Several West coast state leaders took to Sunday morning news shows to call out President Trump’s comments during a rally Saturday that put the blame for record-breaking wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington on “forest management” instead of climate change.
On Saturday night during a Nevada rally, Trump mentioned the wildfires ravaging the West Coast following criticism over his silence on the unprecedented damage, repeating comments he’s previously made blaming “forest management” for the fires.
“It’s just a big and devastating lie,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Sunday. “These are consequences of a warming planet that have huge impacts on rural America with our forests, with our farming, with our fishing.”
“This is climate change. . . .This is not just about forest management or raking,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Sunday in response to Trump’s comments in Nevada., adding that “this administration are the last vestiges of the Flat Earth Society of this generation.”
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Washington Gov. Jay Inlee encouraged people to “vote against any politician like Donald Trump who has downplayed climate change, just like he’s downplayed Covid.”
Responding to criticism from a former Oregon Republican state lawmaker that forest policies are to blame, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday that, “It’s decades of mismanagement of our forests in this country, and it is the failure to tackle climate change, we need to do both, and we can.”
The Trump administration has strongly pushed back against environmental protections, deregulating rules throughout the pandemic and becoming the only country to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has frequently butted heads with Trump when it comes to the state’s wildfires, acknowledging that California can be “more aggressive” in its forest management efforts but that “climate change” is a fundamental aspect of the fires. “This isn’t an intellectual debate,” Newsom tweeted on Friday. “This isn’t about ideology. The proof is right in front of our eyes. The impacts of climate change simply cannot be denied.”
Fuel-reduction projects like removing dead trees, prescribed burning, clearing vegetation and creating defensible spaces are done to mitigate the risk and help defend against wildfires. In 2019, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced 35 of these projects in response to massive fires in recent years. However, reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt, along with rising temperatures in the spring and summer, creates a longer and more intense dry season, making forests more vulnerable to fires, according to Cal Fire. Fires began to spread rapidly in the state in August after severe thunderstorms ignited dry vegetation. Temperatures in the numerous California cities reached record levels in the summer, and skies over San Francisco have turned red due to the fires.
Oregon annual burns around 500,000 acres of forest the past decade, but according to Gov. Brown, the past week saw 1 million acres burned. California is currently dealing with 29 wildfires, including the largest blaze in state history, the August Complex fire, which has burned 877,477 compared to the previous record holder’s 459,123 acres burned in 2018.