The Washington Examiner | August 13, 2018
By Josh Siegel

Environmentalists criticized Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday for blaming the wildfires raging through California on forest management and claiming that climate change has not played a role in the blazes.

Zinke, on a two-day tour of areas devastated by the Carr Fire in Redding, Calif., downplayed the importance of managing global warming in addressing the fires on Sunday.

“I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth,” Zinke said in an interview with a local television station, KCRA 3. “This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.”

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But it’s not enough to address the problem, experts say.

“The biggest challenge to getting work done in the woods is funding,” said Robert Bonnie, who was the Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment in the Obama administration. “Congress has stopped the bleeding, but needs to do more,” Bonnie told the Washington Examiner.

The U.S. faces a backlog of needed forest management projects, as federal and state agencies have used more of their budgets responding to wildfires, rather than preventing them.

For years, the Forest Service has taken money from other preventative accounts to make up for shortfalls in firefighting funding.

Congress’ omnibus spending bill also addressed the “fire borrowing” problem by establishing a contingency account for use in bad fire years, funded with more than $2 billion a year through 2027.

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