20 May 2008, 8:07pm
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Eugene Groups Files Another Suit to Halt Use of Fire Retardant

By Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal, May 19, 2023

It’s a scene repeated time and again during fire season: As flames crackle and smoke billows into the sky, an airplane dips low and releases a plume of bright orange.

Chemical fire retardant, or slurry, is one of the more important tools for fighting fire from the air.

It’s also the focus of an ongoing legal tussle between the U.S. Forest Service and a watchdog group that describes the substance as an unnecessary poison.

“It’s toxic,” said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. “Don’t drop it into your neighborhood stream or on top of your threatened plant or animal species.”

Last month, the group alleged in a federal lawsuit that the use of slurry violates the Endangered Species Act and other laws.

It’s the second lawsuit over retardant filed by the Eugene, Ore.-based group. In the first case, a federal judge came close to finding Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey in contempt regarding delays on an environmental review of fire retardant.

Stahl’s group contends Forest Service policy runs counter to research from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal scientists that retardant poses serious risk to threatened and endangered species, particularly fish. [more]

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