President Biden on Monday surveyed wildfire damage and pushed for action to combat climate change during his first trip to the West Coast as president.
Mr. Biden‘s first stop was in Boise, Idaho, to visit the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the federal government’s response to wildfires.
He was scheduled to visit Sacramento, California, later Monday to see the devastation wrought by the Caldor Fire.
Mr. Biden used the Idaho stop to pitch his massive spending plan.
During a briefing with state officials, Mr. Biden tried to sell the $3.5 trillion spending package by promoting it as a way to prevent wildfires because it will spend billions in fighting climate change.
Mr. Biden said the package would include billions for wildfire preparedness, expand the number of public water sources and improve forest management.
“We’ve got to pass it in both [chambers of Congress],” he said. “That’s going to … be a big help to you. Smaller states in terms of population can’t carry this on their back.”
The president linked the wildfires that are raging in Idaho and California to climate change.
“Reality has a way of working its way in. And well, you know, the reality is that we have a global warming problem — a serious global warming problem,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s consequential and what’s going to happen is that things aren’t going to go back to what it was before.”
More than 6,800 wildfires large and small have burned roughly 1.7 million acres with California alone this year, making it one of the worst fire seasons in history.
The blazes have been ignited by extremely hot weather and a lengthy drought.
While Mr. Biden and some scientists have blamed climate change on the raging fires, others have attributed wildfires to other causes. Carelessly discarded cigarette butts, improperly extinguished campfires and lightning have all influenced the frequency and intensity of wildfires.
Others have blamed bureaucratic red tape for stopping controlled burns, which are used to prevent forest fires by eliminating dead tree limbs, leaves and other debris before they become too hot and spark a wildfire.
Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican and ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, called on Mr. Biden to implement common-sense practices, including controlled burns, to stop wildfires.
“We can all agree that wildfires are horrific and should not be happening at their current scale and frequency. Yet when my Republican colleagues and I suggest scientifically-proven ways to mitigate them, we are met with silence and indifference,” he said in a statement.
“Talk is cheap; action is harder. We’ve got to start using commonsense practices on our nation’s forests so we don’t rinse and repeat the same cycle year after year,” he said.
But some states in the west have ordered fewer controlled burns, because they can hurt water and air quality.
Controlled burns also can be risky — one by the Colorado State Forest Service in 2021 led to three deaths and 23 houses destroyed.
During his remarks in Idaho, Mr. Biden has touted his activation of the Defense Production Act to boost supplies to firefighters.
It is the Biden administration’s second invocation of the arcane World War II-era law. Earlier this year, Mr. Biden used to increase vaccine supplies.