The Obama administration is ordering a one-year moratorium on most road-building and other development on about 50 million acres (20 million hectares) of remote national forests. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a directive Thursday reinstating for one year most of a Clinton-era ban against new road construction and development in national forests. The 2001 rule banned road-building and logging in more than 58 million acres of remote national forests, mostly in the West. Conflicting court decisions issued since then have left the so-called roadless rule's legal status in doubt. Environmental groups consider the road ban crucial since road-building is often the first step toward logging, drilling, mining and other development in the forest backcountry. Critics of the ban say roads are needed to fight wildfires and log small trees that otherwise could serve as fuel for catastrophic fires. Vilsack said his interim directive which takes effect immediately will provide clarity that should help protect national forests until the Obama administration develops a longterm roadless policy. The directive gives Vilsack sole decisionmaking authority over all proposed forest management or road construction projects in designated roadless areas in all states except Idaho. A spokeswoman for Vilsack, Chris Mather, said that the secretary could still approve roads if necessary, for example, to protect public safety or forest health.