01/29/2008 - The US government has announced plans to open more than 3m acres (about 5,000 square miles) of Alaskan wilderness to logging, mining and road building, angering environmental campaigners who say it will devastate the region. Supporters say the plan for the Tongass National Forest, a refuge for grizzly and black bears, wolves, eagles and wild salmon, will revive the state's timber industry.
The Bush administration plan for the forest, the largest in the US at nearly 17m acres, would open 3.4m acres to logging, road building and other development, including about 2.4m acres that are currently remote and without roads. About 663,000 acres are in areas considered most valuable for timber production.
Environmentalists said the plan continues a Bush policy of catering to the timber industry. Robert Vandermark, manager of the Pew environment group's heritage forests campaign, said: "In its final months, the Bush administration is attempting to give logging and mining industries the keys to the Tongass National Forest, the world's largest intact temperate rainforest. Wild areas like the Tongass contain watersheds that provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat and outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities that should be kept safe for generations to come."
Read the full article Bush Opens 3m Acres of Alaskan Forest to Logging on The Guardian Web site.