U.S. Fish and Wildlife releases biological opinion on the use of fire retardants on National Forest lands

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a Biological Opinion on February 15, 2023 as part of a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the use of aerial fire retardant on National Forest lands across the U.S. This supplemental EIS will implement recommendations made in a 2020 Supplemental Information Report, and will add to the existing EIS completed by the Forest Service in 2011. The opinion was issued in response to the USDA Forest Service Biological Assessment for Fish and Wildlife Service Species transmitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2021.

The preferred alternative 3 will "reword" parts of the existing Environmental Impact Statement. Additionally, the preferred alternative will drop the current Guidelines for Aerial Delivery of Retardant or Foam Near Waterways issued in 2000, in favor of the 2008 Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives. This change will establish guidelines dictating what circumstances shall apply while dropping fire retardant in "avoidance areas".

Under the 2000 Guidelines, there are three exceptions to using fire retardant in avoidance areas. For protection of life and property, when alternative line construction tactics are unavailable, and when damage to natural resources outweighs loss of aquatic life. Under the 2008 guidelines, there is only one exception. For protection of human life or public safety.

Wait until you see the amount of land facing fire retardant use restrictions.

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Arizona Backcountry Explorers is a local media company dedicated to engaging the public in National Environmental Policy Act procedures that close or restrict motorized use of public lands. We are Arizona's watchdog for motorized access to public lands and the premier resource for adventure destinations in Arizona.


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