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DJ Trump Seeks More Logging Powers -- WSJ

Dow Jones Newswires - Wed Nov 21, 1:32AM CST

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (November 21, 2018).

The White House on Tuesday called on Congress to provide expanded authority to thin out the West's tinder dry forests, in an attempt to help prevent the kind of cataclysmic wildfires that have ravaged California over the past two weeks.

President Trump in a statement called on Congress to give his administration expanded powers in the pending farm bill to ramp up the removal of trees in overgrown forests. A House version of the bill contains some of those powers, while the Senate's doesn't.

Mr. Trump last weekend toured the town of Paradise, Calif., virtually destroyed by the 151,373 acre Camp Fire, which has killed at least 81 people and destroyed 12,600 homes.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday they hope Congress will give their agencies powers including streamlined regulatory approvals to increase the removal of trees in overgrown forests, which many forestry experts blame for the growing number of wildfires in California and other Western states.

Mr. Zinke said federal efforts to thin forests through logging and prescribed burns have been hampered by "radical environmentalists" who repeatedly file lawsuits to block the activity. The Interior Secretary said other forces were at work, too, including warmer temperatures.

Some environmentalists accused the administration of using the Camp Fire tragedy to further an agenda of helping big timber companies. "This is not thinning they're talking about. This is intensive commercial logging, " said Chad Hanson, research ecologist with the John Muir Project, an environmental group based in Big Bear City, Calif.

Mr. Hanson said thinning actually increases the wildfire risk, by taking out stands of trees that can serve as a buffer to the high winds that fan the spread of flames.

Some other environmentalists support thinning, a policy on which the Trump administration and the Democratic-led California government have cooperated.

With the Camp Fire now 70% contained, a new threat to Butte County, which includes Paradise, emerged Tuesday when the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the burn area. The first major storms of the season are forecast to roll in between Wednesday and Friday.

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 21, 2018 02:32 ET (07:32 GMT)

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