Developers, administration chop down forest fragmentation bill


A proposal to limit forest fragmentation was thwarted by developers who oppose using the state's land use and development laws as a tool to keep woodlands intact, according to the lead sponsor of the bill that was gutted on the Senate floor Wednesday.

"There are developers in a certain corner of the state that are very concerned that nothing gets in the way of their planned development," said Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham.

The Senate scaled back the bill after the Shumlin administration called for a study on how to preserve the state's forests in harmony with the needs of the forest products industry and future development.

The bill would have required development already undergoing the Act 250 review process to maintain forest integrity. If development must alter forests, the developer could purchase a conservation offset at another site to balance the impact.

The Senate passed a strike-all amendment on second reading to let the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation study the issue and report back to lawmakers next year.

Vagueness, lack of clarity and possible unintended consequences were among the administration's chief concerns with the bill that passed a committee vote last week, according to Michael Snyder, commissioner of the department.

"It had 19 co-sponsors and then people were shocked to discover it did something," Galbraith said. "The trouble with any legislation is that the particular interests always trumps the more general public interest."


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