SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As part of his remarks calling for cuts in federal spending to narrow a deficit ballooned by tax cuts, President Donald Trump threatened to cut funding for fighting California’s wildfires.
The president insisted the state has spent too much on fighting wildfires as the state faces longer and more intense fire seasons.
“Old trees are sitting there rotting and dry instead of cleaning them up they don’t touch them,” he said at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The threat of wildfires in California is no longer contained to the summer and fall months, as last December’s Thomas Fire in Southern California proved. Experts have pointed toward climate change and years of California drought as part of the reason for the greater fire danger.
Cal Fire Deputy Director Mike Mohler said politics isn’t something that his department gets into. He says Cal Fire’s mission is about preventing the next fire as well as fighting the current ones.
“We’ve been doing it for years. We’ve always leaned forward and that is our primary goal is forest health and forest management,” he said. “As we speak today, our firefighters, our resource management people are putting prescribed fire on the ground,” he said.
Cal Fire says fires have burned more than 600,000 acres of land in 2018 alone. But they point out half of California’s forests are made up of federal lands. State data shows those federal forests are more crowded and have a higher rate of tree mortality than private lands.
“I think this is another case where the president is making statements about California where he’s not fully informed on the issues,” said UC Davis Plant Ecology Professor Mark Schwarz.
Schwartz studies how California manages its forest fuels.
“We have more people on the land, more potential for ignitions, and getting more, but we’re also getting more fire-prone weather,” he said.
It’s a phenomenon scientists call climate change, and Trump considers, red tape.
“I say to the governor or whoever will be governor… get your act together” Trump said.
Governor candidate Gavin Newsom fired back a statement reading in part:
“Wildfire doesn’t discriminate along party lines and Trump’s ongoing failures and twitter threats endanger the lives of all Californians, irrespective of their political stripes.”
Republican candidate for governor John Cox blamed Newsom and Sacramento politicians in a statement:
“If Gavin Newsom and the Sacramento political class weren’t sitting on their hands for the last 8 years we may not be in this situation.”
The U.S. Forest Service did not comment.