Bush outrages conservationists with plans for logging boom

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The Independent US

The Bush administration plans to open up vast wilderness areas of the western US to logging, infuriating the country's environmental movement.

The Bush administration plans to open up vast wilderness areas of the western US to logging, infuriating the country's environmental movement.

Under the scheme, which could become an issue in the November election, roads will no longer be barred by federal government rules from more than 60 million acres of forest, almost all of it in Alaska and 11 other western states. With roads, the areas will automatically be open to logging and mining, unless the governor of a state specifically requests otherwise in Washington. In the closing months of the Clinton administration, measures were enacted to protect the wilderness areas and the wildlife in them, by putting them beyond the reach of industrial development.

But the Clinton rules have long been under attack in the courts from several states, led by Idaho which alone has 9.3 million roadless acres, or 14,000 square miles, more than any other state except Alaska.

The White House claims the new process will better respect the specific concerns of individual states, allowing them to manage an asset which belongs to them, and whose use affects that state's own citizens. But critics say the proposals are a sop to the logging companies, which has been a major supporter of the Bush administration and the Republican party, which dominates politics in most of the states affected. "The Bush administration is now doing this the right way," Dirk Kempthorne, the Republican governor of Idaho said. The new roadless policy "respects states' rights", he added.

For environmentalists, the plan is further proof of the Bush administration's scorn, its wish to open Arctic wildlife sanctuaries for oil drilling, and to relax the Clean Air Act.

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