As wildfires burn across California, Trump lashes out at the state on Twitter
LOS ANGELES — Autumn in California now comes not only with fierce, wind-driven wildfires but with routine claims from President Donald Trump that the state’s leaders are to blame for the disasters, followed by assurances from experts that the president doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
The cycle renewed again Sunday, when Trump tweeted that Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had failed to properly manage the state’s forests, causing a string of recent blazes.
Newsom “has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers,” Trump said in an early-morning missive on Twitter.
A few hours later he concluded a slam on Democrats for their impeachment inquiry against him, concluding, “Corrupt Adam should clean up & manage the California forests which are always burning!”
The president tossed in a shot at the state for its “ridiculously closed” water distribution policies.
The missives drew a combination of incredulity and anger from many Californians, in part because the vast majority of the acres consumed by fire since early October were grasslands and chaparral, far from the forest.
Residents also remarked on the president’s failure to express sympathy for the thousands of people displaced from their homes in recent weeks.
The online fracas did little to illuminate the realities of forest or water policy in California.
Of the 33 million acres of forest in the state, 57% is controlled by the federal government and even the timber industry — which Trump appears to be trying to support — has slammed the U.S. for doing too little to manage those vast holdings.
California’s leaders have acknowledged the need to reduce the fuel buildup in the forest the state does control. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a series of bills last year to streamline regulations for thinning forests in fire zones, allow limited removal of some larger trees and force cities and counties to plan better defenses for homes and communities. And Newsom has continued fire threat-reduction initiatives since he took office in January.
“You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation,” Newsom responded to Trump via Twitter. The governor later issued a statement: “We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full on assault against the antidotes.”
The state government’s expanded commitment to wildfire prevention under Brown included a $1 billion pledge over five years to clean up thousands of acres of deadwood, scrub brush and forest — the state’s biggest-ever program to reduce fire fuels.
That $200 million-a-year annual commitment and other spending are helping the state by “reducing fuels in the forest, increasing forest health, and defensible space around homes,” Newsom’s office said.
Countering Trump’s contention that the governor is in the thrall of environmentalists, his office said he had waived environmental regulations to fast-track work on 35 critical fire breaks to protect 200 of the state’s most vulnerable communities.
Newsom’s office contrasted California’s stepped-up efforts with what it said was the federal government’s slashing of spending on the same kind of work.
The U.S. Forest Service has reduced the forest it plans to “treat” through thinning, controlled burns and other measures to 220,000 acres, from the previously promised 310,000 acres, Newsom’s office said.