MONTPELIER — A narrow revision of Act 250 that addresses forest fragmentation and recreational trails has passed in the state Senate.
The bill, a dramatically slimmed down version of H.926, provides Act 250 jurisdiction for development in forest lands. It seeks to prevent those lands from being broken up into smaller parcels separated by development, roads and
utility corridors, and therefore closer to human activities that might damage natural habitat. It passed 26-3 in a third reading vote on Thursday, sending it back to the state House of Representatives.
The bill also exempts recreational trails from Act 250, the state's land use planning law, until January of 2022, and directs the Agency of Natural
Resources to report to the House and Senate natural resources committees with recommended best practices for the state's recreational trail system.
The bill advanced Wednesday after members voted separately to accept its trails and forest fragmentation provisions.
In its original form as approved by the House of Representatives, the bill was a more ambitious attempt to update Act 250, the land use law which turned 50 years old this year. But COVID-19 put the bill on the back burner, and disagreement over more controversial proposals — most notably, the proposed exemption of housing development in designated downtown areas — led committee members to decide on a less ambitious course.