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 Judge strikes down forest plan change

Herald and News  8/3/05

Seattle (AP) - A federal judge has struck down the Bush administration's decision to ease logging restrictions in the Northwest, saying the government failed to consider what effect it would have on rare plants and animals.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said in her ruling Monday that according to federal law, authorities had an obligation to show why the logging restrictions should be changed.

The rules change, which took effect in spring 2004, said forest managers no longer had to look for rare species before logging.  Instead, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management used information provided by the state heritage programs of Washington, Oregon and California in determining whether to allow logging, prescribed burns, and trail- or campground-building.

A coalition of environmental groups sued to stop the change, saying it would double logging on federal land in the region and have disastrous consequences for rare species.

The change applied to 5.5 million acres of old-growth and other forests designated for logging under the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, a compromise forest-management plan that covers 24 million acres in Washington, Oregon and northern California.

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