Zinke blames 'environmental terrorist groups' for scale of California wildfires

Zinke blames 'environmental terrorist groups' for scale of California wildfires

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog Overnight Energy: Trump officials may pursue offshore drilling after election, report says | Energy regulators to delay projects pending appeals | EPA union calls for 'moratorium' on reopening plans MORE is blaming "environmental terrorist" groups for the deadly forest fires ripping through California.

Zinke, who visited neighborhoods ravaged by the state's largest wildfire ever over the weekend and on Monday, said environmentalists and green regulations in California made the fires much worse. 

"We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access — that have refused to allow [the] harvest of timber,” Zinke told Brietbart radio over the weekend.

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During his visit to the Golden State, Zinke pushed a narrative that increasing logging industry access to national forests could limit fire intensity.

"But we have these radical environmentalists that close off roads, refuse to have firebreaks, refuse to have any timber harvested, no grazing, and the result is these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said.

Zinke's message echoes President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE, who last weekend tweeted that California's environment laws were to blame for the state's fire disaster.

"California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!," Trump tweeted August 6.

In an op-ed for USA Today last week, Zinke similarly blamed "radical environmentalists" for the fires. "[W]e are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods,” he wrote.

Environmentalists and California politicians have pushed back on the characterization, arguing that logging is not enough to preventing fires, and that the real issue is climate change, which they say the administration is avoiding.

Zinke visited neighborhoods surrounding California's Carr fire with Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service Justice Department investigating meat price increases: report MORE. A number of provisions in the House's version of the farm bill would open up logging opportunities on public land.