With more than a dozen wildfires actively burning across California, the Trump Administration on Sunday charged that environmentalists are partially to blame.
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“America is better than letting these radical groups control the dialogue about climate change,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in an exclusive interview with KCRA. “Extreme environmentalists have shut down public access. They talk about habitat, and yet they are willing to burn it up.”
Zinke was in Northern California on Sunday to survey the damage from the deadly Carr Fire, which has destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
“Unfortunately, this trip is about fires,” said Zinke before heading to the fire zone. “I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth. This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.”
Zinke said that California’s forests are too dense and he wants to remove dead and dying trees before they become fuel for wildfires.
“Let’s not shut roads down so forest fighters don’t have access,” Zinke said. “Let’s make sure fire breaks are in place to protect our communities and to protect those areas that we all believe are special.”
Zinke’s comments on climate change produced some fiery reactions from environmental groups.
“We need to deal with the reality that climate change is a big part of the problem,” said Paul Mason, vice president of Pacific Forest Trust.
see also: Over the last 40 years, there is a surprising trend with California wildfires
In a year that is already being called one of the worst ever for wildfires in the western United States, there is another fact that some may find remarkable: For nearly 40 years, the number of wildfires in California has been declining.
California wildfire data reviewed by a USGS research ecologist shows a trend that many may find hard to believe: Since a peak in 1980, there have been fewer and fewer wildfires in California. This is true across the entire state, according to researcher Jon Keeley, who is also a professor at UCLA.
According to his paper, co-authored with Alexandra D. Syphard, we need to rethink our ideas about the frequency of wildfires.