On the eve of a visit to California as wildfires continue to rage across the state, Donald Trump doubled down on his claim that bad “forest management” is to blame for the recent devastation there.
After repeating his false claim that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is “hiding” in his “basement” during the campaign, Mr Trump touted his busy travel schedule.
“I’m all over the place. I’m going to California from here, going over to see some of our great people that are doing such a great job with these monster fires that they have,” he said at a roundtable with Latino voters in Nevada on Sunday.
“And again, forest management. I keep telling them: forest management. And to manage your forests,” Mr Trump said.
Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley pushed back against Mr Trump’s position that forest fires are the product of poor forest management, saying it is not supported by science and is a cover for the real culprit: anthropomorphic climate change.
“The president has said it’s all about raking the forest. … It’s just a — a big and devastating lie,” Mr Merkley said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday.
The wildfires have also wreaked havoc across communities in Mr Merkley’s state and in Washington.
“The Cascade snowpacks have gotten smaller,” the senator said. “Our forests have gotten drier. Our ocean has gotten warmer and more acidic. And this has been happening steadily over the last several decades.”
Mr Merkley urged Mr Trump to get serious about the root cause of the record heat wave that has stricken California and states on the West Coast this summer, contributing to the wildfires.
“America not only has to get its own act in order, it has to help lead the world to take this on,” Mr Merkley said. “This is a planetary-scale tragedy of the commons that we need leadership to end.”
Mr Trump has expressed a reluctance to send aid to California during the current wildfire crisis as well as past ones throughout his administration.
“I said you’ve got to clean your floors, you got to clean your forests,” the president said at a rally in Pennsylvania in August.
“Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” Mr Trump said.
At least 25 people have died in the wildfires this summer, officials have reported. The fires have damaged millions of acres of land, including vast swaths of farmland.
California is the largest food-producing state in the country.