James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on July 9, 2014 before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors regarding the challenge of invasive species, which constitutes a critical problem throughout the West. The testomony cited the enormous economic damage caused by invasive species and also explained how they exacerbate many of the West's other great resource challenges. Ogsbury urged, "Federal agencies own and manage more than 40 percent of the land in the West. Their leadership and partnership with states is essential to effectively address this problem."
Western Governors sent a letter on July 2, 2014, to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing strong concerns about the Forest Service's Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management. The Governors highlighted, "States are the exclusive authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing groundwater resources, and they are primarily responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries," and reminded that both Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court recognized this authority. The letter also included a list of questions the Governors requested to be addressed.
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."
WGA Chairman Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and WGA Vice Chairman Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 9, 2014, with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan outlining cooperative work to improve data and analyses to help policymakers prepare for and respond to drought, flooding and wildfire. The MOU explained, "As drought has become increasingly persistent and severe in the Western states – and as large floods have caused devastation in Western communities – the economic and social impacts are particularly damaging."
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 May 30, 2014, to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy asking for an extension of the comment period for the Clean Water Act jurisdiction rulemaking. The Governors wrote, "States are co-regulators of water quality and the primary managers of water resources within their borders. Before proceeding further with this proposal, your agencies should take the time to engage in true, substantive consultation with states."
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), testified on May 23, 2014 on behalf of the Western Governors before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The testimony provided comment on the appropriations and activities of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency. Ogsbury noted, "These federal agencies have rich potential to supplement state efforts or impinge on state authority. They can exercise vital leadership or they can interfere with well-managed state activities. Accordingly, it is critical that state and federal agencies develop and maintain positive and cooperative working relationships."
The Western Governors' Association and the Western States Water Council sent a letter on May 12, 2014, to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the EPA to appeal a recent court decision regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for water transfers. The letter highlighted, "The court’s decision is particularly troubling because it incorrectly questions state primacy over water allocation," and further explained, "If affirmed, the decision could upset the long-established federal-state balance regarding water quality protections and rights to water use."
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."
James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), testified on April 10, 2014, on behalf of the Western Governors before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The testimony shared the Western Governors' views on Interior and Environment related appropriations affecting federal lands in the West. Ogsbury emphasized the crucial role of the states in these matters, noting, "As you consider appropriations and policy directives for federal agencies, Western Governors urge you to take cognizance of states’ authority in resource management and their potential to enhance the delivery of government services and protections to our citizens."
The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent a letter on April 10, 2014, to House and Senate Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) conferees expressing support for reauthorization and inclusion of several western specific programs. The letter noted, "Whether for storage, drought, flooding or general allocation, proper water management is essential. WGA believes reauthorization of WRDA is critically important to the West in addressing these vital issues."
The Western Governors' Association sent letters on April 9, 2014, to Senate and House Appropriation Committee leadership expressing support for adequate funding of the west-wide Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The letter expresses the importance of this program, noting, "basic information on the status, trends and projections of water resource availability is essential to sound water management."
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on April 4, 2014, to the Interior Department regarding the new Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The letter cautioned about imposing unintentional unfunded mandates on states and urged the development of a clear opt-in process for states that want to participate. The letter explained, "While Governors support the goal of revenue transparency and recognize that the U.S. system of transparency can be a model for the rest of the world, they will react unfavorably to efforts by EITI that create an unfunded federal mandate."
Western Governors sent a letter on April 3, 2014, to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging support for reauthorization of the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project. The Project, started in 2005, is designed to increase office efficiency and streamline processing of applications for permit to drill filed with the Bureau of Land Management. The Governors wrote, "We look forward to working collaboratively with you to ensure the continued success of this program, so important to a number of Western states."
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 (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.
Western Governors sent a letter on March 25, 2014, to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy with respect to pending rulemaking regarding the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The Governors expressed concern that the rulemaking was developed without sufficient state consultation and "could impinge upon state authority in water management." The letter stated, "As co-regulators of water resources, states should be fully consulted and engaged in any process that may affect the management of their waters."
