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Judge orders rethink on flame retardants

GRANTS PASS | A federal judge in Montana has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to take a tougher look at the possibility that routinely dropping toxic fire retardant on wildfires from airplanes will kill endangered fish and plants.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy in Missoula, Mont., ruled in a case brought by Oregon-based environmentalists, that the current environmental assessment is inadequate in light of federal biologists’ findings that fire retardant that lands in creeks and on rare plants jeopardizes the survival of endangered species and their habitat.

Judge Molloy did not restrict the use of fire retardant this summer, but in a sternly written order gave the Forest Service until the end of 2011 to do a tougher environmental impact statement. He warned the agency could be found in contempt for failing to meet the deadline and refused to hear further arguments on the issue.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.