Trump Blamed ‘Forest Mismanagement’ For California Wildfires, But Most Of State’s Forests Are Federally Owned

Firefighter silhouetted by flames
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

President Donald Trump faced backlash Saturday after posting a tweet in which he blamed poor management for the devastation caused by California wildfires. That tweet read as follows.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Among the problems with that statement is the fact that the federal government manages most of the state’s forests. According to the University of California Forest Research and Outreach, the federal government manages 19 million of the 33 million acres of forest in the state, so most of the state’s forest fall under the president’s jurisdiction.

Celebrities and firefighters were among those speaking out about the president’s tweet Saturday, calling it insensitive, ill-informed, and simplistic. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted California Governor Jerry Brown as saying, “Our focus is on the Californians impacted by these fires and the first responders and firefighters working around the clock to save lives and property — not on the president’s inane, uninformed tweets.” This isn’t the first time the president has blamed management of California forests for their wildfires. He also did so in the aftermath of the Carr Fire earlier this year that killed eight people. That time, he blamed the state’s wildfires on environmental laws that require the diversion of river water to the ocean, adding, “Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”

LeRoy Westerling, a climate and fire scientist at UC Merced, reacted to Trump’s accusation of poor management.

“To have a president come out and say it’s all because of forest management is ridiculous. It completely ignores the dynamic of what’s going on around us… Climate change is drying out our landscape. That’s not forest management. That’s managing your safe zones around a city. He’s going after California because Californians don’t vote for him.”

The state passed SB901 this year which they hope will reduce the occurrence of deadly wildfires. Through SB901, $1 billion will be spent over five years on things like clearing brush and establishing a schedule for prescribed burns. It also relaxes regulations related to ridding forests of trees killed by drought.

The president reaffirmed his earlier statement Sunday with a tweet that said, “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”

Brian Price, president of the California Professional Firefighters that boasts 30,000 members, criticized Trump’s comments.

“At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.”