Trump’s Solution to California’s Wildfires? Override Endangered Species Protections

President Trump’s war on California is escalating, and his latest salvo cuts deep: He’s trying to wrest control of the state’s waterways, on the grounds that federal management is necessary during the current wildfire crisis.

And he’s not just tweeting about it this time: The Commerce Department has issued a directive ordering NOAA to take control. This policy decision has profound political implications for a state where water is everything, but it also has some very dangerous environmental impacts, too.

Let’s start at the beginning: A lot of California is on fire at the moment, as are other parts of the West, in what is becoming a recurring theme during wildfire season.

These fires are happening more frequently because the West is becoming hotter and drier, and limited rainfall is generating miles and miles of desiccated plants and trees. The reason for this, of course, is climate change.

If solving this problem was as simple as dumping water on fires, state agencies would be on it. Wildfire response already includes tremendous volumes of water taken from lakes and reservoirs — and sometimes the ocean, depending on the fire. Crews also drop chemical fire retardants — you may have seen pictures of aircraft delivering plumes of red material to raging fires. In addition, fire crews — many of whom are inmates laboring for just $2 a day — engage in dangerous and backbreaking work trying to clear ground to contain the fire.

State officials have repeatedly said that no amount of water is going to fix this problem.

So what’s the real reason? Well, that lies in some of the rhetoric Trump is using — specifically about the idea that the state is “wasting” water by allowing it to flow naturally to the sea. That line of thinking is taken directly from the playbook of Central Valley farmers, who have long complained about their water allocations in a state that already gives 80 percent of its water to agriculture.

Farmers insist that they need and deserve more water, despite the fact that the state’s utterly backwards “use it or lose it” water usage policy has some farmers wasting water on irrigation just to ensure they don’t “lose” their allotment. Meanwhile, Southern California is still angling for more water supply from Northern California.

So where does all that water in rivers and streams go? Well, it travels through diverse watersheds across California, many of which house endangered species and truly unique areas. One animal in particular counts on those “wasted” supplies of water: the humble salmon. Salmon travel upstream and inland to spawn and hatch before returning to the sea, including several threatened and endangered salmon species.

The value of natural rivers and streams is intrinsic: These are important environmental resources that contribute to making California what it is. But they also provide economic benefits.

The salmon industry isn’t the only trade that counts on sufficiently high river flows. And many cities and towns of varying sizes get their water supply from rivers. The state agency charged with balancing sometimes competing demands for water has a tough job and does its best, considering a thicket of regulations and concerns. That’s the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which collaborates with federal authorities on water supply issues.

But the Department of Commerce wants to take this task entirely out of state hands. This directive specifically repeats Trump’s lies about water being “necessary” to fight fires, which would allow the government to override environmental concerns. Of note is the fact that the Trump administration is also making war on the Endangered Species Act – and this is a backdoor into undermining those protections across an extremely biodiverse state.

Advocates are concerned that this is a transparent move to redirect water supplies to farmers in the Central Valley. Pushes to do just that have already been made, and the Central Valley houses a large base for Donald Trump; many farmers still support the president, despite repeated evidence that his administration is not interested in looking out for the welfare of agriculture.

Those who aren’t familiar with California history — or “Chinatown” – may not be fully aware of what’s at stake with this environmentally devastating and politically calculated move. Few things get Californians as riled up as water disputes, and Trump may have bitten off more than he can chew this time.

Photo Credit: Forest Service, USDA/Flickr

39 comments

Marie W
Marie W14 days ago

Thank You

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hELEN h
hELEN h4 months ago

tyfs

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner6 months ago

Trump and his cronies including criminals that have infected agencies like the Commerce Dept should be thrown in prisons and refused water. If they start begging for a glass just tell them there will be more water for wildfires.

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Karin Hanson
Karin H7 months ago

Hard to believe anyone could be so totally unaware of the reality of climate change and effect on our planet's environment...... there are not enough words to describe how incredibly stupid this "Moron in Chief" really is.

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Marty P
Marty P7 months ago

I used to think it was his hatred that made him dangerous because I had no idea just how stupid he is. Mentality of a retarded child.

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Marty P
Marty P7 months ago

Chrissie R..Thanks for not posting yours!

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Adele E Zimmermann
Adele E Zimmermann7 months ago

In a few decades, all the water in the world will not be able to mitigate the heating and drying effects of climate change. In fact, a surfeit of water - flooding our coastal cities - will be the problem. Donald Trump daily reveal his ignorance on almost every subject available. Today's subject is climate.

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hELEN h
hELEN h7 months ago

tyfs

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A7 months ago

sounds more like a power grab

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Debbi W
Debbi W7 months ago

That ignorant moron posing as 'president' has a real problem with saving lives. He'd just as soon kill off animals as well as people. He is one seriously sick twisted waste of humanity.

Vote Blue. Your Freedom depends on it!

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