President Trump put Finland’s forest management practices in the spotlight yesterday as he toured the devastation left in the wake of the deadliest fire in California history, the Camp Fire near Chico, with the state’s Governor Jerry Brown and its Governor-elect Gavin Newsom.
Faced with the ashen ruins of what used to be the homes of people now dead, missing, or living in evacuation shelters, Trump engaged in his usual victim-blaming, citing poor forest management practices rather than climate change for the largest, deadliest, and most costly fire season in California history.
His bizarre comments about making sure that all the leaves on the forest floor are raked and his citation of the President of Finland as the source of his arboreal knowledge went viral yesterday as Finns and Americans alike ridiculed his remarks.
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Trump: "You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important… I was with the President of Finland… he called it a forest nation and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don't have any problem." pic.twitter.com/cC8syQobdC
— Contemptor (@TheContemptor) November 17, 2018
Today, the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö finally weighed in on Trump’s comments and said that he was perplexed about where President Trump got the idea that raking the leaves in the forest was their primary method of fire control.
According to The Associated Press, President Niinistö told the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that he did indeed speak with Trump about his country’s forest management practices while they were both attending the Armistice Day memorial in Paris last weekend.
“Niinisto said their conversation focused on the California wildfires and the surveillance system Finland uses to monitor forests for fires. He remembered telling Trump “We take care of our forests,” but couldn’t recall raking coming up,” the AP reports.
Exactly how President Trump translated that conversation into a belief that only leaf raking can prevent forest fires is uncertain, but suffice it to say that neither Finnish President Niinistö nor Smokey the Bear was the source of that bit of advice.
Meanwhile, Finland is apparently overly successful in its fire prevention efforts. The Finnish Forest Association has declared that the country actually has too few forest fires to maintain a healthy level of biodiversity.
If President Trump truly cared about preventing the kind of incendiary disasters that now plague the Western United States, he would, first of all, reverse his lamentable environmental policies and rejoin the Paris climate accord, and, secondly, send the active duty troops to fight the real threat of fires rather than the imaginary danger he claims is advancing on our borders in the form of a caravan of desperate refugees.
Maybe if we tell him that Smokey the Bear recommends that course of action as an adjunct to raking leaves, Trump will pay more attention than he did while the president of Finland was discussing their forest management strategies.
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Original reporting by The Associated Press.