Interior and Agriculture Secretaries California Fires, Pledge to Reduce Wildfire Risk

Perdue and Zinke (Twitter)

The U.S. Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture toured the devastating sites of California fires this week that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed countless homes, and taken the lives of eight people and six firefighters.

Both vowed to manage federal lands better, and to help state and local officials to reduce future fires.

“This is unacceptable,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told KRCR-TV. “Every year Californians are not going out and enjoying public lands because access has been removed.”

“So rather than hiking and rafting … they’re evacuating their homes and having to breathe unhealthy air,” Zinke said. “We can do better.”

“We have to remove the dead and dying trees and restore health to our forests,” Zinke said.

The Western Farm Press reported on Zinke’s remarks, including the claim that California mismanages its water.

Zinke said he agreed with President Donald Trump’s tweets last week asserting that environmental laws that require a “massive amount of readily available water” to be flushed into the Pacific Ocean to help fish have worsened California’s wildfires.

“California has enough water, but where the water is going is the issue,” Zinke told the ABC affiliate. He added that more water availability would help farmers, noting that “two-thirds of America’s groceries come out of the Central Valley.”

Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue were in Redding on Monday where they met with local officials and fire crews. 

The Press also reported that President Trump had approved a major disaster declaration for Shasta County, which is being charred by three significant wildfires, according to state and federal fire agencies:

•The Carr Fire, which has burned 202,976 acres in Shasta and Trinity counties, killed eight people, and destroyed over 1,000 homes;

•The Hirz Fire, which has charred nearly 4,000 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and is only 5 percent contained;

•The Hat Fire, which has burned 1,900 acres in the county’s northeastern corner.

“Thousands of firefighters are also battling other blazes around the state, including two fires that make up the Mendocino Complex, which has become the largest recorded in state history at about 345,000 acres combined, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection,” the Press reported.

The Department of the Interior said in a statement on Sunday that Zinke and United States Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman toured had toured neighborhoods and department assets destroyed by the Carr fire. 

“The two toured the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, which is jointly owned by the National Park Service and USBR. Much of Whiskeytown was severely damaged, however, maintenance crews are working to restore power and sewage to the site for people to again access the lake,” the Interior readout said.

“Secretary Zinke also went to a small community west of Redding where several DOI employees lost their homes,” the department’s press release added. “The Secretary drove and walked the neighborhood, stopping to talk with families.”

As Breitbart News reported, Zinke said environmental zealots who have resisted forest management to save wildlife habitat have helped create unhealthy forests, leading to catastrophic wildfires that devastate more habitat than they would otherwise.

“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 Washington Deputy Political Editor Amanda House on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM Patriot 125.

“We’re spending probably, this season, over $2 billion fighting forest fires when many of them could be prevented by better forest management techniques,” Zinke said.

“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 told Breitbart News.

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