updated 12/23/2003 7:05:50 PM ET 2003-12-24T00:05:50

The Bush administration opened 300,000 more acres of Alaska's Tongass National Forest on Tuesday to possible logging or other development.

The decision allows 3 percent of the forest's 9.3 million acres, which were put off-limits to road-building by the Clinton administration, to have roads built on them and perhaps to be opened to use by the timber industry.

"The people of Alaska benefit," said spokesman Bill Bradshaw of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the Agriculture Department.

John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, accused the administration of "gutting the last pristine temperate rain forest" in the United States.

Agriculture Department officials, with approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget, decided to exempt the acreage from the so-called roadless rule, an often-challenged Clinton-era policy.

Imposed during President Clinton's final days in office, the rule had sought to block development of 58.5 million acres, or nearly one-third of the national forests.

It was struck down in July by a federal district judge in Wyoming and currently is before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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