James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, submitted testimony on February 15, 2017, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in regards to "Modernization of the Endangered Species Act." The testimony noted, in part: "The ESA is premised on a strong state-federal partnership. Western Governors submit that such cooperation should involve full and authentic partnership between the states and Services with respect to species listing, critical habitat designations, establishment of recovery goals and delisting decisions."
Western Governors submitted comments on Oct. 17, 2016, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe on the draft Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy. The comments requested that FWS engage in "substantive and ongoing consultation" with Governors and state regulators to create clarity around landscape-scale compensatory mitigation in the West and the definition of “net conservation gain.”
Western Governors sent a letter on Sept. 27, 2016, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe requesting a comment period extension of at least 45 days for the proposed Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy. The Governors called the current public comment timeframe 'inadequate" and "insufficient to accommodate thoughtful analysis," and emphasized the impact of the Proposal on western states and state species conservation.
The Western Governors' Association shared comments on June 30, 2016, with Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Addministrator for NOAA Fisheries, in regard to the rulemaking, "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions." The comments express the Western Governors' concern with the withdrawal of several important provisions in the initial version of the proposed rule, and recommend the Services reinsert portions of the initial proposed rule that invites greater engagement with states when implementing the Endangered Species Act.
Western Governors submitted comments on June 9, 2016, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe on the Proposed Revisions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mitigation Policy. The Governors requested FWS engage in substantive consultation with Governors and state regulators before finalizing the Proposal and that the “net conservation gain” principle be better defined – based on ongoing state consultation – in the final rule. The comments cited "complexities surrounding landscape-scale mitigation in the West, as well as the potential for inconsistent implementation of revised policy by different FWS offices" as main reasons for their concerns.
Western Governors sent a letter on May 20, 2016, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe requesting a comment period extension of at least 60 days for the Proposed Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions. The Governors called the current public comment timeframe 'inadequate" and emphasized the impact of the Proposal on western states and state species conservation.
Western Governors sent a letter on May 10, 2016, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe requesting a comment period extension of at least 60 days for the Proposed Revisions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mitigation Policy. The Governors emphasized the importance and complexity of the Proposal for the West, noting its impact on state species conservation and project planning and development.
Western Governors submitted comments on Feb. 16, 2016, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on its proposed methodology for prioritizing status reviews and accompanying 12-month findings on petitions for listing species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Governors emphasized that the FWS should utilize state data and expertise, highlighting, "They have developed a tremendous body of science and expertise on these resources. States conduct research and on-the-ground analysis of species’ status." Their analysis and recommendations were guided by their existing policy resolutions, included in the comments.
Western Governors sent a letter on Dec. 1, 2015, to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell requesting that the Department of the Interior (DOI) establish a preference for state-based mitigation programs where they meet or exceed core DOI mitigation requirements. "Existing state programs ensure that regional and state resources are consistently and strategically implemented at the landscape scale," the Governors wrote in a letter signed by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, WGA Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Co-Chairman of the Sage Grouse Task Force. "This preference would allow funding to be invested in conservation instead of redundant planning. It reduces uncertainty and costs to industry, private landowners and other implementers of mitigation projects."
Western Governors submitted comments on Sept. 18, 2015, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on its "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions." The Governors expressed support for the Services’ work to refine the petition process and promote utilization of state data and expertise and advocated for state agencies to have a minimum of at least 60 days to provide information to petitioners, while also looking forward to a higher level of engagement with petitioners and the Services in evaluating the status of species.
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on May 19, 2015, on behalf of the Western Governors at the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on Empowering State Management of Greater Sage-Grouse. The testimony highlighted what has been accomplished through state leadership of greater sage-grouse management and explained why states should continue in this leadership role going forward.
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on May 6, 2015, to the National Invasive Species Council regarding the development of a national early detection and rapid response (EDRR) framework. The letter provided recommendations of state experts to participate on the Invasive Species Advisory Committee subcommittee designing the EDRR framework and emphasized, "Our objective is to help ensure that the framework is designed to make optimal use of all available resources to combat invasive species."
The Western Governors' Association submitted comments on May 1, 2015, to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on its proposed Knowledge and Values Study Regarding the Management of Wild Horses and Burros. The governors ask BLM to make a more compelling case for the agency's proposed study, clarify how surveying stakeholders will inform reliable benefit-cost analyses, and ensure that relevant state agencies are represented in focus groups and interviews.
Western Governors sent a letter on Jan. 16, 2015, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for clarity about future state and federal collaboration on greater sage-grouse conservation. The letter was prompted by passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (H.R. 83). The Governors reiterate in the outreach that they are “committed to working with the federal government and other stakeholders to provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the necessary certainty to reach a ‘not warranted’ determination.”
Western Governors sent the following comments on Nov. 6, 2014, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the draft Policy Regarding Voluntary Prelisting Conservation Actions. The Governors encouraged "initiatives to incentivize voluntary conservation actions in order to preclude the need for additional species listings under the Endangered Species Act."
