Trump links Canadian lumber imports to deadly California wildfires

Canadian lumber imports make it harder to fight wildfires: Trump
WATCH ABOVE: Canadian lumber imports make it harder to fight wildfires, Trump says

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday linked imports of Canadian lumber to deadly California wildfires, which have forced thousands to flee from their homes.

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During a cabinet meeting, Trump and other officials downplayed the role of climate change on wildfires, while discussing the abundance of fallen trees creating a natural accelerant.

“It’s not a global warming thing, it’s a management situation,” said Trump. “And one of the elements that he talked about was the fact that we have fallen trees, and instead of removing those fallen trees, which get to be extremely combustible, instead of removing them, gently removing them, beautifully removing them, we leave them to burn.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke then decried the import of lumber to the U.S. as fallen trees are left to rot on the ground.

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“We import lumber in this country, and yet there are billions of board feet that are on the forest floor rotting,” said Zinke. “When you have rotting timber, when housing prices are going up, when a lot of Americans are right at that border of affording a house, and yet we are wasting billions of board feet for not being able to bring them to a local lumber yard.”

READ MORE: 6th firefighter killed battling California wildfires

Fallen trees can be salvaged for lumber within the first year, Zinke said, reducing both the need for lumber imports and helping with wildfire management.

Trump then called the lumber imports from Canada “ridiculous.”

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California wildfires: Where we stand
California wildfires: Where we stand

“Just to add, just to conclude, especially when Canada is charging us a lot of money to bring their timber down into our country. So ridiculous, here we have it,” said Trump. “We’re not even talking about cutting down trees… we’re talking about lying on the floor creating a hazard and a tremendous death trap.”

The U.S. has applied a tariff to Canadian lumber, meaning that American citizens must pay a duty to the U.S. government on top of its purchase price. It’s estimated that the tariffs — a tax collected by the U.S. government — has increased the price of the average U.S. home by US$9,000.

READ MORE: Trump’s tariffs on Canadian lumber are pricing Americans out of the U.S. housing market

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The U.S.-based¬†National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)¬†has urged the U.S. government to renegotiate with Canada and revise the tariff, as “U.S. domestic production is not sufficient to meet demand.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has called softwood lumber a “trade irritant” between the two countries.