Government Shutdown Stalling Forest Thinning Projects

POLLOCK PINES -- President Donald Trump's Wednesday tweet criticizing California's forest management comes at a time when the government shutdown is preventing federal forest workers from doing their jobs.

"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!" the president tweeted.

While media relations representatives with the U.S. Forest Service are declining requests for comment during the shutdown, FOX40 got in touch with Heather Campbell. She is a retired U.S. Forest Service ranger and firefighter who is now the director of the Pollock Pines-Camino Fire Safe Council.

"The budgets have gone so low that there's very few personnel available," Campbell said of federal funding for the Forest Service. "So when they are available, what we have we need to utilize. We can't waste days."

Campbell said days are being wasted right now.

This is the time of year when Forest Service crews are usually busy working to thin out the forests to reduce the threat of major wildfires. But that work is not being funded during the government shutdown.

The president's tweet is baffling to people like Campbell, who are familiar with the work that has been done. That work can ramp up again as soon as the government shutdown ends.

"To clear the understory fuels, the smaller fuels, that allow fire to climb up the canopy," Campbell said, describing the forest management strategy. "Rain and snow are great times to do pile burning."

Winter is when this work is typically done.

"We have a very short window because we need to have the correct weather environments so that we don't burn up the whole forest," Campbell explained.

While the majority of California forest land is on federal property, the forests managed by the state are not directly impacted by the government shutdown. Forest thinning projects on state land are going ahead as planned.

A Cal Fire Spokesman told FOX40 Wednesday night "the shutdown is not affecting us or our project work."

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