The Western Governors' Association sent the following comments on Oct. 14, 2014, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor Jen Norris regarding the proposed designation of critical habitat for the western yellow-billed cuckoo (79 FR 48548) in nine Western states. WGA urged the Service to "utilize state data more judiciously" in its revision and "maximize opportunities to work with the states on management of the species."
Western Governors submitted comments on Oct. 9, 2014, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) regarding three federal proposals (two proposed rules and a draft policy) affecting designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Western Governors' urge use of state science for critical habitat designation and emphasize designation only of areas essential to species conservation, in keeping with the definition of critical habitat outlined in the Act. The governors also suggest that the Services use a single set of criteria for analyzing exclusions from critical habitat designation under Section 4(b)(2) of the Act.
Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 2, 2014, to Representatives Wyden and Hatch of the Senate Committee on Finance expressing support for tax incentives for conservation easements. The letter noted, "Western Governors believe that providing economic incentives for landowners to voluntarily participate in conservation efforts is likely to achieve more efficient and cost-effective results"
Sage-Grouse Task Force Co-Chairmen Gov. John Hickenlooper and Gov. Matt Mead sent a letter on Sept. 29, 2014, to Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service leadership admonishing them for not sitting down with Western states for discussions to assess how combined state and federal efforts can address threats that influence the vitality of the greater sage-grouse. The Governors said: "We are displeased regarding how states are being consulted with respect to an issue of such overriding importance."
The Western Governors' Association sent the following comments on Sept. 16, 2014, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting a 90-day extension of the public comment period for the FWS draft Policy Regarding Voluntary Prelisting Conservation Actions [79 FR 42525, July 22, 2014]. In the comments, the governors noted they "welcome the effort by FWS to incentivize voluntary conservation actions on behalf of species in order to preclude the need for additional listings under the Endangered Species Act." But the Governors also said they required more time and information.
Western Governors sent a letter on July 15, 2014, to Senator Dean Heller supporting S. 2530, the “Protecting Lakes Against Quaggas Act of 2014" legislation he introduced. The Governors explained, "Quagga mussels have a significant impact on the economy and environment in the West and your legislation proposes strong steps to confront this growing problem."
Western Governors sent a letter on March 25, 2014, to Representative Doc Hastings commending the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Congressional Working Group for its recent report containing recommendations for improving ESA and removing impediments to species recovery. The Governors were particularly pleased with recommendations for significant enhancement of the role of states, explaining, "The ESA statute is premised on a strong federal-state partnership but, in practice, the role of states has become increasingly limited over time."
Western Governors sent a letter on March 25, 2014, to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller thanking NRCS for its efforts to promote voluntary conservation efforts for the greater sage-grouse and asking for information on the program's success and future. The Governors emphasized the importance of voluntary conservation, writing, "We believe that providing economic incentives for landowners to voluntarily participate in greater sage-grouse conservation efforts is likely to achieve more efficient and cost-effective results, as well as more rapid conservation, than would a listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act."
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on Feb. 18, 2014, to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker about development and implementation of a new National Invasive Species Management Plan. The letter strongly encourages engagement and cooperation with states during the drafting process, explaining, "Such coordination will ensure that federal priorities and actions align with the efforts of states, localities, nonprofit entities, and other stakeholders."
Western Governors sent a letter on Jan. 15, 2014, to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe commenting on the proposed rule to list the Lesser Prairie-Chicken as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The letter noted, "We support cooperative management efforts that enable industry leaders to work with landowners, agencies, researchers, and other stakeholders to restore lesser prairie-chicken populations while encouraging responsible development."
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on July 18, 2013, to co-sponsors of the "Protecting Lakes Against Quaggas Act of 2013" to express support for the measure that would add quagga mussels to the national list of invasive species covered under the Lacey Act. The letter called the measure a common-sense approach, and noted it would "invest federal and state authorities with an important tool for containing and eradicating quagga mussels by providing for increased inspections of boats crossing state lines."
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on Apr. 17, 2013, before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors on state wildlife data and its use by federal land management agencies. The testimony included an overview of the soon-to-be-released Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) that will compile compatible information from 17 states to display a regional picture of habitat for multiple species of fish and wildlife and corridors that support these species.
Western Governors sent a letter on Feb. 25, 2013, to Congressional leadership requesting support of federal invasive species management legislation that ensures a more focused and streamlined federal approach and provides opportunities for collaboration with states. The letter emphasized, "Successful prevention and treatment of invasive species infestations across the West and Pacific Islands requires a cooperative effort among all levels of government, the private sector and citizens."
The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council sent a letter on Apr. 3, 2012, to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to commend the inclusion of “improved habitat connectivity” in the list of environmentally sustainable criteria for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary funds provided through the 2012 Appropriations Act. The letter explained: "Funds provided through the TIGER program not only make highways safer for the public and for wildlife but also boost the economies of Western states through job creation."