The U.S. Forest Service completed its final environmental statement (FES) on the use of aerial application of fire retardants and argues that the continuation of aerial application is an important fire protection tool and its negative environmental affects can be controlled or limited.

The FES is available online at

The agency’s preferred approach would identify and provide maps of land and water areas to avoid, which are important to endangered, threatened or sensitive species.

Aerial application that might land on waterways would be controlled and limited to incidents where human life and public safety were in jeopardy.

The issue has been involved in various courts suits over the past decade. The FES is in response to a July 2010 case filed in the U.S. District Court in Montana.

The judge directed the Forest Service to complete further analysis and consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service. These consultations are not part of the FES, but will be completed next month, according to Glenn Stein, the Forest Service’s project coordinator.

“This final environmental impact statement is a vital step informing our decision,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in an agency press release. “We’re approaching that decision as carefully as possible — we’re going to make sure we get this right, so we can protect our forests, wildlife, and the public.”

During the past several months, the Forest Service held five community listening sessions in locations around the country, several stakeholder webinars, three technical listening sessions, a science panel discussion and several tribal engagement events. The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, a neutral facilitator from the private sector, designed and facilitated all of these events.