In one of the most significant conservation moves of his administration, Pres. Clinton yesterday announced that he would permanently protect at least 40 million acres of national forest land from road building, logging, and mining, using administration actions meant to outmaneuver opposition in Congress. Speaking at the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, Clinton said, “We’re going to have a big fight on this for about a year. In the end, we’re going to protect all this before it’s too late.” The U.S. Forest Service will speed through hearings and issue regulations toward the end of next year, before a temporary moratorium on road-building in these areas expires. The plan had been promoted by Vice Pres. Al Gore, and Clinton went out of his way to give Gore credit. Enviros applauded the move, though some said the plan would be weak unless it included the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Administration officials yesterday stepped around the Tongass issue.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.