The 14th state of the United States, famous for its beautiful scenery, dairy, maple syrup and moderate politics. Vermont borders New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts and the Canadian province of Quebec. Vermont is home to approximately 500,000 persons. The capital of Vermont is Montpelier.
Vermont covers an area of approximately 25,000 km2 (9,600 square miles). The eastern border of the state is delineated by the Connecticut river. Lake Champlain, the sixth-largest body of water in the United States, separates Vermont from New York in the northwest portion of the state. The Green Mountains, so named because their relatively short stature gives most no timberline, form a north-south spine running the most of the length of the state, slightly west of its center. Several mountains have timberlines: Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state and Killington are two. Roughly 77% percent of the state is covered by forest, the rest in meadow, uplands, lakes, ponds and swampy wetlands.
Vermont is known for its brief mud season in spring followed by cool summer and a colorful autumn, and particularly for its cold winters. The northern part of the state, including the rural northeastern section (dubbed the "Northeast Kingdom") is known for exceptionally cold winters, often averaging more than ten degrees (F) colder than the southern areas of the state. Snow is abundant in the winter, giving Vermont some of the East Coast's premier ski areas and cross country skiing.
In the autumn, Vermont's hills experience an explosion of red, orange and gold foliage caused by the Sugar Maple. That this famous display occurs so abundantly in Vermont is not due so much to the presence of a particular variant of the tree; it is instead the result of a number of soil and climate conditions that are unique to the area.
White, white, white.
Over the past two centuries, Vermont has seen both population explosions and population busts. First settled by farmers, loggers and hunters, Vermont lost much of its population as farmers moved West into the Great Plains in search of abundant, easily-tilled land. Logging similarly fell off as over-cutting and the exploitation of other forests made Vermont's forest less attractive. Although devastating to Vermont's economy, this early loss of population had the beneficial effect of allowing Vermont's land and forest to recover from the excesses of human beings. The accompanying lack of industry has allowed Vermont to avoid many of the ill-effects of recent later industrial busts. Today, much of Vermont's forest is second-growth.
Of the remaining industries, dairy farming is the primary source of agricultural income. Vermont dairy is exported to the rest of the world by companies like Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream and Cabot Cheese. Vermont's beauty and friendliness have also made it attractive to independent thinkers, unique companies and cottage industries such as The Vermont Teddy Bear Company and King Arthur Flour. Tourism, numerous summer camps, furniture making and skiing also make up a large component of Vermont's income. Trout fishing, lake fishing and even ice fishing pull the outdoorsman into the state as does the excellent hiking on the Long Trail. Several noteworthy horse shows are annual events. Golf courses are springing up with spas to service the weary client. One major fashion outlet mall isn't really a mall but the old town of Manchester gentrified.
In recent years, Vermont has been deluged with plans to build condos and houses on what was relatively inexpensive, untouched land. Vermont's government has responded with a series of laws controlling development, and some pioneering initiatives to prevent the loss of Vermont's dairy industry.
Vermonters independently elect a Governor and Lieutenant Governor every six years. The current governor of Vermont is Democrat Howard Dean, who assumed office in 1991 upon the death of the previous Governor. Dean was most recently re-elected in 2000, despite a considerable degree of opposition due to his support of Civil Unions (see below.)
In the US Senate, Vermont is represented by Sen. Patrick Leahy (Dem) and Sen. James Jeffords (Ind). Jeffords, a former Republican, left the party in 2001 as a result of disagreements with his party. In the House, Vermont is represented by self-declared Socialist Rep. Bernard Sanders.
Vermonters are known for their political independence and moderation. The Vermont government maintains a proactive stance with regards to the environment, social services and prevention of sprawl. The most recent controversy to stir up political feelings in the state was the adoption of civil unions, a status which grants homosexual couples nearly all the rights and privileges of marriage (see marriage). In Baker v. Vermont (1999) the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that, under the Vermont Constitution, the State of Vermont must either allow homosexual couples to marry, or provide a separate but equal status for them. The State legislature chose the second option; the bill was supported by about half of the state's voters, passed in the legislature, and signed into law by Governor Howard Dean. It was never put to a referendum as the state has no such ballot-initiative mechanism. Some Vermonters voiced their displeasure out loud and in the following Gubernatorial and State Senate elections.
Although Vermont boasts two Senate seats and a relatively small population, attempts by out-of-state candidates (so called "carpetbaggers") to win a seat in Vermont have often been thwarted by locals. In 1998, a 79-year-old local man named Fred Tuttle won national attention by defeating a Massachusetts multi-millionare in the Republican Primary. With a campaign budget of $201, Tuttle garnered 55% of the Primary vote, before gratefully losing the general election to Sen. Leahy.
Vermont was originally home to the tribes of the Iroquois, Algonquin and Abenaki nations. In 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the area of what is now Lake Champlain, giving to the mountains the appelation that would eventually name the state: "Les Verts Monts" (The Green Mountains.)
In 1763, The Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian war, giving the area to the British. Parts of the region were at different times controlled by the colonies (later states) of New York and New Hampshire. Ethan Allen and his "Green Mountain Boys" fought against the British (resulting in the famous capture of Fort Ticonderoga), then later against these states, and in 1777 Vermont was declared an independent republic. This status held until 1791, when Vermont joined the Union as the 14th member.
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