Trump Threatens to Cut Off California Wildfire Aid
What does Trump have against California? Without prompting or explanation, the president tweeted Wednesday that he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to halt funding for its wildfire relief unless "they get their act together."
"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen," he wrote. "Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!" An earlier tweet that misspelled the word "forest" was replaced with the one that's up now.
This isn't the first time the president pointed the finger at California's forest management. Last year, Trump threatened to withhold relief funds and incorrectly blamed its infernos on the state's "gross mismanagement of the forests" even though most of the fires burned on federal land.
Trump has also brushed aside the role of climate change making the fires worse, saying "a lot of factors" contributed to the fires. He even suggested that California's problem was it didn't rake its forests enough, a comment that was widely ridiculed.
Firefighters associations blasted the president's latest missive, calling them particularly insensitive after the deadly and overwhelming destruction caused by the 2018 blazes.
For one, Northern California's record-breaking Camp Fire that ignited in early November killed 86 people, incinerated thousands of buildings and destroyed the town of Paradise. (Trump ultimately approved a disaster declaration for the state on Nov. 12 to unlock federal funds.)
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, had similar sentiments.
"This is yet another unimaginable attack on the dedicated professionals who put everything on the line, including their own homes, to protect their neighborhoods," he said in a news release. "While our president is tweeting on the sidelines in DC, our fellow Americans 3,000 miles to the west are mourning loved ones, entire communities have been wiped off the map and thousands of people are still trying to figure out where they are going to call home."
Democratic lawmakers in California also sharply rebuked the president.
"Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state's history last year. We should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster," Senator Kamala Harris tweeted.
Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state’s history last year. We should work together to mitigate t… https://t.co/ni9zzpaqte— Kamala Harris (@Kamala Harris)1547047728.0
California's new Gov. Gavin Newsom—who on Tuesday pledged $105 million in new spending to prevent, fight and escape wildfires—also responded to the president.
Newsom tweeted that he and the governors of Oregon and Washington sent a letter asking the federal government "to work with us in taking on these unprecedented wildfires."
"Disasters and recovery are no time for politics," Newsom said.
Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and… https://t.co/0s48GfwbtF— Gavin Newsom (@Gavin Newsom)1547048692.0
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of San Francisco, tweeted that Trump's comments "insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousands more who lost their homes."
She also urged House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, California to "condemn & and call on POTUS."
.@realDonaldTrump’s threat insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year & thousand… https://t.co/U7OMx9PghN— Nancy Pelosi (@Nancy Pelosi)1547049527.0
FEMA news desk manager Michael Hart told POLITICO he was unclear about what Trump's orders would entail, but added that a follow-up on Trump's tweet would be released soon.
The agency does not have funding due to the ongoing government shutdown, now in its third week. However, according to a Department of Homeland Security shutdown plan, of FEMA's 19,631 employees, 15,208 are considered essential and are working through the shutdown.
Its website currently says it is "actively contacting California Wildfire survivors to determine their housing needs and working diligently to identify additional short-term and long-term housing options."
Just yesterday, the reinsurance firm Munich Re listed the Camp Fire as the world's costliest natural disaster of 2018, racking up $16.5 billion in damages.
OH NO, HOW WILL WE BUY RAKES TO CLEAN UP THE FORESTS?! https://t.co/uuBMG0FYGW— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1547047005.0
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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