Trump directs agencies to override protections for Calif. endangered species amid wildfires

WASHINGTON (KGO) -- Firefighters are battling as many as 17 wildfires in California and now the Trump Administration says it wants to help by lifting limits on waterways. The Secretary of Commerce issued a directive to federal agencies to prioritize protection of life and property over endangered species, despite the fact that the director of Cal Fire says water isn't an issue.

"We have plenty of water. We have many lakes that they are directly accessing from helicopters to drop out water on the fires and our fire engines have access to water on the ground," says Ken Pimlott, the director of Cal Fire.

RELATED: Trump criticizes Gov. Brown over use of California water during massive wildfires

The Trump Administration's directive would allow federal agencies to expedite decisions about water under an emergency provision of the Endangered Species Act. The announcement follows several tweets made by the president. On Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted, "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized."

But critics say Mr. Trump is exploiting the state's wildfires for political gain, stirring up an ongoing water dispute between farmers and environmental groups.

Kirin Kennedy, associate legislative director for lands and wildlife for the Sierra Club, issued a statement that said in part, "As locals and experts have pointed out, water is not the issue here -- climate change is. Yet instead of addressing or even acknowledging climate change's role in exacerbating wildfires, the administration is using fire as cover to serve special interests. Moving to increase logging and weaken protections for endangered species like salmon risks local and outdoor economies and ignores the need to reduce climate pollution, which is absolutely essential to ensuring the long-term safety of our communities."

RELATED: Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency in Lake, Mendocino and Napa counties due to fires

John McManus, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, also weighed in. His group's mission is to protect and restore California's largest salmon producing habitat comprised of Central Valley rivers.

"I think it's fair to say that Californians agree that it's unfortunate that people in D.C. who don't know the facts on the ground try to wade in and dictate how things should go out here," said McManus.

Cal Fire PIO Scott Mclean said, "There is nothing to release. There are no specifics to the tweet. We have plenty of water to fight these fires. The Carr fire has Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta Lake and Trinity Lake just to name a few water sources. The Mendocino Complex is next to Clearlake Lake. The current weather is causing more severe and destructive fires."

Get the latest on the Carr Fire here, the Complex Fire here and the latest on wildfires across California here.

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