Politics

What Trump Got Wrong About California’s Wildfire Policies

A firefighter extinguishes flames while battling the Carr fire on July 30th, 2018, near Redding, California.

California is battling at least 17 major wildfires, many of which are already among the most destructive in the state’s history. Then, on Sunday and Monday, California was hit with another storm: President Donald Trump‘s tweets, blaming “bad environmental laws” for this fire season’s intensity.

Pacific Standard spoke with Char Miller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College and an expert on wildfire policy, to see if these claims had any validity. Like other climatologists who have publicly discredited the tweets, Miller said the president’s claims have no foundation: “This is theater,” he said. “But in effect, it sends a signal that the president, who took an oath to protect the federal domain, is unwilling to do so.”

Here are five claims Trump made in his tweets, and the facts that debunk them.

1. “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.”

This claim is “nonsense,” Miller says: “There is no diversion from the source of water that Cal Fire [the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection], local fire departments, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management utilize to help suppress fires like the Carr, the Ferguson, and others.”

Instead, these agencies get their water from local reservoirs like Clear Lake and Shasta Lake, which are full in Northern California this year due to a heavier rain season. Nor is this a fear in the southern part of the state: In the case of fires, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California coordinates the release of water through canals leading from the north to the south, where it is stored for later use.




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