More than $1 billion of national forest land could hit the auction block, clearing the way for commercial interests to buy and develop formerly off-limits land. On Friday, the Bush administration announced plans to sell roughly 300, 000 acres of forest land — parceled out in half acre to 1,000 acre pieces — as a way to raise money for rural schools.

If the proposal is cleared, it would represent the largest sale of forest land in decades. There’s no indication that it will sail through public hearings. An environmental group called the Wilderness Society has labeled the proposal a “billion dollar boondoggle.”

Most of the federal acreage is scattered across the Western states, which may explain in part why the government is seeking to sell the land. Agriculture undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs forest policy, was quoted by Dow Jones on Friday saying that the parcels are isolated, expensive to manage and no longer meet the needs of the national forest system. The land sale would represent just .5% of the 193 million acre national forest system.