In something out of a dream for environmentalists, U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck yesterday barred cutting of all old-growth trees on national forests. Andy Stahl, head of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, said the policy could have greater impact than the rule released last week by the Clinton administration to ban road-building on 58.5 million acres of national forestland. Dombeck’s decision sends a clear message to the incoming Bush administration, which has indicated that it won’t place such emphasis on land conservation. Dombeck has the right to remain in office 120 days after President Bush is inaugurated, and one of his top aides said Dombeck had no intention of resigning. Unlike the regulation banning road-building, the policy announced yesterday doesn’t have the force of law, but it would remain in effect until reversed by a new Forest Service chief.

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