Trump is Leaning on Congress to Rid Federal Forests of Fire Risks

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The Trump administration is asking Congress to expand executive authority over federal forestland so agencies may streamline regulations on forest management.

“We are asking Congress for the authority to streamline [forest management] projects on federal land and expand other authorities to improve access roads for firefighters and protect towns located in or near forests,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted Wednesday

Zinke also shared a picture of a section of trees in the Helena National Forest in Montana that had been killed by bark beetles. The dead grove of trees is an “added risk for fire,” Zinke said. (RELATED: Blaming California Wildfires On Global Warming ‘Has Little Grounding In Fact,’ Scientist Says)

Zinke joined Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Tuesday on a press call, renewing prior calls for greater forest management after the Camp and Woolsey Fires killed at least 84 and burned hundreds of thousands of acres. The Trump officials are pushing for greater flexibility to clear out brush and fuel from forests and approve forest thinning projects to remove unhealthy and dead wood.

“We’re not talking about clear cutting, we’re talking about good forest management,” Perdue told reporters, according to the Great Falls Tribune. The Trump cabinet officials are asking Congress “to give us the authority to do what we know how to do … and that is to take care of our environment,” he added.

“These disasters are disasters we can do something about,” Perdue said.

President Donald Trump laid heavy blame on California’s environmental policies for the deadly wildfires burning across California.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 10. Trump also threatened to hold back federal funding from California if the state did not change its environmental laws and encourage more active forest management. The federal government has not withheld any aid from the state while it battles and recovers from the fires.

Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown has downplayed the potential impact of better forest management.

“Things are not going to get better; they’re going to get more challenging because of the continuing alteration of the climate, lack of moisture, early snowmelt and faster winds. The whole thing,” the Democratic governor said on Nov. 11 while Zinke was visiting California to survey wildfire damage.

The cost of federal firefighting action reached a record level of $1.1 billion in 2017. The cost of rebuilding damaged property can be many times higher. Rebuilding after the Camp and Woolsey Fires may cost as much as $13 billion, with most of that cost borne by Californians.

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