Grants Pass, Ore., USA — A federal judge in Montana said today he’s prepared to hold the U.S. Forest Service in contempt of court for skirting the law to keep fighting wildfires with retardant that kills fish.
The case stems from a lawsuit brought in Oregon
Judge Donald Molloy set a February 26 hearing in Missoula to give the Forest Service a chance to convince him that Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey should not be jailed and fire retardant drops be stopped until the agency properly considers the dangers to the environment.
Potential sanctions include jail or house arrest for Rey and banning the Forest Service from using any aerial retardants but water.
Rey oversees the Forest Service, a part of the Agriculture Department. In 2005, Molloy ruled that the Forest Service violated federal laws when it failed to properly analyze possible harm from ammonium phosphate, a fertilizer that kills fish, and is the primary ingredient for aerial retardant.
The ruling follows a lawsuit brought by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics after retardant dropped over Fall Creek in Central Oregon in 2002 killed 20,000 fish.