Western Governors expressed concern to Congressional leadership on Feb.10, 2017, about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule, Resource Management Planning (Planning 2.0). The Governors are disappointed by BLM’s failure to adequately involve western states in the Rule’s development, and they oppose certain provisions of the Dec. 12, 2016, final rule. Western Governors are concerned by BLM’s changes to provisions regarding Governors’ consistency reviews for new and revised resource management plans and an emphasis on landscape-scale planning that could lead to an emphasis on national objectives over state and local objectives.
Western Governors submitted comments on Oct. 31, 2016, to Office of Nuclear Energy Acting Assistant Secretary John Kotek on the input received by the Department of Energy regarding design of a consent-based process to establish an integrated waste management system to transport, store, and dispose of commercial spent nuclear fuel and high-level defense radioactive waste.
Western Governors sent letters on Oct. 26, 2016, to members of Congress involved in sponsoring the Advancing Conservation and Education Act. The Governors expressed appreciation for the leadership in advancing legislation to facilitate state-federal land exchanges and emphasized their desire for Congressional action to "simplify and expedite" the federal-state land exchange, sale and conveyance processes.
Western Governors sent a letter on Sept. 21, 2016, to Congressmen Cynthia Lummis and Timothy J. Walz to express support for their bipartisan legislation, H.R. 845, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, that would expand National Forest trail maintenance efforts in the West. The letter emphasized the "urgent imperative to improve forest health in order to reduce wildfire threat and improve watersheds and habitat," and offered the Western Governors' help in getting the legislation to the President’s desk before the end of this Congress.
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on July 7, 2016, before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations regarding the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recently released proposal, Resource Management Planning – or, Planning 2.0. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors that BLM’s Planning 2.0 proposal, as drafted, presents serious challenges and contains significant shortcomings.
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on June 21, 2016, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining regarding the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) recently released proposal, Resource Management Planning – or, Planning 2.0. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors that BLM’s Planning 2.0 proposal, as drafted, presents serious challenges and contains significant shortcomings.
Western Governors sent the following comments on May 25, 2016, to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding its proposed rule, Resource Management Planning, under its Planning 2.0 Initiative. BLM's stated goal of the Proposal was to clarify existing language, address landscape-scale issues, and more effectively involve the public and other governmental entities. The Governors countered that "this attempt at clarity has failed," and instead creates more confusion and reduces transparency. The comments suggest meaningful consultation with Western Governors to remedy issues.
Western Governors requested a comment period extension of at least 60 days to allow for thoughtful analysis of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed rule to revise 43 CFR Part 1600 Resource Management Planning (BLM Planning 2.0). The letter signed by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, as well as WGA Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, was sent to BLM Director Neil Kornze.
Western Governors sent a letter on March 17, 2016, to the U.S. Forest Service in response to a federal register notice requesting information regarding involving the public in the formulation of Forest Service directives. Governors expressed concern with a prospective shift in Forest Service policy to move the Directive System to an abbreviated or streamlined process. The letter noted, "Any process that reduces the Forest Service’s responsibility to actively inform the public of its actions represents a retreat from openness and transparency." Governors highlighted that the consultation process should respect states as sovereignties and full partners, not simply as stakeholders or members of the public.
Western Governors sent a letter on Jan. 27, 2016, to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze requesting additional information and clarification regarding the BLM's administration of the National Wild Horse and Burro Program. Western Governors believe that burgeoning wild horse and burro populations, paired with the inability of federal agencies to adequately manage these populations, presents an urgent concern for western rangelands and ecosystems.
Western Governors sent a letter on Aug. 27, 2015, to co-sponsors of the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act (H.R. 2358). The letter expressed support for the bipartisan legislation, which is intended to ensure reliable electricity service and reduce the risk of fires and fire hazards caused by inadequate vegetation management in power line rights-of-way on federally managed public lands. The governors emphasized the region's ties to the legislation, noting, "One of our forest management priorities is fire prevention, particularly as we enter wildfire season. Reliability of the region’s electrical transmission grid is also a critical interest."
Western Governors sent a letter on June 11, 2015, to co-sponsors of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (S. 1110), bipartisan legislation that would, if enacted, expand National Forest trail maintenance efforts in the West. The letter highlighted the importance of well maintained Forest Service trails to western states' recreation industries. The governors emphasized, "Our highest priority regarding our nation’s forests is to improve forest health in order to reduce wildfire threat and improve watersheds and habitat."
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on May 1, 2015, to the USDA-Agricultural Research Service urging submission of materials to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to register the weed suppressive bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens (ACK55) as a host-specific biopesticide agent for broad-scale application to combat invasive grasses. The letter emphasized the importance of ACK55 in suppressing cheatgrass, which fuels destructive wildfires and "crowds out native vegetation that provides important habitat to stressed species, such as the greater sage-grouse."
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on May 1, 2015, to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the second draft National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration 2015-2020. The letter praised the BLM's collaboration with the Western Governors, noting, "We value this recognition of state expertise as you refine an interagency approach to seed supply and application strategies in land rehabilitation and restoration." The letter also commended changes in response to prior comments and offered further revisions for the strategy.
Western Governors sent a letter on March 11, 2015, to Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Timothy Walz in support of their bipartisan legislation -- the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (H.R. 845). If enacted, it would expand National Forest trail maintenance efforts in the West and facilitate the use of volunteers and guides to help repair and maintain trails on Forest Service lands, a common-sense approach in a budget constrained environment.
