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Local & Regional Briefs for Friday, April 11

Vermont Law School Receives $500,000 Donation

South Royalton — Vermont Law School announced a $500,000 unrestricted gift in a statement Wednesday.

Because the gift was granted without restrictions, the school can put the money toward a wide range of purposes including leadership and faculty development and scholarships, the statement said.

“Unrestricted gifts give us flexibility,” said President and Dean Marc Mihaly in the release. “They enable the school to seize new opportunities as well as retain our small class sizes, top-rated clinical training programs, and talented faculty.”

Vermont Law School is highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report for its environmental law and clinical training programs.

In the past six months, the school has also received $1.5 million to support its environmental programs and a $700,000 grant extension from the U.S. Agency for International Development for projects in Southeast Asia. Wednesday’s announcement came as the law school continues discussions with the University of Vermont about expanding an academic partnership between the two institutions. They currently collaborate through joint master’s degrees, J.D. and M.B.A. programs, B.A. and J.D. programs, as well as shared research projects.

Vermont Official to Oversee Health Care Efforts

Montpelier — Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller is going to be getting a new job overseeing all of Vermont’s health care overhaul efforts.

Miller has served as commerce secretary since 2011. This year Miller began working to help fix Vermont Health Connect, the state’s version of the federal health reform efforts. Now he will be become Senior Adviser to the Governor and Chief of Health Care Reform. He will be responsible for overseeing the current efforts as well as the planned transition to a single-payer system.

Miller emphasized private sector concerns about costs will be considered in planning.

American Chestnut Foundation Says Tree Making Slow Comeback

Montpelier — A scientist says efforts to breed a version of the American chestnut tree that is resistant to a blight that almost wiped out the species are making progress, but it could be a century before the trees can offer much economic benefit to the Vermont economy. Kendra Gurney, the New England regional science coordinator for The American Chestnut Foundation, made the comments Thursday in a presentation before the House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products.

The American chestnut was once one of the most dominant tree species from Maine to Georgia. It was largely wiped out by a blight from Asia, first identified in 1904. The foundation has helped develop a blight-resistant species by crossing American chestnuts with a resistant Chinese variety, but it’s not ready yet for widespread distribution.

— Staff and Wire Reports