GRANTS PASS — A federal judge has struck down the Bush administration's attempt to loosen a national forest planning rule that was the foundation of logging cutbacks to protect the northern spotted owl.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, Calif., ruled today that the U.S. Forest Service failed to take a hard look at the environmental impact of changing the rule to make it easier to cut down forest habitat for so-called indicator species.

At stake was a provision of the National Forest Management Act that required maintaining viable populations of species that indicate the health of an ecosystem, such as the spotted owl.

The Bush administration changed the rule last year so it required a framework of protection, rather than maintaining viable populations of wildlife.

— The Associated Press