President Donald Trump took aim at California governor Gavin Newsom Sunday morning over wildfires raging across the southern and western parts of the state, chastising Newsom for letting environmentalists run the show, preventing the state from adquately clearing brush and dead vegetation.
Trump also threatened to cut off Federal funding to California for fire abatement and land management if Newsom doesn’t shape up.
The Washington Times reports that Trump took a break from tweeting about the Democrats’ plan to open public impeachment proceedings to declare Newsom a failure.
“The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers…..” Trump tweeted.
“Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more,” the president continued. “Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states.”
“But our teams are working well together in putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!” he concluded.
Newsom took a while to fire back, electing to hit Trump over his own environmental policies. “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation,” Newsom tweeted back at the President.
The pair enjoy sparring over Twitter, and Sunday’s exchange is the latest in a series. Trump and Newsom tangled over Newsom’s “gross mismanagement” of California’s forests last year at this time, as a different set of forest fires raged across the state. Earlier in October, Newsom and Trump exchanged barbs over California’s outrageous gas prices and Newsom’s plan to mandate the adoption of electric cars (a plan that now seems to be on hold given Newsom’s war of words with California electricity provider, PG&E).
The tiff between the two leaders seems to be largely a social media phenomenon. Newsom speaks with Trump fairly regularly — even on the same day he officially demanded Trump’s tax returns — and recently declared a state of emergency in California, opening the state up for Federal aid. When state legislators tried to punish the Trump Administration for rolling back EPA regulations on wetland preservation, Newsom vetoed their bill.
Trump’s take on the wildfires does have its problems — much of the area currently on fire is Federal land, for example, and not the state of California’s responsibility — and his quip about water seems to assume that the eternal battle between California’s water-hoarding environmentalists and its desperate farmer, who need more water to irrigate crops has an impact on the state’s ability to fight fires. But it does draw attention to an issue Newsom seems to regularly gloss over: that climate change may have very little (if anything) to do with California’s wildfire problem.
Reuters pointed out during last year’s spate of wildfires that California’s land management does seem to be partially to blame, and human encroachment on natural forest land contributes to the uptick in visible damage. California’s forests are overgrown, but that’s by design. Logging is restricted. And environmentalists in California have pushed policies to increase forest area (in order to help draw more carbon from the atmosphere) without a plan to clear dead and decaying trees and undergrowth.
The Trump Administration has a plan to ease environmental restrictions and speed forest thinning, according to Business Insider, but those changes have yet to take effect — and it may take years for progress to happen, even when they do.
The plan also might not have much effect on fires like the ones burning in California at the moment. The Getty fire is burning on a hillside, not in a forest, and the Kincaid fire is burning across farmland. At least one of this year’s fires was sparked by a faulty electric grid, putting the state’s electricity provider, PG&E into the mix. PG&E has, in turn, shut off electricity to millions while it assesses its grid, complicating the situation.