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Dec 15, 2011 9:01 AM by Kate Richards

New fire retardant policy

DENVER (AP) - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has signed off on a new approach for dropping retardant on wildfires from the air.

Last year, a federal judge in Montana gave the Forest Service until the end of 2011 to do a tougher environmental review of how toxic retardant affects water, plants and wildlife.

The agency said Wednesday that it has mapped waterways and habitat for certain sensitive species, and fire managers who determine that retardant is warranted for fighting a blaze will now direct pilots to avoid those areas. An exception allows for retardant to be dropped within 300 feet of waterways when human life or public safety is threatened. Previous guidelines allowed for other exceptions.

The Forest Service says it continues to work with industry to develop more environmentally friendly fire retardants.

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