The US government wants to end Clinton-era environmental legislation which bans road building and logging on almost 60 million acres of national forest.

Agricultural secretary Ann Veneman said the new proposal would allow state governors to petition the federal government if they wanted to keep areas roadless.

She said the policy would encourage co-operation between state and federal officials and prevent litigation which has characterised the Clinton rule. States and timber companies have challenged the current roadless rule in six different courts.

However, the proposal has been criticised by environmental groups, which have called it a giveway to the timber industry.