Federal judge says Bush rule change on logging illegal

The Bush administration broke the law last year when it changed the rules on logging in the Pacific Northwest, a federal judge ruled this week. The Northwest Forest Plan of 1994 requires the government to survey many proposed timber sales for the presence of rare plants and animals, and manage cuts to protect them. This “look before you log” rule has been crucial to protecting the Northwest’s forests from overcutting, environmental advocates say, in part because it has empowered such advocates to appeal proposed timber sales and conduct citizen surveys of forests when the feds fall short of due diligence. Last year, the Bush administration ditched the rule, clearing the way for more commercial logging on at least a million acres of forest. But U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman ruled that federal land managers broke the law by not fully assessing how skipping the surveys would affect protection of the critters and plants.