Old-growth trees in roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska could soon be on the chopping block. The Bush administration announced yesterday that it plans to exempt the nation’s largest national forest from the Clinton-era “roadless rule,” which blocks logging and road-building on more than 58 million acres of wild land in national forests. The proposal, part of an effort to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Alaska, would double the number of acres open to logging in the Tongass; the plan will be subject to public comment and will likely be finalized in December. The administration also announced other changes to the roadless rule yesterday, including opening up Alaska’s Chugach National Forest to logging and allowing governors to request exemptions from the rule for the purposes of reducing fire risk, improving habitat, providing access to private property, or protecting human health and safety. Enviros were incensed. “It’s an outrageous and transparent effort to let someone else take the heat for advancing the administration’s anti-environment agenda,” said Niel Lawrence, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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