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New rule allows road construction on 1/3 of national forest land

[JURIST] A new rule announced [press release] Thursday by the US Department of Agriculture has opened one third of roadless national forest land - some 58.5 million acres - for road construction, logging, and other commercial purposes in Alaska and other western states. Of the total area, 34.3 million acres would be immediately cleared for road construction, with the other 24.2 acres undeveloped until the required management plants are produced. The rule additionally "allows governors to petition the secretary of agriculture to develop regulations to manage roadless areas that meet the specific needs within each state." The US Forest Service [official website] will have final say on the governors' petitions which may be submitted to protect certain areas of land to protect wildlife, dams, private property or other utilities, among other specific regional needs. This is the largest environmental decision the Bush administration has made and it has already come under fire from a range of environmental groups, including the Heritage Forests Campaign, [advocacy website] a group run by a coalition of environmental groups, which issued its own press release Thursday commenting thst "This "leave no tree behind policy" paves the way for increased logging and mining in much of the nation's last wild areas." The roadless land rule was initially proposed during the Clinton administration; an earlier version was the subjuect of an injunction in 2001, and was overturned outright in 2003. Legal action against this version of the rule is already under way. AP has more.

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