Environmentalists suing Bush Admin. to block logging in national forests

SAN FRANCISCO , October 25, 2005 () – A coalition of 20 environmental groups sued the Bush administration on Thursday to block road construction, logging and industrial development on more than 90,000 square miles of the nation's last untouched national forests.

In the lawsuit, the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Greenpeace and other groups challenge the U.S. Forest Service decision earlier this year to repeal President Clinton's 2001 "roadless rule" that protected 58.5 million acres of undeveloped forest.

"These are the last wild areas of North America, and there is overwhelming public support for their protection from development," said Kristen Boyles, a staff attorney for Oakland-based Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, comes about a month after the attorneys general for California, New Mexico and Oregon brought a similar legal challenge. Both lawsuits allege the Bush administration violated federal law by not studying the environmental impacts of repealing the Clinton rule.

Just before he left office in January 2001, President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Rule that banned development and road building on almost one-third of the nation's 192 million acres of national forest land.

The Bush administration issued a new policy that required states to work with Forest Service officials to devise management plans for individual forests. Chris West, a timber industry spokesman, said the groups should participate in the process of determining how individual forests are managed instead of fighting the regulations. He also said allowing roads would help prevent fires.

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