01.15.09

Vermont Rivers Bill Passes Senate

WASHINGTON (January 15) – The Senate today approved legislation that could lead to designating the Missisquoi and Trout rivers as “Wild and Scenic.”

The measure was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The legislation would direct the U.S. Department of the Interior to study the two northern Vermont rivers as the first step toward adding them to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which differs from wilderness designation.

Leahy said, “This will charter an inventory of two highly prized Vermont rivers.  It’s a useful and constructive step that could also lead to help with our stewardship of these two great natural resources.”

Sanders said, “This legislation strikes an essential balance between the use of our natural resources for recreation and sport and maintaining a clean environment.”

The senators noted that there is strong support among area residents and local officials for this study, with each community the rivers pass through providing a letter in support of this legislation.  The Missisquoi River Basin Association coordinated this effort.  The bill has also gained the support of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Designation of the Missisquoi and Trout rivers as Vermont’s first “Wild and Scenic” rivers would help protect the natural, cultural and recreational aspects of the rivers, maintain water quality in the rivers themselves and Lake Champlain into which the Missisquoi flows, and require a comprehensive river management plan with significant state and local involvement.  Such a designation would not prohibit commercial or recreational activities along the rivers.

This provision is part of the Public Land Management Act of 2009.  It passed the Senate by a vote of 73 to 21 with both Vermont senators voting in favor.

Companion legislation, sponsored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), passed the House of Representatives last year and will be considered again this year.

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