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Rantz: Gov Inslee fails on Washington wildfires, blames climate change

Gov. Jay Inslee. (Twitter)

As wildfires ravage Washington state it’s become increasingly clear that we’ve been left defenseless by an absent Governor Jay Inslee.

While he’ll happily exploit the fires to push climate change talking points, it exposes him as a politician who literally only has talking points to spew. His record on climate change is as abysmal as his plan to defend against these fires. And state documents show the fire problems we’re currently experiencing isn’t about climate change: It’s about poor forest management.

After hundreds of thousands of acres burned, not just destroying property but spewing toxic smoke across the region, the state finds itself unprepared to fight the battle. But it’s not like we were without warning. Inslee, unfortunately, decided to sit this crisis-in-the-making out until it was too late.

Jay Inslee was unprepared for Washington wildfires

Washington state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has advocated for more resources to fight fires since she took office. Through tears, Franz made a public plea to take this issue seriously last week.

“There is little resources to be found in the air as well as on the ground,” Franz said alarmingly. “This is why this state needs to make this day an absolute priority to never let this happen again without ensuring we’re investing in the communities to make them more resilient. And the local fire districts, so they have the resources. The firefighters, the equipment, so we have them at the state level.”

We knew this crisis was coming.

Inslee and Democrats drop ball on resources

Why doesn’t Franz have the resources she says she needs?

Democrats are in total control in Olympia. They have the Senate, the House, and the governorship. So where’s the leadership? With record revenues coming in last legislative session, they clearly didn’t spend enough attention on wildfire prevention. Democrats couldn’t even get their bills for more resources out of committee. So who is to blame for the lack of resources?

Inslee, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, routinely says the president is to blame for not handling a global pandemic no one saw coming. This fire crisis? It happens every year and people have been sounding alarms. So, Inslee is to blame.

Inslee should take responsibility. That, of course, won’t happen. He still denies the Employment Security Department scandal, though still people aren’t getting their unemployment check. No wonder Inslee refuses to debate GOP gubernatorial challenger Loren Culp.

Franz needed a better partner in Inslee to tackle Washington wildfires. But he was too busy running his failed presidential campaign to pay attention to the needs of this state. Then, when the coronavirus hit, he didn’t quite know what to do. So he turned to a tried and true strategy: Blame climate change.

Inslee blames climate change. That’s not the issue here.

Rather than lead, Inslee is again using tragedy to push his climate change agenda.

Strategically, blaming climate change makes more sense than pointing out they have no resources because they didn’t pass the bills Franz called crucial. Since he treats himself as a climate change superhero, though he lacks any meaningful results to earn any praise, he’s claiming the fires were caused by and made worse by climate change. This gives him a pass — how could he be blamed for climate change?

Only the Washington wildfires were not caused by, nor made worse by, climate change as Inslee claims. They’re made worse by poor forest management. How do I know? I’m no scientist — Jay Inslee and I have that in common. But unlike the governor, I read the data directly from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

“Washington’s forests are in a critical state. Millions of acres are overcrowded, filled with diseased and dying trees, and at high risk for catastrophic wildfires,” Commissioner Franz wrote in her 2019 report.

You can believe in climate change, as I do, and also note when that’s not what’s causing the problems. Simply blaming hot weather doesn’t mean climate change is responsible for the conditions leading to the fire spreading. Had the forests been thinned and dead trees cleared, the heat wouldn’t have played the same role.

It’s forest management

The report doesn’t cite climate change for fires getting worse. Rather, it singles out the “dense stands of trees and accumulations of forest fuels” for producing “intense, fast moving wildfires that immediately pose a risk to people, homes, and buildings.”

How do you stop the fires from intensifying and quickly spreading? The report suggests we thin out areas of heavy forests. Why? The report lays it out in detail:

Wildfire in forests composed of widely spaced, mature trees with minimal ladder fuels in the understory is more likely to remain on the ground. Large diameter, thick-barked trees with few lower branches are more likely to survive this type of fire. A low intensity ground fire has less risk of igniting structures, especially those with defensible space. This fire-adapted stand structure is maintained naturally through frequent fire return intervals or through management activities such as thinning, pruning, and/or prescribed burning.

Climate change isn’t mentioned anywhere in the section of reducing the risk of wildfires.

That’s not to say climate change isn’t given ink in the report. But they discuss it just 11 times in the 64-page document, mostly tacking it on as a reflection of a “broader focus on the risks facing our forests and the values they provide.”

Inslee is all talk, no action

Inslee talks a good game, even when the talk is exploitative and irrelevant to the issue at hand. The problem is that all he does is talk about climate change, rather than act. I’m sure he thinks it’s clever referring to wildfires as “climate fires” but that doesn’t put out flames, nor does it get more resources to fight them when they occur.

Todd Myers from the Washington Policy Center notes that Inslee has no results to show for all his bluster. Literally: he’s not showing results.

In his first term, he set a goal to ‘Increase the average annual statewide treatment of forested lands for forest health and fire reduction from 145,000 to 200,000 acres by 2017.’ How did the state do? We don’t know, because the goal was removed from Results Washington when it was clear the state would probably not hit the target.

In September 2016, the Department of Natural Resources confirmed they were not on target to administer the desired forest health treatments in Eastern Washington.

Today, Results Washington lists no forest health goals, but simply says, “Washington is working to restore forests and enhance forest resiliency to severe wildfires, drought, and insect and disease outbreaks.”

All Inslee has ever done is spout bumper sticker slogans, rather than do the actual work to tackle the problems he says are the most serious.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook

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