As an official highlighted the impact of the pine beetle devastation killing trees in the state forests, Trump asked, “I know the beetle kill has been terrible … do you view that differently? And now you’re going to be clearing it? Or doing whatever you’re going to do?”
“One hundred and sixty three million, so boy that’s a hell of a job right? To start clearing that out,” Newsom replied.
The president met with state and local officials in McClellan Park, California, where he participated in a briefing about the extent of the fires.
Trump noted that the dead trees were flammable and explosive, making the fires worse.
California state officials, however, focused the blame on climate change, begging the president to take climate change more seriously.
“Something has happened to the plumbing of the world and we come from a perspective, humbly, that we assert the science that climate change is real,” Newsom said to Trump. “Please respect the difference of opinion out here with respect to the fundamental issue of climate change.”
“Absolutely,” Trump replied.
Wade Crowfoot, the Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency, pleaded with Trump to focus on climate change.
“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” he said.
“It will start getting cooler,” Trump replied. “You just watch.”
“I wish science agreed with you,” Crowfoot replied.
“I don’t think science knows actually,” Trump replied.
Ray Haupt, the Supervisor for Siskiyou County, California, noted that half of his residents in his area were displaced, with 158 homes destroyed.
He said that the population was suffering from the decline of the timber economy.
“We are completely surrounded by federal timber,” Haupt said. “At this point, it needs some active forest management that would both improve the economy of the area as well as increase the water flow.”
He agreed with President Trump that the immediate priority was properly managing the forests.
“Climate change, I can’t do much about that, but as a forester actively managing that forest I can manipulate fuels and I can do it in a pretty short order,” he said.
The president noted that countries in Europe did a much better job managing their forests and did not suffer the same problems that California did.
“You can knock this down to nothing,” Trump said.