A federal judge has said the Bush administration broke environmental laws when it introduced new logging rules in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California last year.

The government rescinded part of the Northwest Forest Plan in 2004 so federal forest managers did not need to search for rare plants and animals associated with old growth before logging.

But the judge said the environmental impact of the changes had not been properly analysed. He has asked for more legal briefs before issuing a ruling.

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24.4 million acres of federal forest.