Cattle graze on BLM land in New Mexico.

Cattle graze on BLM land in New Mexico. BLM file photo

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To Prevent Wildfires, The Trump Administration Plans To Open More U.S. Forests To Grazing

Officials will push Congress to give federal agencies more authority to cut trees and increase grazing rights. Not everyone thinks that's a good move.

The government plans to use more aggressive forest management to prevent deadly fires like those in California that have displaced thousands in recent weeks.

The moves would include controlled burning, partnering with for-profit companies to cut down trees, and opening up more forest lands to livestock grazing in order to clear underbrush, agriculture secretary Sonny Purdue and interior secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters today (Nov. 20). Any major expansion of their agencies’ powers would need congressional approval and rely on partnerships with state and local authorities and environmentalists, who have been wary of the Trump administration’s anti-conservation push.

The government plans to use more aggressive forest management to prevent deadly fires like those in California that have displaced thousands in recent weeks.

The moves would include controlled burning, partnering with for-profit companies to cut down trees, and opening up more forest lands to livestock grazing in order to clear underbrush, agriculture secretary Sonny Purdue and interior secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters today (Nov. 20). Any major expansion of their agencies’ powers would need congressional approval and rely on partnerships with state and local authorities and environmentalists, who have been wary of the Trump administration’s anti-conservation push.

Earlier this week, Zinke blamed the fires on “radical environmental groups” in an interview with far-right website Breitbart News. He agreed today that “the temperatures are getting hotter and the seasons longer,” but active forest management is necessary immediately.

“The president is right,” he said in an apparent nod to Trump’s comments that California is not “raking” its forests well enough. “It is absolutely a situation that needs to be mitigated.”

The U.S. spends billions every year fighting fires, Zinke added. Thinning trees would save money and could provide commercial benefit for biofuel companies.

“There are some good opportunities there,” Zinke said. He added that he’s “very pro-ranching and pro-grazing.”