Trump cabinet officials want to thin forests to prevent fire disasters
by David Benda
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said Monday it’s time to go on the offensive to reduce fuel loads and manage forests better to diminish the chance of future catastrophic fires.
Perdue joined Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for a roundtable of local elected officials, law enforcement and business leaders at Karline’s Restaurant in Redding.
Both Perdue and Zinke said thinning forests and cutting trees and brush to eliminate combustible fuels also would be an economic benefit because it would bring jobs to rural communities that have been hit by rules and regulations.
“We have decimated that whole ecosystem, that economic ecosystem, by our rules and regulations, and litigation and that’s what happened,” Perdue said at the roundtable. “In years gone by, we’ve taken a very defensive posture: ‘Let’s don’t do that, we may get sued.’ Well, bring it on. I’m not scared of being sued. I was governor of Georgia for eight years, I got sued every day.”
Perdue then turned to Zinke, who was sitting next to him, and asked him how many times he has been sued since he became head of Interior.
“Six the first day,” Zinke said as others sitting at the table laughed.
The meeting at the restaurant was one of several stops Perdue and Zinke made in Redding in the wake of the Carr Fire, which has burned more than 200,000 acres, making it the eighth largest in California history.
State Assemblyman Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, moderated the roundtable, which lasted for about an hour.
The Carr Fire started the afternoon of July 23. On Monday it was at 61 percent containment. Officials do not know when they expect full containment.
The sixth-most destructive fire in state history, it has leveled nearly 1,100 homes and has been linked to the deaths of eight people.
At a later press conference on the tarmac of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Operations center on Airport Road in Redding, Zinke said this is not the new normal.
“I want to comment on a couple things I’ve heard. I’ve heard climate change. Whether you’re a proponent, or an opponent, a believer or nonbeliever of climate change, it doesn’t relieve you the responsibility to manage our public lands,” Zinke said. “The public lands belong to everybody and not just the special interests, and so we have to work together to make sure we restore the health of the forest.”
photo by Hung T. VuAttribution:Redding Record Searchlight