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Plumas joins effort to preserve use of fire retardants drops by Forest Service

An environmental group, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, wants to prevent the Forest Service from dropping fire retardant from planes on forest fires. The group filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Forest Service has polluted waterways by inadvertently dropping fire retardant from airplanes in or near waterways, which violates the Clean Water Act.

But the Forest Service is fighting back. Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister brought the issue to the Board of Supervisors on March 7 as an urgency item because of a deadline to join litigation to preserve the use of retardant.

Hollister said that the Forest Service is asking for the ability to continue the retardant drops while it works to meet the measures described in the lawsuit filed by the environmental group.  The Forest Service is being supported by other entities including timber companies. “They are asking Plumas and Butte to join the lawsuit as interveners,” Hollister said. “I know everyone knows the importance of having the tools to fight fires … I can’t imagine trying to fight a fire like the Dixie Fire with just water.”

A law firm in Washington D.C. is handling the litigation and there would be no cost to the county. “Butte County is already in,” Hollister said.

Plumas County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr expressed some concern that her office hadn’t been alerted. “As the attorney for the county,  I am statutorily obligated to know,” Stuhr said. “I need to be kept in the loop.”

Hollister said he had been contacted directly by the legal firm, and he in turn, alerted the supervisors.

The board voted unanimously to join the effort to maintain the Forest Service’s ability to drop fire retardant from planes.

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