As California battles statewide wildfires, the death toll and expenditures are rising. The fires have torn through numerous counties throughout the state, and as many as 48 people have died in Camp Fire alone, as reported by NBC News. On Saturday, President Trump commented in a tweet criticizing “forest management.”
The statement sparked outrage from Democratic congressional members, Hollywood, and the media. Even the California firefighters union chief described the comment as “ill-timed and demeaning.”
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom stated, in a tweet responding to Trump’s, “Lives have been lost. Entire towns have been burned to the ground. Cars abandoned on the side of the road. People are being forced to flee their homes. This is not a time for partisanship. This is a time for coordinating relief and response and lifting those in need up.”
Many even claimed Trump’s statement was not only uncouth, but also uninformed.
However, there may be more truth to Trump’s tweet than many of his critics care to admit. The Democrat-led Little Hoover Commission is an independent state oversight agency that released a report earlier this year on wildfire destruction and forest management practices that seemed to affirm Trump’s sentiments.
Former Democratic representative and deputy district attorney Pedro Nava, who is currently the commission’s chairman, addressed California’s governor and the legislature with an open letter that opens the February report. The first sentence of this letter states: “A century of mismanaging Sierra Nevada forests has brought an unprecedented environmental catastrophe that impacts all Californians.”
After describing the dilapidated state of the Sierra Nevada forests, and providing examples of the “imminent crisis,” Nava suggested “investing upfront to create healthier forests” in an effort to curb “the spiraling costs of state firefighting.” After further description of the economic costs incurred in the wake of wildfires, Nava concluded that “all these are symptoms of a larger problem of forest mismanagement and neglect.”
The report also blames “poor management policies that interrupted the natural and historical cycle of fire” as a cause that has “left forests vulnerable to disease, insects, catastrophic fire and drought.”
Unsurprisingly, it seems some of the outrage and animus directed towards Trump stems from dislike for the president’s personality and policies. It is not, however, rooted in knowledge about the situation at hand, which subject-matter experts describe similarly as Trump did in his supposedly objectionable tweet.
Like Trump’s tweet did, Nava pointed out that “state and federal firefighting costs have risen year by year.” Only recently, costs have increased at a dramatic pace. Since 2013, the cost of California firefighting has more than tripled (an increase of $531 million), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and PolitiFact.
Two things can be true at once: Trump’s comments about California’s wildfires can be crude and inappropriately timed; and the president’s statement reflected the conclusions of California’s own Hoover Commission oversight report with regard to statewide forest mismanagement. California, of course, is currently and has been run largely by Democrats at all levels and agencies of government for many years now.
Neither Nava nor California State Sen. Richard Roth, who also serves as a commissioner on Little Hoover, could be reached for comment on this article.