March 19, 2019  
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Editorial: Trump’s lying about fires may fire up his base but it inflames finding solutions
Editorial: Trump’s lying about fires may fire up his base but it inflames finding solutions

Donald Trump doesn't know what he is talking about. Yes, that could refer to thousands of issues. Indeed, he has been documented lying or spreading misleading claims more than 4,229 times since taking office. There were scores or hundreds more during his campaign and by the time you read this the figure will be higher. But consider just this one issue.

On Sunday, President Trump tweeted that fast-spreading fires on the West Coast “are being magnified” by “bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount [sic] of readily available water to be properly utilized.” On Monday, he extended the claim into the surreal when he said water was being “diverted into the Pacific Ocean” instead of being used for “fires, farming and everything else.”

In truth, neither California’s water management policies, nor a long-term drought there have stopped firefighters from using all the water they need to fight this year’s wildfires.

“He clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” pointed out LeRoy Westerling, a climate scientist and associate professor at the University of California, Merced.

Not content to lie (again) and blame state officials (again) and Mother Nature (as a new culprit), in his fumbling way, Trump also tried to smear conservationists who have advocated that some water in California be allocated to imperiled salmon habitat. Again, experts who actually know something about this, such as LeRoy Westerling, emphasized that “It’s not like we would’ve taken that water and sprayed it on the forest, and it’s not clear how drying out our rivers would reduce our fire risks. It’s really a head-scratcher.”

In case there was any doubt that Trump is clueless about this matter, he also tweeted that California officials “must also tree clear [sic] to stop fire spreading.” In truth, the U.S. Forest Service has been working with Cal Fire for years to clear millions of dead, beetle-infested trees in forests across the state to reduce fuel for potential fires. They also have pushed for more logging to take out live trees using the excuse that the trees might someday be in the path of a fire. However, dead trees are not the problem. Studies have found that large wildfires are driven by climate, not fuels. Moreover, several of the fires burning in California this summer have torched areas filled with grass and shrubs, not forests of dead trees.

Don’t blame wilderness either. A study of 1,500 fires found that blazes that occurred in wilderness areas and parks burned at lower severity than fires in areas with “active management” (i.e., logging). The myth that management is needed for “forest restoration” is fake news. Logging is not restoration.

Fire has been a natural part of the West for millennia. Indeed, fire is necessary to sustain some ecosystems there. The book “Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy,” (George Wuerthner, editor, Foundation for Deep Ecology, 2006) argues convincingly that the history of fighting fires has been self-defeating and based on unscientific assumptions about the role of fire in natural ecological processes in North America.

The problem now is two-fold. First, too many people have been building in naturally fire-prone areas. And second, climate chaos, caused by our messing up the atmosphere, is dramatically exacerbating the dry, windy conditions that feed the ever-bigger conflagrations.

Firefighters from many states, including Maine, are in California risking their very existence. The lives lost, both people and others, and the homes burned are catastrophic tragedies. But having the President lie about the causes and solutions only inflames the situation rather than moving us toward a more rational, science-based policy.

Posted on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 (Archive on Tuesday, August 28, 2018)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre

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