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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledges role of climate change in wildfires

Last Updated Aug 16, 2018 9:27 PM EDT

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke suggested that climate change may have a role in the recent wildfires that have ravaged California. When asked by CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang whether he accepted that climate change was part of the problem, Zinke said "of course." He also acknowledged that "temperatures are rising."

However, Zinke also reiterated an argument that he made earlier this week, blaming environmental groups for preventing dead trees from being cleared due to their opposition to the logging industry.

"The only endangered species happens to be a logger," Zinke said.

Earlier this week, Zinke blamed "environmental terrorist groups" for California's destructive wildfires in an interview with Breitbart Radio.

"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 Breitbart Monday.

On Sunday, Zinke said that the wildfires had "nothing to do with climate change" in an interview with local news station KCRA-TV. He suggested that environmental groups had prevented timber salvage operations, meaning that forests could not be cleared of flammable detritus.

"I've heard the climate change argument back and forth. This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management," Zinke said.

President Trump tweeted earlier in August that California wildfires were made "so much worse" by "bad environmental laws," and called for clearing trees to prevent fires.

The Mendocino Complex Fire north of San Francisco is the largest wildfire in state history and has scorched over 400 square miles. More than 14,000 firefighters are responding to over a dozen major blazes throughout California.

  • Grace Segers

    Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.