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter to Peggy Olwell, Plant Conservation Program Lead at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to provide feedback about federal agencies' work to develop a draft National Seed Strategy and Implementation Plan. That feedback advocated, among other things, that state experts be engaged in conducting these analyses, there be a 10-year planning horizon for seed projections, and that a periodic review of the overall strategy was essential.
Western Governors sent a letter on Nov. 14, 2014, to Interior Secretary Jewell asking for clarification and answers to specific questions regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 Initiative, because the landscape-level approach central to the Initiative presents legal and regulatory issues associated with land and resources management within state borders.
Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 2, 2014 to Representative Lummis and Representative Walz expressing support for the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (H.R. 4886) bill they introduced. The Governors highlighted, "the use of volunteers and guides to help repair and maintain trails on Forest service lands," explaining, "In a budget constrained environment, this only makes sense."
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on July 29, 2014, before the House Committee on Natural Resources in support of H.R. 4901, the Advancing Conservation and Education Act of 2014. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors and urged Congress to enact legislation to expedite the process for sensible government‐to‐government land exchanges
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on July 15, 2014, to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell urging him to accelerate implementation of on the ground restoration projects to improve forest health using new funds and authorities recently granted by Congress. The letter warns, "The health of the region’s forests and rangelands continues to deteriorate, exacerbating the risks of uncharacteristically intense and large patterns of disease, insect infestation, and wildfire."
Western Governors sent a letter on June 19, 2014, to Representative Rob Bishop supporting his recently introduced legislation to improve state-federal land exchange policy, the Advancing Conservation Education Act of 2014. The Governors commended the bill's bipartisan approach and also noted, "We believe that your bill, which provides a process for states to relinquish lands within federal conservation areas and select unappropriated lands of equal value, represents a strong step toward reform of the federal land exchange process."
Western Governors sent a letter on June 6, 2014, to Rep. Rob Bishop, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, thanking him for his leadership on land exchange reform and offering their views on changes needed. The Governors wrote, "As you are acutely aware, current processes to effect exchanges of federal land for state land are overly complex, time-consuming and burdensome, commonly resulting in failures to complete otherwise sensible exchange transactions."
Western Governors sent a follow-up letter on May 30, 2014, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell seeking answers to questions regarding "A Strategy for Improving the Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of Interior" produced by members of Department of Interior’s (DOI) Energy and Climate Change Task Force. The letter noted, "Governors remain unclear on exactly how DOI will seek to engage our states in the development and implementation of this new landscape-scale mitigation regime. We would appreciate a detailed and expedited response to our questions."
Western Governors sent letters on May 30, 2014, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seeking clarification of post-wildfire and other natural disasters reseeding policy. The Governors expressed their dedication to ensuring the health of Western grasslands and forests and interest in collaborating with the federal agencies, writing, "We would like to work with federal agencies to establish clear and consistent disaster rehabilitation approaches that restore landscapes without creating monocultures or checkerboards. Increased state-federal collaboration on long-term restoration and research would be mutually beneficial."
Western Governors sent a letter on Jan. 21, 2014, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell regarding Secretarial Order 3330: Improving Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior. The governors expressed concerns about the landscape-scale approach in the Order and attached a list of questions. The letter highlighted, "Such a management philosophy must be implemented in a way that clearly recognizes the legal rights and responsibilities of states and private landowners adjacent to federal lands or within shared watersheds and air sheds."
The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent a letter on March 25, 2014, to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell suggesting modifications to the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) program Congress expanded nationwide when it passed the Farm Bill. WGA also offered to convene state-wide learning sessions, webinars, and other training and education opportunities for states interested in using GNA.
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on Aug. 23, 2013, to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasizing the Governors' concerns that federal forest lands throughout the region are facing serious environmental stress affecting the health and vitality of Western ecosystems. The letter also reiterated the Governors' request for specific information on the Forest Service's plans in Western forests to reduce wildfire threats. The letter urged, "These forests are overgrown; they exhibit all the symptoms of an unhealthy ecosystem; and they demand urgent attention."
The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent letters on July 17, 2013, to House Natural Resources Committee and Public Lands Subcommittee leadership conveying Western Governors' support for land exchange legislation. The letter referenced a WGA policy resolution that supports reauthorization of the Federal Lands Transfer Facilitation Act and WGA's other efforts to reform federal-state land exchange processes.
Western Governors sent a letter on Apr. 16, 2013, to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack to express concerns that federal forest lands throughout the West are experiencing serious environmental stresses that affect the health and vitality of these ecosystems. The letter urged, "Now is the time for the U.S. Forest Service to accelerate its efforts to promote sound forest management policies that maintain ecological balance." The governors acknowledged the financial challenges involved in such an endeavor, and suggested that engaging the forest products industry as a partner can help alleviate some of these challenges.
Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 25, 2012, to Congressional leaders requesting supplemental funding for firefighters battling fires, as well as for post fire recovery to restore important wildlife habitat. The letter expressed concerns about the impacts of wildfires on rangeland habitat used by the greater sage-grouse and other wildlife, the economic and community values that are tied to the use of this habitat, and collaborative state and federal efforts underway to prevent a full listing of sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The letter urged quick work "to provide supplemental funding to programs, particularly within the Bureau of Land Management, that prioritize necessary sage-grouse habitat rehabilitation and restoration."