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article imageOp-Ed: Trump threatens to cut FEMA wildfire funds to California

By Karen Graham     Jan 9, 2019 in Politics
President Donald Trump, unable to get his way on a wall on the Southern border, revived his criticism of California on Wednesday, insisting again the state has mismanaged forest management programs and allowed wildfires to rage.
President Trump tweeted this morning that unless the state of California improves forest management and the wildland-urban interface, he has ordered FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to withhold federal funding.
Actually, it's "unclear whether Trump has already ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cut off money for California fires or is threatening to do so as he has in the past," writes USA Today.
Trump drew an immediate rebuke from California Sen. Kamala Harris, a possible Democratic challenger to Trump for the White House in 2020, as well as newly elected Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reports CNN News.
Kimberly Spainhower (L) and her husband Ryan Spainhower (R) weep while searching through the ashes o...
Kimberly Spainhower (L) and her husband Ryan Spainhower (R) weep while searching through the ashes of their burned home in Paradise, California
Josh Edelson, AFP
On November 10, 2018, Trump tweeted: "There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!."
At that time, there were three wildfires raging in California, with firefighters trying desperately to contain the uncontrolled infernos while forecasters were predicting intense winds and low humidity could fuel the blazes and make them spread even farther.
For his November tweet, which did not offer condolences to the thousands of people who had lost their homes and those who had lost loved ones in the fires, Trump was hit with a backlash of Tweets from firefighters across the country, as well as ordinary people who blasted him for his misunderstanding of the issue.
An Alameda County Sheriff Coroner officer looks for human remains at a burned residence in Paradise ...
An Alameda County Sheriff Coroner officer looks for human remains at a burned residence in Paradise, California
Josh Edelson, AFP
The real facts on forest management
We can all agree that state agencies can do a better job with forest management, however, we really must include the federal government and their mismanagement of federal forests.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, called Cal Fire, is responsible for fire protection in State Responsibility Areas (SRA) of California totaling 30 million acres, as well as the administration of the state's private and public forests. In addition, the Department provides varied emergency services in 36 of the State's 58 counties via contracts with local governments.
There are 20 US National Forests in the state of California. Some of them are exclusively within the bounds of California while a few are shared with other states. All National Forests are managed by the US Forest Service. The 20 national forests cover 44,801 square miles, or 28,672,640 acres.
So it looks like Trump, in all his blathering, has conveniently decided to ignore the fact that half of California's forests are under federal control. The 2018 Forest Service budget for discretionary appropriations is $4.73 billion, a decrease of $938 million below the 2017 annualized Continuing Resolution. It includes $1.75 billion for the management of National Forest System lands and $2.5 billion for Wildland Fire Management.
What does the President want?
FEMA is sending money to California for a number of reasons. Some of that money goes to reimburse state and local governments for part of the costs of fighting the fires. Some money is sent to rebuild public infrastructure destroyed by the wildfires, obviously, some of it being federal infrastructure.
And like with many disasters, some money is sent to individuals to help them with temporary housing and even individual assistance. And with the president's tweet being open to interpretation, saying no more FEMA money is going to impact on more than just forest management.
The Hill writes, "That is why announcing public policy in a tweet is bad politics and bad governance." This means that by tweeting public policy, Trump leaves his administration out in the hallway, not quite knowing what in the world is going on.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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