Are The California Wildfires The Product Of Resource Mismanagement?

Even if California addressed Trump's criticisms, it wouldn't necessarily make the wildfire problem any better than it is now.
Posted at 4:55 PM, Nov 12, 2018

As wildfires scorched California over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted "there is no reason" for the fires "except that forest management is so poor," and even threatened to cut funding if the state didn't fix the problem. But Trump's claims oversimplify a complex mix of issues.


For instance, after the Carr Fire in August 2018, Trump said California's environmental laws had made too little water available to firefighters, and that more effort to clear fuels might have slowed the fire's spread. 

Even if California took Trump's management advice, it wouldn't have done a whole lot. The state's fire agency has rebuked his water claims. It said the warming climate affects these blazes more than the water used to fight them. And experts note dry grass fueled the Camp Fire, so forest thinning wouldn't have helped much. 

What's more, most of the forest management Trump criticizes is up to the federal government in the first place. According to the California Professional Firefighters organization, "nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another one-third are under private control." 

The White House has proposed cutting funds to the Interior Department and Forest Service — which both parties in Congress say is a bad idea. In recent years, fire costs for the Forest Service have forced it to siphon money from future fire prevention efforts to current suppression efforts.