Zinke blames ‘radical environmentalists’ for wildfires

Zinke blames ‘radical environmentalists’ for wildfires
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Zinke, Lewandowski join Trump veterans’ lobbying firm Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? MORE is partially blaming “radical environmentalists” for the dozens of wildfires burning in California and elsewhere in the West.

In a USA Today opinion piece published Wednesday, Zinke said “active forest management” — including logging, prescribed burns and clearing brush — is the way to minimize wildfires on federal land.

But green groups sue the federal government to stop such management practices, Zinke charged, exacerbating the problem.

“Every year we watch our forests burn, and every year there is a call for action,” he wrote.

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“Yet, when action comes, and we try to thin forests of dead and dying timber, or we try to sustainably harvest timber from dense and fire-prone areas, we are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods.”

Zinke and President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE have been pushing active management in recent days in response to the wildfires, including the Mendocino Complex Fire, which is made up of two separate fires and is now California’s largest since record keeping began.

“Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading,” Trump exclaimed in a Sunday tweet claiming that California is running out of water to fight the fires because Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and state officials are letting the water run out to the Pacific Ocean.

State and federal officials already spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on forest management and fire prevention. But Republicans want more.

“Radical environmentalists would have you believe forest management means clear cutting forests and national parks. But their rhetoric could not be further from the truth. They make outdated and unscientific arguments, void of facts, because they cannot defend the merits of their policy preferences year after year as our forests and homes burn to the ground,” Zinke wrote.

“I’ve visited too many fire camps and spoken with too many experts to know that those who perished fighting these fires could have been saved.”