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Thousands of acres designated wilderness by president

MONTPELIER, Vt. --Thousands of acres in northern New England were officially designated as wilderness Friday by President Bush.

The president signed the New England Wilderness Act of 2006 on Friday. It ordered 34,500 acres in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest and 42,000 in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest to be preserved as wilderness.

The wilderness bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. John Sununu and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg -- both New Hampshire Republicans -- before it was combined with a Vermont version. It became controversial in September when Gov. Jim Douglas objected to the amount of wilderness that was being added in Vermont. He said the state's congressional delegation had failed to heed the concerns of some timber and traditional use advocates.

They argued that the wilderness designation, because it closes the land to motorized uses and logging, was bad public policy. A new version of the bill was drafted, reducing by more than 6,000 acres the amount added to wilderness, and it passed when Congress reconvened after the Nov. 7 election.

"Our congressional delegation deserves praise for the successful effort to expand wilderness protection on behalf of Vermonters," said U.S. Rep.-elect Peter Welch.

"This is a balanced plan, produced through bipartisan cooperation, which now becomes the heritage of all Vermonters," said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. "Settling this uncertainty also frees Vermont's dedicated Forest Service management team to proceed to implement the many other aspects of the new plan for the Green Mountain National Forest."

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              Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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