(Host) The forest service is soliciting public input on a proposed new management plan for the 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. Much of the controversy has centered on how much of the forest should be designated as wilderness. Under a draft plan favored by the forest service, about 18,000-thousand acres would be added to existing wilderness. The land would be off limits to logging and motorized vehicles.
Ed Larson of the Vermont Forest Products Association says any additional wilderness would hurt Vermont’s timber industry. Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard, Larson said there is little scientific reason to add more wilderness. He says those who want more wilderness out of reverence for nature are denying others a livelihood.
(Larson) “And I have to ask you -reverence- how do I explain to a truck driver in Andover who hauls logs for a living that he has to travel further away, pay more in fuel, spend less time for his family for reverence. We’re not opposed to letting them have the wilderness they have, but we’re not in favor of an additional acre of wilderness.”
(Host) Larson says loggers are frustrated that litigation and appeals have dramatically reduced potential timber harvests in the national forest. He says more wilderness will reduce those harvests even further.
But Jamey Fidel of the Vermont Natural Resources Council says under the forest service proposal there is no connection between the amount of wilderness and how much timber can be harvested.
(Fidel) “The amount of timber that will be cut on the forest is basically the same. It doesn’t matter how much more wilderness you have. This is not just about social reverence. These are areas that truly help to maintain high water quality in our headwaters. These are areas that wildlife species do rely on.”
(Host) Paul Brewster of the forest service says the debate over wilderness and logging is obscuring other important aspects of the proposed management plan. Brewster says the national forest is managed for multiple uses – and the new plan is designed to allow for recreational use of the land as well as logging and wildlife and habitat preservation. The forest service is soliciting written comments on the plan until July 5th. A finalized plan will be issued next year.