bill creates a new wilderness area called the Joseph Battell Wilderness, to honor the historic champion of Vermont’s public lands. This area was designated as remote backcountry in the Forest Service plan – a management classification which is similar to a wilderness area.
In the Glastenbury area, the Forest Service added more than 8,000 acres to its original plan, and this legislation further increases the acreage of a proposed Glastenbury Wilderness Area.
In addition, recognizing the recreational appeal of the area surrounding Mount Moosalamoo in the northern half of the forest, the bill formally designates a new 15,857-acre Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. This designation will draw tourists from around the world for hiking, biking, snowmobiling, and a variety of other outdoor activities. Other uses of the forest, including logging, are not prohibited activities under the National Recreation Area designation.