Secretary of Interior blames “environmental radicals” for California wildfires

Camp Fire
A firing operation on the Camp Fire. Inciweb photo. Click to enlarge.

Ryan Zinke, like his boss President Trump, blamed something other than the extreme wind, low humidity, and drought for the two recent devastating wildfires in California that have killed 80 people.

Below is an excerpt from an article at The Hill:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke blamed “environmental radicals” for the California wildfires that have killed at least 77 people, saying they stop forest management practices that could have prevented the fires.

Days after touring the damage of the Camp fire, the deadliest in California’s history, Zinke went on Breitbart News Sunday and declared “it’s not the time for finger-pointing” on the causes of the fires.

But minutes later, he put the blame squarely on environmentalists, contending that they stood in the way of clearing brush, doing prescribed burns and other actions.

“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.

While touring the Camp and Woolsey Fires Saturday Mr. Trump reiterated at every stop that he believes forest management in California was the key issue in preventing devastating fires, and threatened to cut fire funding for the state. He mentioned the “forest nation” of Finland as a good example that spends “a lot of time raking and cleaning….”

The fatality count on the Camp Fire east of Chico rose again Sunday as search teams found another set of human remains to bring the total loss of life to 77, with 993 unaccounted for. The current tally for the number of homes destroyed is 11,990, and acres burned, 151,000. The number of commercial structures burned rose from 367 to 472.

The remains of three individuals have been found in the Woolsey Fire at Malibu, California. That fire has burned 96,949 acres and 1,130 structures.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

22 thoughts on “Secretary of Interior blames “environmental radicals” for California wildfires”

  1. He’s from Montana, where catastrophic wildfires have also occurred. He’s not expressed whether he believes environmentalists have inhibited sound forest management practices there too.

    I think we’re in for a long haul with this issue. His statement, and those of POTUS serve no one, else all those involved in fire suppression, prevention, loss, and recovery.

  2. Is he….. and the President, serious??? Are “environmental radicals”the cause of these fires? “Sad”.

  3. I am a retired Fire Captain with CalFire. My father was a life long fireman retiring as a city chief.
    For some political appointee to continuously “off gas” , dither and procrastinate about forest management practices is the absolute epitome of Government ineptness.
    Who has the authority to appoint these Forest Managers if not the Chief of the service ?
    Quit politicizing a clear, present and future threat. Recruit, pay and train people to be qualified fire fighting personnel. No one currently employed by Federal land management agencies are designated as “fire fighters” so they aren’t compensated as such. They are not eligible for safety benefits as are fire fighters. Yet they are sent into these situations by a callous, uncaring politically motivated Federal Bureaucracy. Support your FF’s and get rid of the politicians.

  4. So long as folks dig in and ascribe political likes and dislikes, the issue will continue to burn…One can deny this, that and the other all day long, it is does not contribute positively to the issue. Maybe the answer is a little contribution from all sides – a holistic approach if you will…including management, including proper recruitment/training as the Capt above cited, and many of those posts from previous folks on this blog who managed to closet their politics. There is not a single answer for blame or for fix.

  5. He certainly has a point. And a good one too. Let’s be honest about the enviro activists; if they had no influence on forest policies and the administration of those policies, they would have saved their air these last 50 years. At present they try to block anything no, EVERYthing the agencies (charged with doing the work) actually propose. And let’s be honest about the Activist Dynamic; far more people are highly motivated by the power of being part of a “movement,” far more than they are by the hard work and low, slow returns of actual forest stewardship.

  6. this is for the sec of int….you are right on. have someone do an investigation on how the environmental terrorists ruined the timber industry in the NW. I heard old loggers ,timber operators and prof forresters in the late 60s and 70s tell protesters (tree huggers)…to hug the trees real tight and then kiss them goodby because in 3 or 4 decades the are all going up in smoke. these terrorists and san francisco lawyers are the culprits….are responsible. now they blame it on global warming and all of their BS. who am i….my father was on the same crew that burned up the ratttlesnake fie, mendicino nf in the early 1950s. i was asst supt of two different so cal Hotshot crews fighting fires in the NW. i owned &operated a firewood business and was a licensed timber operator for 50 years….So mr. pres .and sec, of interior… keep up the good work and do a lot of research in the NW….Put the mills back and let the forest prof. manage the forests…..Larry

  7. And fight them too? Many places in the west, timber doesn’t have the board feet value it did in the 60-70s, dia not the same, and the cost is prohibitive in many areas. Logging isn’t the answer. In chapparral? In wilderness areas?

