As fires ravage California, Donald Trump threatens to cut off funds

Forty percent of the forest area in California is under the direct management of the federal government. Any failure to manage those acres over the last two years aren’t Jerry Brown’s failures — they’re failures of Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump.

The Trump administration’s own budget request for the current fiscal year and the coming one proposed slashing tens of millions of dollars from the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service budgets dedicated to the kind of tree clearing and other forest management work experts say is needed. And it’s just one example of how the federal government is still not prioritizing fire mitigation to the scale that is needed, according to forestry experts.

Trump is threatening to take away … money he’s already taking away. And while California has shouldered more and more of the burden of forest management, the Interior Department under Ryan Zinke has increasingly shirked that duty.

These fires aren’t raging because California has been pocketing funds. They’re causing record damage because climate conditions have changed. The intensification of wet and dry seasons means that periods of growth are followed by periods of gunpowder-dry conditions. One of the largest of the three fires currently tearing across the state is burning through, not dense forest, but grass, brush, and sapling growing on the track of a fire that cleared the same area in 2013. Even if California were to carry through with the idiocy of clear cutting forest areas, it would not mitigate the need for forest management to prevent fire. 

PARADISE, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Embers blow in the wind as the Camp Fire burns a KFC restaurant on November 8, 2018 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the rapidly spreading wildfire has ripped through the town of Paradise, charring 18,000 acres and destroying dozens of homes in a matter of hours. The fire is currently at zero containment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The 2017 U.S. Forest Service Report, for example, noted that the federal government had “treated” only about a quarter of federal land that ought to be managed through forest thinning or controlled burns.

It’s Trump who is failing California. The state, along with individuals and groups like the Nature Conservancy, are already attempting to assist in managing federal areas, where the Forest Service has noted they “just don’t have the funds” to cover the problem.

And, as with everything else, Trump’s solution is to make the problem worse.

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