Trump, Zinke fiddle and tweet while California burns

The largest wildfire in California recorded history has consumed more than 283,800 acres, to date. Here’s what Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted:

Fires across the west are burning hotter and more intense. The overload of dead and diseased timber in the forests makes the fires worse and more deadly. We must be able to actively manage our forests and not face frivolous litigation when we try to remove these fuels.

Yeah, it’s “frivolous litigation” that’s responsible for the inferno. No mention of climate change. Not even a nod to the dead residents or firefighters or 1600 structures consumed by flames. Not even a “thoughts and prayers.”

He is right about the hotter and more intense fires in the West. Otherwise, he’s completely wrong.

“It is our changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires,” Scott McLean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told Huffington Post.

Zinke’s tweet came on the heels of one of Trump’s more bizarre (and that’s saying a lot) tweets:

California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!

WTF? HuffPo continues:

Trump seems to have taken a page out of the Montana Republican playbook. Last year, Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue joined members of Montana’s Republican congressional delegation for an on-site briefing about a large wildfire south of Missoula. The overwhelming message from those politicians was that wildfires were being driven not by drought or climate change, but by forest mismanagement resulting from lawsuits by “environmental extremists.”

And California is doing some thinning of timber stands and clearing underbrush, a Washington Post story reports:

But other wildfire experts say the failure to clear dangerous underbrush is due to a dry spell in federal funding. “California is investing millions and millions of dollars in fuels management,” said A. Leroy Westerling, a professor and wildfire expert at the University of California at Merced. “It would be great if the federal government would step up and do the same.”

I believe that Zinke’s Department of the Interior is part of the federal government. He’s too busy kissing fossil fuel industry derriere, though, to really deal with the cause of Western U.S. wildfires, as reported by the Associated Press. The Western Organization of Resource Councils has brought suit against the DOI committee that reviews royalties paid by companies on fossil fuels extracted from public lands. WORC says the committee is stacked with industry supporters who conduct some meetings in secret.

“It’s basically the fox guarding the hen house,” said Steve Charter, a rancher from Roundup, Montana and board member of the WORC.

“That committee is supposed to be representing all interests, but it’s been pretty much totally stacked with industry and some Western states with a real strong development bias,” he added.

It’s California wildfires now but it will be Montana, again, in the not too distant future. The summer of 2017 was just a taste. That Zinke panders to Trump and industry instead of confronting the real cause of wildfire years (formerly known as wildfire seasons but that term no longer applies) is unforgivable. That he is a native Montanan is the ultimate insult.


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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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