Senate Republicans are pushing back against comments President Donald Trump made suggesting the government would withhold funding for wildfire services if California didn’t do more to prevent fires.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to threaten funding,” Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said Sunday on NBC. “Funding will be available.”
The senator was referring to a tweet Trump wrote holding California partially responsible for a recent uptick in wildfires.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” the president tweeted Saturday morning. (RELATED: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About California’s Wildfires)
Three major fires scorched over 200,000 acres, more than 300 square miles, mostly in Northern California since Thursday, according to Cal Fire. Firefighters have contained only 25 percent of the fires.
The Camp Fire, the largest of the three, burned 111,000 acres as it spread at break-neck pace due in part to dry conditions and fast-moving Santa Ana winds. The Woolsey Fire in the south has claimed two lives, while 29 more people died in the Camp Fire to the north.
Other Trump allies mirrored Gardner’s point. Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, for instance, told reporters Sunday that the priority is to give California the resources the state’s citizens need.
“California will receive the money they need,” Graham said. “But going forward, we need to look at some of the underlying causes of these fires, and it’s just not California we need to look at better forest management in.”
Some of Trump’s fiercest critics also dinged the president for not understanding the complexity of land management. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown told The Washington Post that more federal forest land has burned than state land. The California Democrat blames the fires on climate change.
State officials also criticized the federal government for hand-cuffing their ability to prevent wildfires.
“It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California,” Brian Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, wrote in a statement following Trump’s comments. (RELATED: Scientists Issue ‘Absurd’ Doomsday Prediction, Warn Of A ‘Hothouse Earth’)
Forest fire experts, meanwhile, have consistently warned that allowing forests to grow unmolested would likely result in an increase in wildfires. Less logging requires more management of forests, they argue.
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