The feds broke the law when they awarded nine timber contracts in the Northwest that failed to protect rare and endangered species as stipulated under the Northwest Forest Plan, a federal judge ruled yesterday. The judge — the same one who halted timber sales over the northern spotted owl — sided with 13 enviro groups and blocked the nine sales, which encompass hundreds of acres of old-growth forests in western Washington, western Oregon, and northwest California. The ruling eventually could be applied to about 100 timber sales on federal land, temporarily shutting down a significant proportion of logging on federal land west of the Cascade mountains. The decision is a setback for the Clinton administration and a major victory for enviros.