New England in brief

Dad of slain woman found in Vermont: She had to know killer

The father of a Connecticut woman whose remains were found in Vermont nearly a year after she disappeared said his daughter was tough and must have known her killer.

William Hart, of East Hartford, Connecticut, said that 24-year-old Denise Hart wouldn't have let a stranger get close enough to harm her.

"She would fight anything that moved. She wouldn't take nobody's crap," he said. "She was like me, a fighter. We used to call her Muhammad Ali."

Denise Hart disappeared Jan. 25. The car she was driving was found burning the next day in Cornwall and her skeletal remains were discovered by hikers Tuesday off the edge of a remote road in Goshen. Police say she was a victim of homicide but haven't said how she died.

She lived in Hartford, Connecticut, but had ties to Rutland and Addison counties in Vermont. When she disappeared, her father didn't know she was missing right away.

"I was in the dark. Imagine your daughter is missing for four or five days and finding out after the fact," he said. "I thought she just took off, and she would pop back up. I thought, `She can't be dead."'

William Hart says his daughter was studying to become a parole officer.

"She definitely wanted to become something," he told the Herald.

Green Mountain project aims to curb illegal tree cutting

A pilot program in Vermont is trying to keep backcountry skiers from illegally cutting down trees to open up trails.

Officials with the Green Mountain National Forest are hoping the project will curb the unsanctioned cutting and open up terrain at the same time. Large amounts of illegal cutting were discovered on state lands in Middlebury.

Volunteers have been thinning trees and brush under the supervision of National Forest Service personnel for the past several weeks. About 20 gathered on a recent Saturday to work on a trail near Brandon Gap.

"Mostly what we're going to be doing is hauling brush that's already been cut," said Hardy Avery, a professional trail designer hired for the project.

Green Mountain National Forest district recreational program manager Holly Knox said a 210-acre parcel of nation forest straddling the towns of Rochester, Goshen and Chittenden is being used as testing ground.

"We're looking at both improving recreation opportunities, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our ecological components, but also that reduction in people cutting in areas where they should not be cutting," Knox said.

The size of all new ski trails will be limited to between 15 and 30 feet wide. Softwoods like firs and evergreen are being protected.

Zac Freeman, a member of the Rochester Area Sports Trails Alliance, said the project is putting Vermont on the map with backcountry enthusiasts.

"The efforts that we've put in here these last few years have really stirred up a lot of excitement throughout the northeast," Freeman said.

Vermont develops online atlas of the state's forests

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has helped develop an online atlas to provide more information about the 4.6 million acres of forests in the state.

The Vermont Forest Stewardship Atlas is designed to identify and categorize the state's forest resources.

Information is related to productivity, human and environmental constraints, and stewardship. It also includes details on ecological, water, scenic and recreational resources.

Organizers say the project allows for more integrated planning of private and public forest lands, with the ultimate goal of maintaining forest lands.

The atlas was developed by the Natural Resources Agency in cooperation with state's eight regional planning commissions.

The U.S. Forest Service provided funding for the effort.

DEA to investigate raid by Vermont police that left man dead

The Drug Enforcement Administration will investigate a police raid that left a drug suspect dead and bullet holes in a neighboring house from law enforcement officers' guns, the city's mayor said.

In a statement Wednesday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger called the man killed in the raid, Kenneth Stephens, "a dangerous individual with a long record of engagement in serious violence and drug trafficking." But Weinberger said he was concerned that bullets fired at Stephens on Tuesday evening had "strayed into another home."

He said Burlington Police Chief Brandon Del Pozo met with the DEA's top New England agent and he'd been assured that the DEA's office of inspector general would review what had happened.

Police, after investigating Stephens for more than a month, raided his home under the authority of a federal no-knock search warrant.

Sixteen federal, state and local police were involved in the raid. Police say Stephens pointed a muzzle-loading rifle at officers who were entering the home, and state Trooper Matthew Cannon and DEA Agent Tim Hoffmann fired 13 shots from their rifles.

Neighbors say at least one of the bullets went into their home, narrowly missing people inside.

Stephens had been suspected of dealing heroin and cocaine from the apartment. Police did not say if drugs were found in the home.

Meanwhile, the Burlington Free Press reported that about two dozen people held a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening across the street from the house Stephens' home. Some attended to protest what they saw as "police violence," to call for transparency by law enforcement, to mark a death or to decry the war on drugs.

New Hampshire hunting seasons slightly down this year

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department says in general, hunters seeking deer, moose and bear were slightly less successful this year than last.

The unofficial deer kill for this year was 10,912, down 4 percent from last year but consistent with the 20-year average. Hunters also killed 749 bears this season, which was 5 percent lower than 2014 but 14 percent above the five-year average.

Among those awarded moose permits, 69 percent were successful, down from 72 percent last year. The heaviest moose weighed in at 810 pounds.

In contrast, turkey hunters had a banner year. This year's total — 705 turkeys — was a nearly 35 percent increase over last year.

More than 59,300 hunting licenses were sold in New Hampshire in 2014, the latest year for which data are available. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, hunters generate about $61 million in spending each year in New Hampshire.

Final numbers from the 2015 hunting season will be issued in March.

Van tours up Mount Washington resume in warm weather

Faced with the startling sight of bare pavement on the day after Christmas, the Mount Washington Auto Road is open for guided tours.

Usually, the road up the northeast's highest peak closes to cars in late October, and the only way to get travel up the mountain in winter is via special all-terrain SnowCoaches.

But because it has been so warm, van tours are being offered to the tree-line — about 4,200 feet — on Saturday.

General manager Howie Wemyss (weems) says it's the first time in his 35 years the road has been open this late.

Wemyss says the road will close again Sunday as wintry weather finally visits Mount Washington, home to some of the world's worst weather.

– The Associated Press


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