As California Burns, Secretary Zinke Buries his Head in the Sand

Ignoring science, forestry experts, and common sense, Zinke tells reporters the West’s fires have “nothing to do with climate change”

DENVER—In one of the more tone-deaf episodes of Secretary Zinke’s tenure at the Department of the Interior, he told reporters in California in response to the record-setting fires, “I’ve heard the climate change argument back and forth. This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.”

This claim runs contrary to forestry experts, firefighters, and scientists who are in agreement that hotter and longer summers are a primary factor contributing to record wildfires experienced in California and across the West in recent years. In response, the Center for Western Priorities issued the following statement from Deputy Director Greg Zimmerman:

“Secretary Zinke is either being willfully ignorant or purposely deceptive. Any politician ignoring the role a warming climate plays in record-setting wildfire seasons loses all credibility as an honest broker. Instead, Zinke is in California using an ongoing natural disaster to push an unpopular political agenda.”

In an op-ed recently published in Huffington Post, Zimmerman explained how a complex problem like wildfire requires a thoughtful, nuanced, and science-backed approach, not more political talking points. He wrote:

“Balancing solutions to mitigate wildfire risk is thorny and complex. Doing so would mean accepting that California, the western U.S. and the globe are becoming hotter. It requires acknowledging that wildfire is natural and healthy for many forests, and that our nation’s century-long practice of putting out even the smallest fires has put forests at risk of wildfire on an unprecedented scale.”

For more information, visit To speak with an expert on public lands, contact Aaron Weiss at 720-279-0019 or [email protected]. Sign up for Look West to get daily public lands and energy news sent to your inbox.


Sign In or Register to comment.