Trump blames deadly California wildfires on 'gross mismanagement of the forests,' but the federal government oversees 40% of them

  • President Donald Trump, tweeting twice from a trip to Europe, blamed bad forest management for the string of deadly wildfires wreaking havoc on California.
  • He previously criticised “bad environmental laws” for the Carr fire earlier this year near Redding, California.
  • Experts say the forests currently burning have up to 25 times the density of healthy forests, adding to fire risks.
  • A 2015 government report said that the federal government oversees over 40% of the state’s forests.

Tweeting from his trip to Europe, President Donald Trump doubled down on his criticism of California forestry policies, appearing to once again blame forest mismanagement for the trio of deadly wildfires in California that have burned tens of thousands of acres, displaced thousands, and left over 20 dead.

“With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!” Trump wrote early Sunday.

On Saturday, he offered a more pointed critique.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,”he said early Saturday. “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!”

Tom Bonnicksen, a retired forestry expert and fire researcher, told the San Francisco Chronicle that indeed, a lack of forest management was partly to blame for the fires’ intense heat and rapid spread.

“There are millions and millions and millions of dollars going into fighting fires,” Bonnicksen said, “but there are not millions and millions and millions of dollars going into preventing the fires.”

That lack of oversight has left forests with an overabundance of smaller trees and shrubbery, which can be among the first vegetation to fuel a fire, while larger trees take much longer to return.

A healthy forest, experts told the paper, should have 60-80 trees per acre, while the forests around Paradise – home to 27,000 people that is now completely charred – have as much as 2,000 per acre.

But the blame doesn’t lie entirely, or even mostly, on the state. According to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report, the federal government manages over 40% of California’s land.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection manages over 30%, according to the Sacramento Bee.

It’s not the first time Trump has blamed forest management on deadly wildfires. Earlier this year, when the deadly Carr Fire killed eight people near the town of Redding, California, he tweeted that the disasters were made worse by “bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilised.”

In Northern California, the Camp Fire has grown at a pace of 80 football fields per minute after starting Thursday morning. Over 20 people have been found dead as a result of the fire. More than 6,700 structures were destroyed. It is now considered the most destructive wildfire in California history in terms of the number of structures destroyed.

To the south, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, two smaller fires also started Thursday and are now creating havoc. The Woolsey and Hill Fires are burning through parts of Ventura and LA counties. The flames have threatened the homes of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and shut down stretches of the 101 freeway.

As of 7:00 p.m. PT Saturday, the blaze had burned 105,000 acres and was 20% contained. The Woolsey fire had burned 83,275 acres and was 5% contained.

More coverage of the California fires:

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