  8. I would love to see the forest floors in our country raked… may be by the unemployed…the 2% without jobs? And I would love to see money spent hiring trained educated forest service personnel. Currently the vacancies go unfilled. This is the administration’s money saving tactic?! We have millions of homes being built in harms way, on waterways and in the urban woodland interface. We have weak standards for power companies facilities. And logging and subsequent monocultures with no old growth fire resistant trees, cheat grass from grazing, On and on.

  9. I am continually astonished about the amount of basic knowledge about forests that many people seem unable, or unwilling to grasp. And about how much a person’s political viewpoint filters that knowledge as evidenced in the comments above, including Sec. Zinke’s.

    First, Zinke is responsible for the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and a few other smaller agencies. Of them, only the BLM has any appreciable forest available for management, leaving aside tribal lands which are complicated, and the BLM’s forested land is mostly not highly productive land outside the O&C lands in southwestern Oregon. The bulk of federal oversight on forest management is in the US Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture.

    Second, the current administration has proposed sharp budget cuts in all of the land management agencies. Zinke initially proposed about a 20% cut to the Interior budget that Congress then overrode. So how does he think forest management is going to get done if he isn’t willing to pay for it?

    Third, the scope of the problem is immense and forest management is only one small part of it. The bigger and more difficult problem is that people keep moving into the WUI and then refusing to do the fuel reductions around them that are necessary and have to be maintained. We’ve encourage this by lax zoning and by insurance companies willing to insure houses in fire-prone areas. I think at least the insurance problem is going to come to a head pretty quickly. For an idea of the scope of the problem, look at the US Forest Service lands. They manage 193 million acres but they’ve only proposed to do fuel reduction treatments on less than 2 million of those acres. And those aren’t one-and-done treatments, they have to be repeated every few years because stuff grows back. Or you have to allow prescribed fire to occur, which WUI residents also dislike.

    We should expect and demand better of our ‘leaders’. Proposing inane solutions (raking the forest is simply laughable) and blaming environmentalists for problems that you aren’t even trying to pay for isn’t trying to solve anything, it’s just trying to stoke the emotions of your supporters.

    P.S.Lawrence, the enviros didn’t ruin the logging industry in the PNW — the rate of harvesting old growth lumber was simply unsustainable by any metric you care to choose. And that was combined with the mills switching to automated sawmills that cut employment by 80% while processing more board feet. Oh, and the request for research? They cut that budget.

  10. Just take a look at the difference in unmanaged forests and forests that have controlled burning every few years. An example can be seen in the Pine Forests in the Southern States. They do controlled burning on a schedule. Oh. And no raking needed.

  11. Like everything else these days, we’ll kick the can down the road. Unfortunately, this is one that ALL Americans should want fixed, TODAY.
    Health and Safety come first: CA should prohibit building in these areas. Take 10% of money spent on clean air and formaldehyde emissions and spend it on this major problem.
    Trees remove carbon dioxide and wood stores carbon. But when it burns, it gives off all kinds of toxic “stuff.”
    So for health, safety, and environmental reasons, we need to act now.

  12. Yes I agree David. I didn’t proof read before I posted. I meant to say that controlled burning reduces fuel build up. Raking does minimal good in forests. It was not meant to be compared in any way.

  13. Who are you trying to fool? Environmental radicals are causing this? Most are not even started near the forest. A study published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, or PNAS, found that 84 percent of wildfires are ignited by humans, whether through downed power lines, careless campfires, or arson. Activist and so called Environmental Radicals do not want natural fires suppressed. Infact, thay say that natural fires are natural and they have a purpose in the forest. Personally, I have seen the Forest Service under “management practices” start a fire that burned for 3 years in Tennessee. The fire followed the roots and went underground, then into a cave (which gave off carbon monoxide due to the coal) , and kept popping out of the ground igniting more of the forest. The best practice that the Forest Service can do is to allow the natural fires to occur and leave the forest alone. The forests did well before they stepped in. Building in or near fire-prone forests has also led to fire prevention land management practices that paradoxically increase fire risk. For instance, policies for preventing wildfires have in some areas led to an accumulation of the dry vegetation that would ordinarily burn away in smaller natural blazes.

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