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Judge halts plan to log Montana burn area

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MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge issued a court order barring the U.S. Forest Service from logging thousands of acres of burned timber from a national forest in Montana, saying the agency had violated its own rules in approving the plan.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said Monday the decision to bypass an internal Forest Service appeals process was illegal and violated the public's right to be involved in the decision-making process.

A coalition of environmental groups sued over the Bush administration's decision to approve the controversial logging plan. The proposal would allow the harvest of about 46,000 acres of burned timber in the Bitterroot National Forest, 307,000 acres of which was scorched by wildfires in 2000.