Donald Trump’s remarks in California on how Finland prevents disastrous fires by raking the forest floor got only a passing — and unquestioning — mention in the largest newspaper in Arkansas this morning. To remedy that oversight:
President Trump’s visit Saturday to the fire-ravaged California town of Paradise seemed to be going fine, until he began explaining his understanding of forest policy. Apparently, California needs to buy more rakes.
“You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important,” Trump told reporters, as Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom stood nearby. “You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland and he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem. And when they do, it’s a very small problem.”
Trump appeared to be talking about the need to thin forests that are overgrown from decades of fire suppression, something that Brown accelerated this fall when he signed a law approving $1 billion in state money over the next five years for forest thinning projects and controlled burns. Trump did not mention the role of drought or climate change in drying out the state’s forests, or power lines. Or the fact that many of the fires, particularly in Southern California, aren’t burning in forests at all, but in chaparral, or that fact that this one began in an area of federal land, the Plumas National Forest. His communications staff immediately cut off further questions.
Social media users pounced, noting that while California has a mostly dry Mediterranean climate, Finland is a Nordic country at the same latitude as Siberia, Greenland and Alaska, where temperatures reach -45 F in the winter, and the local animals include reindeer.
The AP dug in. It interviewed Finland’s president. He said they monitor forests carefully and he’d told Trump about
The San Francisco Chronicle poked fun, too, but also noted that Finland has had some forest fire problems despite all the raking.