Ryan Zinke Blames ‘Radical Environmentalists’ For Deadly California Wildfires

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke laid the blame of deadly wildfires “on the foot of those environmental radicals.”
  • Environmentalists prevented thinning, prescribed burns and other forest management techniques, Zinke said.
  • Wildfires engulfed roughly 250,000 acres of California, killing at least 80 people.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke blamed “radical environmentalists” for the deadly wildfires raging across California.

“When we’re prevented from managing our forests by these radical environmentalists — they’ve had lawsuit after lawsuit, they have somehow promulgated to let nature take its course — this is the consequence of letting nature take its course,” Zinke said in an interview on the Breitbart News Sunday radio show.

Wildfires scorched roughly 250,000 acres of California, destroying more than 12,000 structures and taking 80 lives. Authorities say there are still 1,200 people unaccounted for in the wake of the fires.

“We need to go back to prescribed burns late in the season so you don’t have these catastrophic burns, remove the dead and dying timber, sustainable harvests, get the small mom and pop mills back where they’re grazing the forest and return to healthy forests,” Zinke said.

“You look at Finland. I had an opportunity to live in Germany. Germany has the Black Forest — their forests are healthy, they don’t have the catastrophic burns because they manage the forests.”

NASA's Operational Land Imager satellite image of Camp Fire burning near Paradise

NASA’s Operational Land Imager satellite image shows the Camp Fire burning at around 10:45 a.m. local time near Paradise, California, U.S., on November 8, 2018. Picture taken on November 8, 2018. Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS.

“And I will lay this on the foot of those environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years. And you know what? This is on them,” Zinke said.

Zinke echoed comments made in August when he also blamed “radical environmentalists” for wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres of forested land in California and Oregon over the summer. (RELATED: California’s Wildfire Bill Will Be Staggeringly High This Year. Here’s What We Know)

President Donald Trump blamed California’s “poor” forest management for the fires and also threatened to cut off federal funding if state officials didn’t remedy the problem. Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown, on the other hand, largely blamed global warming for tragic fires.

Zinke agreed that too much was being spent responding to fires, but stopped short of endorsing Trump’s call to withhold funding. Zinke said a multi-pronged approach is needed to mitigate wildfires.

The Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in state history, began on property surrounded by the Plumas National Forest in northern California. Its cause is unclear, but news reports suggest the deadly blaze could have been sparked by power lines.

President Donald Trump visits the charred wreckage of Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park with Governor-elect Gavin Newsom Brock Long Paradise Mayor Jody Jones and Governor Jerry Brown in Paradise California

U.S. President Donald Trump visits the charred wreckage of Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park with Governor-elect Gavin Newsom (L), Brock Long (R), Paradise Mayor Jody Jones (2nd R) and Governor Jerry Brown in Paradise, California, U.S., November 17, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis.

Zinke travelled to California Wednesday to survey wildfire damage, which included a visit to Paradise, a northern California town “wiped out” by the Camp Fire. Trump also visited Paradise with Brown and other federal and state officials.

Zinke said the fire was like a “flamethrower of ambers shooting through the forests,” fueled by unmanaged vegetation and strong Santa Ana winds, and that people “were like deer in the headlights when the fire came through.”

“It was like a warzone,” Zinke said.

“I’m not sure that Paradise will return — the Paradise that we once knew. They’re strong people, but it’s not an affluent neighborhood and I would say devastation does not do it justice,” Zinke said.

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