Nov 3, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Trump threatens to cut federal aid for California wildfires

President Donald Trump with Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, as they view damage from wildfires in Paradise, California on November 17, 2018.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Trump view damage from wildfires in Paradise, California, November 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump lashed out at California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) Sunday in a series of tweets in which he threatened to cut U.S. funding to California for the wildfires that have engulfed the state this fall.

Why it matters: As California spearheads liberal states' efforts against Trump in the lead-up to the 2020 elections, Newsom and the president have clashed on several issues.

  • This is Trump's first major tweet on California's devastating wildfires since the massive Kincade Fire erupted on Oct. 23.

What he's saying: Trump tweeted that Newsom had done a "terrible job of forest management."

  • "I told him from the first day we met that he must 'clean' his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers," Trump tweeted.
"Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states ... But our teams are working well together in putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!"
— Trump lashes out at Newsom on Twitter

Reality check: The federal government manages most forest land, whereas the state is responsible for a small percentage of it, as AP points out.

The big picture: Trump made similar funding cut threats over the 2018 Malibu and Paradise wildfires in California during which he accused the state of "gross mismanagement" of forests, AP reports.

  • In November 2018, Andrew Freedman noted in an Axios article that Trump "touted the virtues of Finland's 'raking' of the forest floor to clear it of flammable material, thereby averting wildfires like those California has seen over the past 13 months."
  • Freedman pointed out that Finland's forest management practices "are not a panacea and don't center around raking. Rather, they consist of some of the same tactics used in the U.S., including setting controlled burns, thinning forests, and clearing brush and trees from around communities to create a buffer between human settlements and the forest."
  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris picked up on the raking point as she sided with Newsom in the Twitter dual.

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