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SOURCE:  Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2001

Roadless Policy Delayed

Environmentalists Fear Sign That Bush Might Reverse New Rules on Forests

By: Associated press

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration asked a federal court Friday to postpone a hearing on former President Clinton's ban on road-building and logging in a third of the nation's federal forests.

Environmentalists immediately voiced concern that President Bush was signaling his intention to reverse the regulations Clinton put into place in the final days of his presidency.

"This was their first opportunity to come in and defend the policy and instead they've come in with an offer to suspend it," said Tim Preso, a staff attorney for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

The Clinton ban, widely applauded by environmentalists and denounced by the timber industry, would affect 58 million forest acres where no roads currently exist.

The ban originally was scheduled to go into effect March 13, but last month Bush postponed it until May 12 so that he could review it.

Shortly after Clinton announced the ban, the state of Idaho sought a preliminary injunction to keep it from going into effect, saying the government had not conducted adequate research nor allowed for sufficient comment in deciding that the forests should be protected.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise, Idaho, set a hearing for March 30. On Friday, lawyers for the Agriculture Department, which oversees the Forest Service, asked the court to delay the hearing until early May.

The lawyers offered to invoke a little-used administrative rule to suspend the ban, saying the department "has committed to postponing the effective date of the rule until this court has decided the motion for a preliminary injunction."

The roadless rule was published on Jan. 12, eight days before Clinton left office. It was two years in the making, after the government solicited 1.6 million public comments and held 600 public hearings.

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