Don’t Blame CA’s Fires on Its Environmental Laws
Turns out you can't believe everything you read on Trump's Twitter feed
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The 18 wildfires currently raging in California have killed nine people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Fortunately for residents of the state, Donald Trump knows who to blame: Liberals.
At first, it’s hard to make sense of this word soup. But if we apply our far-right conspiracy theory decoder to the cryptic text, it reveals two alleged villains whom the president seems to blame for California's wildfires: those in the state who oppose construction of a new dam and those who oppose increased logging.
Let me break that down. Republican lawmakers in California’s Central Valley (where your food comes from) have long been trying to build a ninth dam on the already nearly dry San Joaquin River. This project makes no sense and largely appears to be an attempt to redirect billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to the benefit of large commercial operations in the Valley. “It's one thing to put a dam on a river that has water in it,” a local resident explained to the Los Angeles Times. “But to dam up an already dry river does seem like a stretch. You can't squeeze a lot more water out of this river.” The paper describes the amount of water the dam would make available as a “trickle.”
In his tweet, Trump seems to suggest that this Central Valley dam would aid firefighting efforts by creating a water source where one does not currently exist. Yet firefighters aren't having any trouble getting water to fight California’s fires, and the river water has no impact on how dry the vegetation is in surrounding countryside.
So why is our fearless leader so hot and bothered about it? Well, I have a theory. The dam would abut the congressional district of Devin Nunes, the Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and an avid supporter of Trump during the ongoing Russia investigation. Nunes has stated that, in order to save his pet project dam, that, “We have to fight every single day.”
What about logging? The Trump administration has upended a careful and much-lauded compromise struck between environmentalists, timber companies, the state, and the U.S. Forest Service following the devastating Rim Fire of 2013 by advocating for a massive increase in logging there. But the administration's efforts are currently being thwarted by environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act. Republican lawmakers are agitating to expedite the approval process, so logging can be expanded despite the existing regulations.
“Politicians often use wildfire as an excuse to increase timber targets,” Ray Rasker, the head of independent research group Headwaters Economics explained to the Los Angeles Times. It’s feared that fuel reduction is being used as an excuse to ramrod increased timber production, without sufficient supporting evidence from scientists.
So what’s really to blame for California’s fires? Climate change. Simply put, increased average temperatures are drying up vegetation in the summer, after unpredictable and often extreme winter storms cause temporary growth booms. And because of that, California’s fires are only going to get worse, no matter how many rivers in the state are dammed or how many trees are cut down. Trump's right that the cause of these fires is related to politics, he's just wrong about which party is to blame.