The U.S. Forest Service yesterday came out against adding any new wilderness areas to southeastern Alaska’s 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. The recommendation was a response to a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Singleton, who sided with environmentalists last year in ordering the Forest Service to determine if there were parts of the temperate rain forest that Congress could set aside as wilderness areas (where logging, mining, and road-building would be prohibited). The Forest Service’s conclusion came as a blow to environmentalists, who saw it as further proof of the Bush administration’s lack of commitment to wilderness preservation. The timber lobby, however, was elated, and said any other decision would have spelled the end of a viable logging industry in the region. The public has 90 days to comment on the plan.

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