A controversial Bush administration plan to log trees harmed in fires that raged in the Bitterroot National Forest in 2000 was halted yesterday by a federal judge in Montana. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy also excoriated Mark Rey, natural resources and environment undersecretary for the Agriculture Department, for bypassing a 45-day public appeals process and unilaterally giving the green light to the logging proposal. Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist, said it was necessary to expedite the process in order to salvage the wood before it rotted. The logging, which would have been the largest salvage operation in history, was expected to generate more than $75 million for the local economy. The administration has not announced how it will act in the face of Molloy’s ruling; it could open a public comment period, or appeal the decision to a higher court.
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