California officials plan to spend billions of dollars to thin tens of millions of acres of forests in the Golden State, in hopes that doing so will restrict fuel for forest fires, especially during the state’s hot and dry summers.
After the plan was revealed, it was pointed out that former President Donald Trump made that exact suggestion during his presidency. Trump, however, was met with ridicule by progressives bent on making forest fires a symptom of climate change.
What did Trump do?
After wildfires ravaged California last summer — killing 33 people and burning a record 4.3 million acres — Trump issued an ultimatum to California’s Democratic leaders: Clean your forest floors or lose federal money. Trump made similar threats in 2018 and 2019.
The media worked overtime to spin the suggestion — which, in reality, is a common forest conservation measure — as prompting “head-scratching from experts” and as evidence Trump did not “understand the science of wildfires” and was “politicizing natural disasters.”
The Trump administration finally made good on Trump’s threats last October by refusing “to grant California an emergency declaration that would make hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding available for areas devastated” by wildfires, the Washington Post reported.
Trump later reversed that decision after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) personally appealed to Trump.
What is California doing now?
California officials now say they’re going to do exactly what Trump had suggested: clear the forests of debris that intensifies fires.
According to Bloomberg, California will spend $500 million this fiscal year on “an effort that includes clearing pines, firs and redwoods. Without all this fuel on the forest floor, California officials contend, blazes will be less likely to turn into the mega-fires that devour thousands of acres.”
In fact, Newsom is planning to ask state lawmakers for even more money — reaching into the billions — to finance the forest-clearing campaign, with a goal of cleaning 1 million acres by 2025.
More from Bloomberg:
The question is whether this new push can be done at a pace and scale that’ll actually make a difference. In a best-case scenario, Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes state and federal crews will be thinning out one million acres annually by 2025. He’s asking the state legislature to give him $2 billion to accelerate efforts in the fiscal year starting July 1. But even if his goal is achieved, it’d still leave millions of acres, and the communities that surround them, vulnerable for decades.
Christine McMorrow, spokeswoman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, told Bloomberg the 1 million-acres-per-year goal will be split between the federal government and California.
Unfortunately, Gina Palma, a fire meteorologist with the Department of Agriculture, told Bloomberg wildfires are expected to be severe this year, during a season already ahead of schedule. For southern California, one of the most populous areas in the U.S., that translates to above average potential for significant wildfires.