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The paper studies distributed lightpath control schemes in wavelength-routed WDM optical networks with a focus on routing and lightpath establishment strategies. We propose an efficient distributed network control and routing protocol for wavelength-routed WDM optical networks, which is called the providence protocol. With the providence protocol, the residual wavelength resources tend to be reserved for high-priority connection requests. As a result, it can significantly reduce the mutual interference between different lightpaths so as to increase network throughput. Simulation results demonstrate that the providence protocol yields more desirable performances than the compared protocols in terms of throughput, link utilization, average setup time and average hop count.