It would seem President Trump has his own, personal enemies list, and it’s difficult to say who’s No. 1 on that list, the news media or California.
Based on the president’s actions last week, California beats the media in being Trump’s worst enemy. How else could you interpret Trump singling out this state for political retribution?
The latest shot across California’s bow came when the president pulled the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s fire-fighting funds for this state, claiming that sending federal dollars here would be a waste of money because of California’s “mismanagement” of its forests.
The tone-deaf nature of Trump’s actions cry out for explanation, and some simple, obvious facts.
First, California has the nation’s most severe wildfire problem, and experts say it’s only going to get worse. Fires last year burned nearly 2 million acres, destroying more than 15,000 homes, and killing at least 98 fire fighters and civilians, with several people still missing.
But perhaps more importantly, the criticism Trump has aimed at California is, in fact, criticism of federal agencies over which he has control that are responsible for forest management in much of the state.
In other words, Trump’s attempt to strike back at what he perceives to be this state’s political bias — and he’s probably correct about that — has inadvertently swept up agencies over which he presumably has oversight as president.
And here’s another unpleasant fact the Trump administration seems to have overlooked or forgotten — the administration’s own budget request for the current fiscal year and the coming one proposed slashing tens of millions of dollars from the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service budgets, agencies whose responsibilities include the kind of tree clearing and other forest-management work the president insists the state is not doing.
That is just one example of how the federal government is still not prioritizing fire mitigation on the scale that is necessary, according to forestry experts. A professor of fire science of UC-Berkelely who studies such dynamics said California is far ahead of federal agencies when it comes to managing forests.
But the one inescapable fact is that state forestry officials need the feds’ help, and California will not be able to handle what is predicted to be a fiery future without full cooperation from federal forestry agencies.
The feds manage more than 40 percent of California’s total acreage, and that was as of 2015. The percentage surely has changed in the intervening years. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection manages a little more than 30 percent.
Neither state nor federal agencies are doing enough to address that ticking time bomb. The independent Little Hoover Commission wrote in a 2017 report:
“California’s forests suffer from neglect and mismanagement, resulting in overcrowding that leaves them susceptible to disease, insects and wildfire. …” That is a problem for both state and federal agencies to address.
This president really needs to do two things. First, know the facts before making damaging statements. Two, keep in mind that Californians pay taxes, just like folks in other states. As taxpaying stakeholders, Californians want a decent return on their investment in the federal government, and if Trump carries through on his FEMA funding cutoff threat, we will not be getting the return we deserve.
Sadly, President Trump does not see the United States of America as one nation, and he’s doing everything he can to drive a wedge between political and cultural factions. One has to wonder about his motives for seemingly doing everything he can to turn friends into enemies.