By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to exempt the country’s largest national forest, in southeast Alaska, from a ban on timber harvests and road building in roadless areas. The move was denounced by conservation groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, under which the Forest Service falls, announced Thursday the upcoming release of a final environmental review that it says identifies a preferred alternative to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the so-called Roadless Rule. A final decision is still pending. Supporters of the exemption see it as increasing access to federal lands for such things as timber harvests and development of minerals. Critics say it could adversely affect wildlife and hurt tourism and recreation opportunities.