Western Governors sent letters on Feb. 24, 2014, to bill sponsors supporting the end of the “fire borrowing” practice employed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to fund wildfire suppression efforts. The letters emphasize the devastating impact of this budgetary issue, noting, "Western states have been negatively impacted by fire borrowing for years. The health of the region’s national forests and rangelands has deteriorated due to a reduction in active management, past federal fire suppression policies, and drought."
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."
The Western Governors' Association (WGA) sent letters on Feb. 7, 2014, to Congress transmitting Western Governors' support for H.R. 2431, legislation to reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). Western Governors promoted the creation of NIDIS in 2006, and WGA has since worked with partners to champion the system’s deployment. The letter underscored the critical importance of the system, noting, "NIDIS provides the kind of authoritative, objective and timely drought information that farmers, water managers, decision-makers, and local governments require to prepare for and respond to drought."
Western Governors sent letters on Jan. 21, 2014, to the House and Senate leadership expressing their strong support for providing full funding the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program in the Farm Bill currently in conference. The letters urged, "Congress must provide a way for local governments located in areas with a high percentage of federal lands to provide basic services despite the lack of a tax base. Counties with federal land in their jurisdictions often provide vital services on those lands, such as solid waste management, search and rescue, and emergency medical services."
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 Jan. 15, 2014, to U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings conveying the Western Governors' support for the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013 (H.R. 596), led by Rep. Paul Gosar. This support was linked to language in the Act that would enact the sharing of revenues derived from renewable energy leasing on federal lands with impacted states and counties.
The Western Governors' Association and the National Association of Counties sent a joint letter on Dec. 20, 2013, to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting the Committees fully support the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program which provides critical funding to nearly 1,900 counties in 49 states and three U.S. territories. The letter urged recipients to consider the economic hardship that states and counties across the nation will face if the PILT program is not given consistent funding.
The Western Governors' Association and Western States Water Council sent a letter on Nov. 14, 2013 to Rep. Doc Hastings, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to support the recognition of state authority in water management within a bill before the committee -- The Water Rights Protection Act (H.R. 3198). The letter emphasized the Western Governors' position that "states have the pivotal role in allocating, administering, protecting and developing water resources."
The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the Western States Water Council (WSWC) submitted the following comments on Nov. 1, 2013, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on its investigation regarding the feasibility of a two-year licensing process for hydropower development at non-powered dams required by Section 6 of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013. The comments noted, "WGA and WSWC support efforts to integrate and streamline state and federal hydropower licensing requirements."
The Western Governors' Association sent the following comments on Oct. 31, 2013, to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in response to the DOE's Request for Information on transmission planning (FR 53436, Aug. 29, 2013). The comments expressed the Western Governors' appreciation of efforts to streamline the siting and permitting process for transmission and recommendations, including, "Participation in the process should be mandatory for all federal agencies with responsibilities for transmission siting, review and approval."
Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 21, 2013, to leadership of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees urging them to modify the Section 48 Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) from a “placed in service” standard of eligibility to a “commence construction” standard. The letter explained, "By changing the Section 48 ITC to a commence construction standard Congress can support continued domestic energy production and job creation in the West -- strengthening our national and economic security and creating a diversified, reliable, and affordable supply of energy."
Western Governors sent a letter on Oct. 18, 2013, to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee supporting reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The letter emphasized the distinction between Western and Eastern water concerns and noted, "The responsible development and management of water resources is particularly critical for Western states. Our region routinely faces both scarcity issues...and very real flood management challenges."
The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on Oct. 7, 2013, to leadership of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce supporting bipartisan legislation to create a higher education demonstration project for competency-based education. The letter explained, "Competency-based education offers significant potential for delivering high quality education to millions of Americans who want to pursue a college degree. It promises substantial benefits for all students, because it allows them to study and learn at their own pace."
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock sent a letter on Oct. 4, 2013, to Nancy Sutley, Chair of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, offering to collaborate with federal agencies in the review and re-designation of the “Section 368” Western energy corridors. The letter stated: "We stand ready to work with federal agencies to define corridors that will not only address the concerns raised by environmental plaintiffs regarding the original Section 368 corridor designation process, but also address states’ land use requirements, growth priorities and long-term energy planning needs."