‘For­rest’ Trump threat­ens to make wild­fires worse

Merced Sun-Star - - Opinion - Kerry Cavanaugh is a colum­nist for the Los An­ge­les Times.

It sure didn’t take long for Gov. Gavin New­som to get un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s skin. Mon­day, dur­ing his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, New­som de­cried the “cor­rup­tion” and “in­com­pe­tence” com­ing from Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On Tues­day – New­som’s se­cond day in of­fice – Cal­i­for­nia’s new gov­er­nor trav­eled to Placer County to pro­pose spend­ing an ad­di­tional $105 mil­lion on wild­fire safety, in­clud­ing more money to thin dry forests and im­prove emer­gency alert sys­tems. That would be on top of the $200 mil­lion law­mak­ers ap­proved for sim­i­lar pur­poses last year.

New­som also called on Pres­i­dent Trump to boost fed­eral fund­ing for for­est man­age­ment, which is vi­tal, given that about nearly 60 per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia’s forests are on fed­eral land.

Then, New­som cosigned a let­ter to Trump, along with fel­low Demo­cratic gov­er­nors Jay Inslee of Wash­ing­ton and Kate Brown of Ore­gon, call­ing for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to “dou­ble the in­vest­ment” in man­ag­ing fed­eral forests in the West to help sup­ple­ment state ef­forts.

Af­ter all, the let­ter noted, Cal­i­for­nia has spent $111.3 mil­lion since 2017 on for­est health, and al­most half the work that money funded was done on fed­eral land. Yet at the same time, the U.S. For­est Ser­vice bud­get has been cut by more than $2 bil­lion since 2016 when Trump took of­fice.

Trump’s re­sponse? He tweeted: “Bil­lions of dol­lars are sent to the State of Cal­i­for­nia for For­est fires that, with proper For­est Man­age­ment, would never hap­pen. 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!”

The pres­i­dent mis­spelled “For­est” as “For­rest” in his orig­i­nal tweet.

He deleted it and tweeted the same state­ment again with the cor­rect spelling. But not be­fore he cre­ated a bunch of new memes.

Trump’s tweet is cruel and vin­dic­tive. Dozens of peo­ple died in Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires this year and thou­sands lost their homes. Thou­sands more more lost their busi­nesses or their jobs. Now that it’s rain­ing, thou­sands more are threat­ened by mud­slides. Mean­while, many of those who sur­vived the fires across the state are re­ly­ing on FEMA as­sis­tance to re­build their lives, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing a roof.

Be­sides, Trump is sim­ply in­cor­rect.

Cal­i­for­nia is get­ting its act to­gether. The state is putting up record lev­els of fund­ing to re­duce fire risk and bet­ter pre­pare com­mu­ni­ties for the threat of larger, more de­struc­tive fires driven, in part, by cli­mate change. New­som an­nounced Tues­day a tech­no­log­i­cal ap­proach that will in­volve bet­ter mon­i­tor­ing and money to re-out­fit and up­grade the air tankers that fire­fight­ers rely on to help douse the flames.

Trump has re­peat­edly railed against the “gross mis­man­age­ment” of forests in Cal­i­for­nia. But he’s never ex­plained what that means or what would be bet­ter for­est man­age­ment, aside from his com­ment about more “rak­ing” of the for­est floor. That also cre­ated hun­dreds of new memes, in­clud­ing many from Fin­land where they found the sug­ges­tion that they spend hours rak­ing the for­est in­sanely funny.

Trump seems my­opi­cally fo­cused on forests and log­ging when some of Cal­i­for­nia’s largest fires have been in the brush and grass­lands.

The mildest of crit­i­cism from Cal­i­for­nia’s new gov­er­nor dur­ing his first days in of­fice set off this bit of blus­ter from Trump’s Twit­ter ac­count.

Get ready for a bumpy ride.

BY KERRY CAVANAUGH Los An­ge­les Times

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