Here’s the link.
Below is an excerpt.
Fire retardant doesn’t attempt to put out wildfires or even necessarily halt flames in their advance. Consisting primarily of ammonium phosphate — fertilizer, basically — fire retardant is formulated to slow down the combustion of trees, brush and grass.
The idea is to give firefighters time to mount a ground attack. The ground forces clear away flammable material in a wide line around the edges of the fire. They hem in the flames and eventually a soaking rain falls or the fire just burns itself out.
Often, even a fully contained high Rockies wildfire will smolder, sputter and flare for weeks or months, into autumn and the first significant snows.
The U.S. Forest Service spent $19 million on 23 million gallons of retardant last year, which was unusually busy for wildfires.
“We’ve observed streams for miles be sterilized of all their fish life. Tens of thousands of fish can be killed in one dump,” Stahl said.
Meanwhile, very few fish poisonings have been documented. Even Montana U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, in siding with Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in its second lawsuit over fire retardant, pointed out in his 2010 ruling that only 14 of 128,000 retardant drops over eight years killed protected fish or plants.
Ammonia in watersheds from fire retardant is not a human health risk.
Many endangered Rocky Mountain plants are adapted to thrive in very limited habitats with poor soils. Fire retardant can encourage the growth of invasive weeds that can crowd out native plants that otherwise would have a competitive advantage, said Glen Stein, a Forest Service fire ecologist who led the effort to write the new rules for fire retardant.
Stahl said the Forest Service hasn’t proven with field studies that fire retardant helps.
“We throw it on for the air show,” Stahl said.
There’s a reason why fire retardant isn’t tested in the field, said Stein.
“The problem that I have with what Andy wants us to do, is out there in the wild, you have so many variables that are constantly changing. You’ve got slope, you’ve got aspect, you’ve got wind, you’ve got temperatures. It’s hard to know what the result of the retardant is versus some of the other variables,” he said.
Anyway, he’s seen fire retardant work in the field, such as when a DC10 tanker plane dumped thousands of gallons at a California fire a few years ago.
“Five miles long, I drove that whole road where we dropped it. There were two little spots where it went into the retardant and stopped. And the rest of it just stopped at the retardant. So I know it’s effective,” Stein said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 21, 2012
Calling it “a great win for the lynx,” Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, announced that Federal District Judge Donald W. Molloy halted the Colt Summit Timber Sale on the Seeley Lake Ranger District on June 20th.
Garrity said, “Judge Molloy agreed with us that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to analyze the project’s cumulative impacts on the lynx, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Judge Molloy has remanded the project back to the agency for further consideration and analysis.”
Friends of the Wild Swan, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Native Ecosystems Council, and Montana Ecosystems Defense Council brought the lawsuit against the Lolo National Forest and were represented by Matt Bishop of the Western Environmental Law Center. The groups did not challenge the road reclamation work associated with the project.
“We are pleased that the court recognized that the analysis of effects to lynx by the Forest Service was inadequate,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “This area is a critical wildlife linkage corridor between the Swan Range in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area to the east and the Mission Mountains Wilderness Area to the west. It was designated as lynx critical habitat and deserves extra protection.”
“This project was controversial because it was supported by groups and individuals associated with the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative,” Garrity explained “But although the Montana Wilderness Association, the National Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society claimed they were heavily involved in the development of the project, the project records gave no indication of that. It was proposed by the Forest Service and then supported by those groups despite the fact that there were no discussions of the impacts to lynx between the collaborators and the Forest Service.”
George Wuerthner, an independent ecologist, author, and photographer, recently flew over the Colt Summit area to photograph the area. “I was shocked to see how much of the Seeley-Swan Valley is already logged that is not readily visible from the main highway or even by driving back roads. The problem for the Forest Service is that they are up against limits. You can’t continue to cut more and more of the valley without jeopardizing other values. There is such a thing as cumulative impacts and death by a thousand cuts.”