"U.S. Weighs Tighter Restrictions on Fire Retardant Drops"

"The U.S. Forest Service is weighing tighter restrictions on aerial fire retardant drops as part of a long-running legal battle over the environmental effects of pouring millions of gallons of the chemical mixture on Western wildlands every year.

Retardant use has soared in recent decades as wildfires have grown larger and more houses have been built on the wildland edge. Nationally, federal and state agencies apply an average of more than 28 million gallons a year, the vast majority of it in the West and much of that in California.

Nearly a third of the retardant used by the Forest Service in the last decade has been in California, where urban development abuts fire-prone wildlands and weather and terrain regularly produce monster blazes.

The proposed limits, outlined in a recently released environmental document, are not expected to cut overall usage. Rather, they are intended to reduce drops on and near waterways, where they can kill fish, and to slightly expand the acreage that is off limits to retardant releases for ecological reasons."

Bettina Boxall reports for the Los Angeles Times May 30, 2011.

Monday, May 30, 2011