The Bush administration unveiled a new management plan on Friday for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, which encompasses nearly 17 million acres of coastal rainforest. The Tongass is the largest national forest in the U.S., a rallying point for enviros who want to protect all remaining roadless areas in national forests. The new plan, to be in effect for 10 to 15 years, would allow a maximum of 267 million board feet of timber to be cut in the forest each year. But the area’s beleaguered timber industry hasn’t come close to meeting that level for years; last year, only an estimated 19 million board feet were logged. The new plan would allow development on about 3.6 million acres of the Tongass, including about 2.4 million acres that are now roadless and untouched, and about 663,000 acres that the government says would be suitable for logging over the next 100 years. Some of the acres would be open to logging right away, but most of the roadless areas wouldn’t be opened until the timber industry met benchmarks for significant growth, which many experts think is highly unlikely. Still, many enviros were angry that the plan allows the possibility of logging in roadless areas.

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