Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Forest Service to exclude 30% of lands from fire retardant use to protect species
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has cleared the way for continued use of aerial fire retardant as long as pilots use special maps to avoid hurting threatened or endangered species. The decision answers a lawsuit the agency lost over whether its aerial firefighting tactics properly consider fire retardant's environmental impact. The new rules will make it challenging for fire management, according to Neptune Aviation President Dan Snyder. The Missoula-based company is the nation's largest provider of retardant-dropping airplanes. In particular, the new rules carve out lots of exclusion zones around communities and subdivisions along the fringe of national forests. Those areas are also the places where aerial fire retardant is most effective in initial attack because of the planes' ability to have a big impact before ground crews can arrive, Snyder said. The new maps put nearly 30 percent of the Forest Service land into aerial buffer zones to protect waterways, and list another 1 percent as sensitive ground. The buffer zones protect more than 300 plants and animals on the endangered species list and another 3,700 species considered sensitive to retardant effects. Andy Stahl, whose Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics filed the successful lawsuit, was skeptical of the results. "The final (environmental impact statement) acknowledges the Forest Service has no evidence fire retardant contributes to any firefighting objective," Stahl said. "They made their decision on the basis of cherry-picking from a biased sample that fire managers claim retardant makes a difference." Stahl also argued the 12,000 new maps were never put out for public review. His organization was able to examine six of them, and concluded the areas where threatened or endangered species existed appeared based on predicted data - not actual field checks of habitat...more