The Forest Service has broad responsibilities
in the management of wildland fire, ranging from immediate suppression
to the lighting of controlled fires to safely restore fire-adapted
ecosystems. In managing wildfire, the Forest Service’s
clear mission includes protection of landscapes, resources,
and people. Regard for human safety and the management of risk
guide all fire management decisions and actions. On every fire,
firefighter and public safety are the highest priorities.
Aerially-applied fire retardant reduces wildfire
intensity and rate of spread, decreasing risks to firefighters,
enabling them to construct fireline safely. In many situations,
the use of retardant in concert with firefighters on the ground
allows the Forest Service to safely meet its responsibilities
to protect landscapes, resources, and people.
In October 2007, the Forest Service issued an
environmental assessment (EA) and decision notice and finding
of no significant impact (DN/FONSI) entitled "Aerial Application
of Fire Retardant". In February 2008, the Forest Service
amended the DN/FONSI by incorporating the reasonable and prudent
alternatives proposed by the United States Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) Fisheries during the Section 7 consultation process prescribed
by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
On July 27, 2010, the United States District
Court for the District of Montana issued a decision that invalidated
the Forest Service's decision to adopt the Guidelines for Aerial
Delivery of Retardant or Foam Near Waterways" (2000 Guidelines).
The 2000 Guidelines are to minimize the impact of aerially-delivered
fire retardant on aquatic life and habitat. Click
here for the 2000 Guidelines. The Court directed the Forest
Service, USFWS, and NOAA Fisheries to cure NEPA and ESA violations
and for the Forest Service to issue a new decision no later
than December 31, 2011.