President Donald Trump is pushing better forest management as a big part of his plan to stop the number of large wildfires that have caused devastation in the western United States in recent years.
In a speech at the White House this past week, the president touted an executive order signed last December promoting more active forest management.
“You can’t have dirty floors. You can’t have fallen trees. After the first 17 months, they say a tree is like a piece of tinder,” said Trump, a Republican.
Wildfires have gotten worse in recent years — burning up a large part of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget in the process.
“The process of cleaning is now really taking precedent. A lot of people are looking at forest management. It’s a word that people didn’t really understand last year, and now they are getting it, and you don’t have to have any forest fires,” Trump said.
Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines was at the White House and agreed with the president.
“Either we are going to manage our forests, or our forests are going to manage us. We’ve got to deal with the wildfire situation we have, and we can reduce the risk of wildfires and severity of those fires by better forest management,” said Daines.
While Trump talked about reducing fuel for fires, his proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year would also reduce the Forest Service budget by $948 million.
Montana’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Jon Tester, accused the Trump Administration of gutting clean air, water, and public land protections, but said he supports active forest management, calling it an important piece in maintaining our healthy forests and local jobs.
“This needs to be coupled with habitat conservation, improved public access, and a comprehensive approach to the underlying cause for wildfires—climate change. This executive order only gets at a piece of that puzzle,” Tester said in a statement to MTN News.