Exclusive– Ryan Zinke: ‘Environmental Terrorist Groups’ Play Role in Western U.S. Wildfires

A helicopter drops water to a brush fire at the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore, California, southeast of Los Angeles, on August 11, 2018. - The fire has burned 21,473 acres and was 29 percent contained as of 8:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the Cleveland National Forest. (Photo by RINGO …
RINGO CHIU/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Department of Interior Secretary (DOI) Ryan Zinke told Breitbart News Saturday that “environmental terrorist groups” are, in part, responsible for the deadly wildfires in the Western United States. Wildfires have charred hundreds of thousands of acres and caused loss of life, including six firefighters.

Zinke said, while it is true that wildfire seasons have grown dryer and hotter, the underlying cause of the fires themselves is because of the “fuel load” of dead timber and other combustible matter littering forests.

“We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access — that have refused to allow [the] harvest of timber,” Zinke told Washington Deputy Political Editor Amanda House on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM Patriot 125.

This includes as many as 80 million acres of land filled with trees that have died from beetle infections or other causes.

“This is a catastrophe and, in my opinion, a lot of it has to do with these policies refusing to actively manage our forests,” Zinke said.

“We’re spending probably, this season, over $2 billion fighting forest fires when many of them could be prevented by better forest management techniques,” Zinke said.

“But we have these radical environmentalists that close off roads, refuse to have firebreaks, refuse to have any timber harvested, no grazing, and the result is these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said.

When asked about the claims by left-wing environmental groups and even U.S. lawmakers who blame climate change for contributing to the fires, Zinke said that is a separate matter from the need to manage forests to help lessen the spread of wildfires or even prevent them.

“Whether you believe or don’t believe in climate change, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to remove the dead and dying timber and manage our forests, so you don’t have these burns,” Zinke said.

Zinke said it is ironic that environmental groups oppose access to federal lands to protect wildlife habitats when mismanagement of the land that results in fires destroys those habitats.

He also said that letting timber go to waste increases the need — and cost — of importing lumber, resulting in added expense for Americans who need it to build homes and other structures.

Zinke and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are in California this week to meet with state officials and to personally thank the firefighters who are battling the fires.

“It’s good to get out of Washington and actually talk to the front line,” Zinke said. 

Breitbart News Saturday airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern. 

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.

.