TORONTO (AP) _ A judge rejected a request Tuesday by two environmental groups to halt logging in one of Ontario's last old-growth forests.

The Algonquin Wildlands League and Friends of Temagami said the provincial government acted illegally when it approved the cutting of 120-year-old pines in the Owain Lake forest near Temagami, 250 miles north of Toronto.

Judge Ed Saunders of Ontario Divisional Court rejected the groups' request for an immediate halt to the logging, which started last week. He did grant the environmentalists' application for a full hearing to be held later on several other logging plans.

Saunders said it would be ``inappropriate to interfere with the actions of the government even for a short time.''

Lawyers for the environmentalists told Saunders last week that provincial laws require a forest management planning manual be published before logging is approved, and that hasn't happened.

A Toronto-based environmental group, Earthroots, has been staging a protest at Owain Lake and plans to maintain its tent camp alongside the logging road. About 40 of the group's supporters have been arrested over the past four weeks for interfering with the loggers as they prepared to start cutting.

Marc Goulard, general manager of the company with cutting rights in the Owain Lake area, said his loggers are only felling about one in three trees. He estimates the crews will be in the area for three or four months.