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A divided federal appeals court panel on Wednesday sided with the state of Alaska in reversing a decision that reinstated prohibitions on road-building and the harvesting of timber in the nation's largest national forest.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had articulated "a number of legitimate grounds" in a 2003 decision to temporarily exempt the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska from the Roadless Rule, which contains the prohibitions.

A lower court judge, in 2011, had found the decision to be arbitrary and capricious.

The appeals court panel sent the matter back to the district court to determine whether additional environmental review is required. Ninth Circuit Court Judge M. Margaret McKeown dissented, saying the justification for the overturning the lower court's decision was missing.


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