Trump Threatens to Withhold Fire Aid from Calif. Until It Thins Its Forests

‘Old trees are sitting there, rotting and dry. And instead of cleaning it up, they don’t touch them…’

Calif. Enviro Policy: Fuel Wildfires, Finance Toys for Rich, Blame Utilities

Photo by beltz6 (CC)

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) President Trump kept the pressure on California and environmentalists on Wednesday, threatening to withhold federal fire assistance from the state unless it does a better job of clearing away dead wood that feeds the fires.

“It’s a disgraceful thing,” Trump said. “Old trees are sitting there, rotting and dry. And instead of cleaning it up, they don’t touch them.”

As reported here at Liberty Headlines in August, a combination of environmentalist lawsuits and leftist state laws for years retarded forest management in California.

Most analysts say that failure to remove dead trees is responsible for keeping in place what in effect amounts to extremely flammable kindling for fires to spread.

For the past five years, California has been suffering from an epidemic of wildfires, with this year’s record pace of fires having burned the equivalent area of the whole state of Rhode Island to the ground.

Some environmental groups (especially the Sierra Club) say global warming, not dead wood, is responsible for the growing deadliness of wildfires, but even the administration of the famously liberal governor of California, Jerry Brown, now is “largely in agreement [with Trump] when it comes to forest management,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

“Nowadays, many scientists, forestry officials and environmentalists agree,” wrote the Bee, “that some mix of selective logging, clearing and carefully ‘prescribed’ fires is needed to return the forests to some semblance of health.”

Still, there is more standing deadwood in California than ever, so the backlog caused by earlier bad practices is literally feeding the flames.

“The dead trees continue to pose a hazard to people and critical infrastructure, mostly centered in the central and southern Sierra Nevada region of the state,” said a joint statement of U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Cal-Fire last December.

Hence, Trump’s continuing anger about the problem. His outburst this week came in the context of a Cabinet meeting at which he was stressing the need for finding budget savings.

The president did somewhat overstate the money involved, saying the federal government is spending “hundreds of billions of dollars” for the California fires.

In fact, California’s state wildfire agency, which is partially reimbursed by the feds, spent $773 million (not billion) in the fiscal year that ended in June, and the total amount of property damage this year is estimated to be in the $800 million range.

All major outlets reported that it is not clear exactly which funding stream Trump is threatening to cut.

Still, the president is right that significant money (not to mention lives and homes) could be saved with better management – and it is just a fact that as recently as two years ago, environmentalist groups such as the Forest Preservation Society were filing suits against logging in Mendocino County – exactly the area so devastated this year by the deadly, record-setting blazes.