"Radical" environmental groups that publicly access federal forests to remove dead trees are responsible for the growth of California's raging wildfires, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Thursday.
“We have been held hostage by environmental groups that sue and sue, lawsuit after lawsuit, that prevent us from managing our forests," Zinke told Fox Business' "Mornings With Maria."
"Public lands belong to everyone, not just these special interest groups.”
He admitted that the climate is changing, but if there were fewer trees, that would alleviate the fires.
"“It used to be that there was an advantage to be next to federal property, but now it means you’re at greater risk for fires, because federal property by and large over the last decade has not been managed,” Zinke said.
It is clear, he added, that temperatures are higher, seasons are longer and drought conditions elevated the fire risk, but the fires have had just "too much fuel" from the dead and dying trees.
More active management would be a better option, said Zinke, than "sitting there year after year wasting billions of dollars.
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, said he toured some of the neighborhoods that have burned, and called the damage the worst he has ever seen.
"It's on par with what I’ve seen in Iraq — absolute total devastation,” he said.
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