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Romney: Gov’t needs to prevent wildfires

SALT LAKE CITY — In a new essay, Mitt Romney is calling the government’s failure to prevent wildfires across the American West “unarguable.”

The former presidential hopeful and Massachusetts governor, now running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, writes that he sees fires as depriving Americans of their right to the basic, unalienable rights outlined by the Declaration of Independence.

“I think we can all agree that one of government’s primary responsibilities is to secure the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. So far, wildfires this year have killed 10 people, consumed hundreds of homes, and infringed upon freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands,” Romney writes.

In an interview with KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic, Romney elaborated, saying falling back on the excuse that fires are natural and there’s nothing we can do about them is irresponsible.

“Fires are going to continue to be part of our future,” Romney said. “If this were being done by some kind of foreign adversary, we’d be spending billions of dollars to stop it. But just because it’s Mother Nature doesn’t mean we should – we should just take, you know, comfort in that. We’re going to have to get real serious and make a concerted effort to make sure that we don’t have these massive wildfires taking human lives, taking property, and, of course, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.”

Romney said his essay was intended to explain a tweet he sent out in October 2017.

“Massive, destructive wildfires are no longer the exception,” he wrote in the essay published to his campaign website this week. “Climate realities mean they will be a recurring menace every year. It’s high time for government to do something about them.”

Romney argues in favor of controlled burns, logging to remove dead timber and thin brush, and general “forest management,” while acknowledging not everyone will agree with his approach.

“I know that some environmentalists oppose such measures, but I believe common ground can be found: consider not only the human cost of wildfires, but also the loss of animal life, devastation of habitat, subsequent erosion, and pollution of air and water,” he writes.

He’s also calling for better regional response, in part through the creation of a “high-tech early detection system,” possibly using satellite or drones to help identify fires before they grow out of control.

Romney is running for Senate as a Republican. He will face Democrat Jenny Wilson in the general election in November. While she has not specifically addressed wildfires, on her website, Wilson writes that she supports federal rules that protect the environment and calls climate change “a real threat to our future, health and our economy.”