After visiting the areas affected by the deadly California fires, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said “environmental radicals” were to blame for the blaze that killed at least 77 people as they stop forest management practices that he claimed were crucial in preventing fires.
Zinke, who spoke to Breitbart News Sunday, first said “it’s not the time for finger-pointing” but soon after blamed the deadliest fire in California’s history on environmentalists. The interior secretary maintained they stood in the way of clearing brush, doing prescribed burns and other actions.
“I will lay this on the foot of those environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years. And you know what? This is on them,” Zinke said. “We have dead and dying timber. We can manage it using best science, best practices. But to let this devastation go on year after year after year is unacceptable, it’s not going to happen. The President is absolutely engaged.”
His remarks were immediately met with criticism from the nation’s largest environmental group, the Sierra Club. They pushed back on Zinke’s comments, saying that he should instead focus on recovery and the victims of the fires.
“Perhaps it’s the numerous investigations, the potential criminal charges eating at him, or the fact that he still doesn’t even know what department the Forest Service is under, but Ryan Zinke would best be served by focusing on the people rather than making disgusting and dangerous accusations,” Athan Manuel, the group’s public lands director, said in a statement.
Zinke’s comments followed those made by President Donald Trump, who said that other countries prevent forest fires by better managing the forests.
In the Breitbart interview, the interior secretary also defended himself against the number of accusations that he violated ethics policies.
“The left is so angry. The allegations against me are outrageous,” he said. “They’re false. Everyone knows they’re false. And they get more outrageous as you get close to October. I follow all rules, regulations, procedures, and most importantly law. I love my job.”