President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut off wildfire relief aid for fire-scorched California until state officials “get their act together” and do a better job of managing forests.
The bizarre proclamation furthers the administration’s attempt to pin the devastation on environmentalists while ignoring the clear impact climate change is having on extreme fires out west.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest (sic) fires that, with proper Forrest (sic) Management, would never happen,” he wrote in a since-deleted post to Twitter. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”
There was no further information on the veracity of Trump’s Twitter claim. The White House and FEMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. FEMA is also impacted by the ongoing partial government shutdown and, as Washington Post reporter Damian Paletta highlighted, doesn’t have money to send to the state.
The announcement comes as California reels from one of its worst wildfire seasons on record. The Mendocino Complex fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s recorded history, burned more than 450,000 acres north of Santa Rosa in July. November’s Camp fire ― the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history — engulfed more than 153,000 acres, destroyed nearly 19,000 structures and killed at least 86 people.
Trump has blamed the state’s devastating infernos on everything from a lack of raking to a nonexistent water shortage resulting from “bad environmental laws.” And the administration has used the disasters to push partisan policy, connecting the blazes to a longstanding fight between farmers and environmentalists over water resources.
Many of the state’s worst fires have burned primarily federal lands.
But the reality is that the federal government manages more land in California than the state. And many of the state’s worst fires have burned primarily federal lands, as the Redding Record Searchlight reported.
Last month, Trump signed an executive order to boost logging and forest thinning on more than 4 million acres of federal lands to combat extreme wildfires. The order directs the Interior Department and the Department of Agriculture to identify ways to reduce “regulatory barriers” to better manage forests and get rid of hazardous fuels, and it calls for “treating” 4.25 million federal acres — an area larger than Connecticut — to cut fuel loads.
Newly inaugurated California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) were among the state leaders that swung back at Trump’s announcement.
“Disasters and recovery are no time for politics,” wrote Newsom, who on Tuesday announced an interstate partnership and a pair of executive orders to combat the wildfire problem.
“I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses,” he added in a post to Twitter. “The people of CA ― folks in Paradise ― should not be victims to partisan bickering.”
“We should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster,” Harris wrote in her own post.