Following some strikingly ignorant Twitter ramblings by President Trump on California’s water supply, the administration is now claiming it will help solve California’s deadly wildfire crisis—at the expense of the Endangered Species Act. On Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (yes, that Wilbur Ross) issued an order to the National Marine Fisheries Service to use “any water as necessary to protect life and property in the affected areas,” including water typically protected by the ESA. The confusing move comes just days after Trump proclaimed that the largest wildfire in recorded state history is being made worse by “bad environmental laws,” like those that divert “massive amounts of readily available water” to the Pacific Ocean. Except that’s not even a little bit true. California officials quickly stated that they indeed have plenty of water to fight the fires. (A representative of Cal Fire also pointed out that the true culprit of the state’s increasingly destructive wildfires is climate change.) Some speculate that President Trump was referring to an ongoing controversy in which California farmers are pitted against environmentalists for access to more water for irrigation—but the two issues have no bearing on one another. Whether the administration recognizes the disconnect, and is purposefully capitalizing on the state of emergency to push an anti-ESA agenda, only time will tell. But no matter the reason, diverting more water from rivers and streams would be bad news for California’s salmon, which require higher levels of cold water to spawn, and would do nothing to stop the blazes roaring across the state.
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DispatchNew MexicoLarry O'Hanlon
As New Mexicans brace for a potentially catastrophic fire season, forest ecologists explain how we got here—and why the problem isn’t going away.
Farms drink up a majority of the state’s water supply, but the details are murky. Most of the largest irrigation districts aren’t reporting how much water they delivered to farmers.
WASHINGTON - The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service today set out to weaken critical protections offered by the Endangered Species Act.