Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Wednesday eliminated federal protections for and opened Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the largest old-growth forest in the United States, to logging and other business operations.
A notice posted in the Federal Register lifts the "roadless rule" for the forest, which was implemented in 2001 by former President Bill Clinton to bar road-building and logging on lands in the Tongass and other forests.
Wednesday's change opens more than 9 million acres of land in Tongass to potential logging, mining and timber harvesting.
Tongass is one of the world's largest intact temperate rainforests.
"The [Agriculture Department] is granting the State of Alaska's request to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule," the notice said.
U.S. courts have already questioned the administration's plans for the forest. A federal judge said last spring that it failed to fully consider the environmental impacts of removing protections in the forest over the next 15 years.
The U.S. Forest Service determined four years ago that the Tongass National Forest stores more carbon than any other in the United States.
Ken Rait, Pew Charitable Trusts director of the public lands and rivers conservation project, said the move flatly ignores the science of climate change and conservation.
"Government decisions should be informed by public input and made on the basis of science," he said. "This decision is neither. This decision ignored public input and this decision turns a blind eye to science."
President Donald Trump has been accused of repeatedly ignoring science on a number of key issues, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, purely for economic and business interests.