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Firefighting policy defended

by Chris Sorensen |

Interior assistant questions call for EIS

Fire is a necessary part of nature and "a good tool," an assistant secretary of the Interior said Monday.

But the federal government is not going to stop fighting forest fires, said Rebecca Watson, a Helena lawyer and Bush administration appointee.

Watson's comments came in response to a complaint to be filed Tuesday by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics challenging wildland firefighting on social and environmental grounds.

"I think people in Montana might take issue with a lawsuit that says you should not suppress fires," she said. "There are many Montanans living in the wildland-urban interface who have an expectation that their federal government, state government, county government will protect them from wildfires."