U.S. & World

Trump says California wildfires due to mismanagement; threatens to withhold funding

LOS ANGELES (AP) - President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is "so poor."

Trump said Saturday via Twitter that "there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California." Trump says "billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!" 

The comments were Trump's first about massive wildfires, including a blaze that incinerated most of the Northern California town of Paradise and killed at least nine people.

Wildfires also raged in Southern California, including the town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman days earlier killed a dozen people at a local bar.

Trump earlier issued an emergency declaration providing federal funds to help firefighters.

Last month, Trump blamed the wildfires on "incompetence" in California.

"It's costing our country hundreds of billions of dollars because of incompetence in California...," Trump said.

At that time, wildfires had caused close to $3 billion dollars damage in California, this year.

Trump blamed liberal wildland preservation policies.

"California we are not going to continue to pay the kind of money we're paying for fires that should never be to the extent," Trump said.

In the North Bay fire country, today condemnation came fast and heavy from Sonoma County supervisor Susan Gorin among others.

"He is politicizing disaster...," Gorin said. "Clearly he is lacking knowledge about federal policy and federal funding."

While the president blamed environmental restrictions for allowing forests to grow, experts noted that half of the California Wildlands belong to the federal government. 

Last year, 750,000 federal acres burned.

California has already lost one and a half million acres thus far this year. 

Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire, said the issue is a western state's problem.

"The comments are uninformed and couldn't be farther from reality. Every year is becoming the extreme. The 100-thousand acre fire is becoming the norm," Pimlott said.

Blame climate change, he said. 

At Sonoma State University, Professor Matthew Clark wondered why the president wouldn't mention that subject. 

"In 99 percent of the science community, it is reality and the data supports it. If the president mentioned it, yeah, he would have more credibility," Clark said.

 


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