Udall tells USFS to override air tanker protest

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado is urging the U.S. Forest Service to make sure a contract dispute doesn’t ground large air tankers used to fight wildfires.

Missoula, Mont.-based Neptune Aviation on Thursday formally protested a recent U.S. Forest Service decision to award national firefighting contracts to five other companies.

Neptune Aviation didn’t get a contract to fly so-called “next-generation” large air tankers against wildfires. Chief Operating Officer Dan Snyder says the Forest Service was unfair and his company needs the contract to help it remain viable.

The dispute puts the contracts for up to seven large air tankers in limbo. Udall says the Forest Service should seek emergency authority to keep the planes available to fight fires despite the dispute.

Forest Service officials did not return messages seeking comment.

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