Trump: California ‘better get their act together’ on wildfires

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE on Wednesday seemed to threaten to withhold funding to fight wildfires in California if the state doesn’t remove more “old trees” from forests.

“California’s a mess. We’re giving billions and billions of dollars for forest fires in California,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House, shortly after Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueThis is not the way to move USDA agencies out of Washington American farmers can't afford this administration's climate apathy Overnight Energy: New EPA rule could expand officials weighing in on FOIA requests | Trump plan to strip conservation fund gets bipartisan pushback | Agriculture chief downplays climate concerns MORE told him about the Forest Service’s efforts to prevent fires.

“They are leaving them dirty,” Trump said of California’s forests. “Old trees are sitting there, rotting and drying. And instead of cleaning it up, they don’t touch them, they leave them. And we end up with these massive fires that we’re paying hundreds of billions of dollars for to fix, and the destruction is incredible.”

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“I think California ought to get their act together and clean up their forests and manage their forests,” he continued.

“It’s costing our country hundreds of billions of dollars because of incompetence in California,” Trump said. “It’s hurting our budget, it’s hurting our country. And they just better get their act together.”

The state has seen some of its worst and most costly fires in recent months.

California’s state wildfire agency spent $773 million fighting fires in the fiscal year that ended in June, triple the amount from just five years ago.

That doesn’t include the federal government’s costs, which come from Interior Department and Forest Service firefighting and Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funding.

Trump has been critical in the past of California, blaming the state’s wildfires on what he sees as an unwillingness to actively manage forests by removing brush and old trees and thinning the forests.

He has similarly blamed the fires on the state’s decisions to let water flow out to the Pacific Ocean instead of diverting it to storage, farms or other uses. California officials have said they were not short on water for fighting fires.

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