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Letters/Testimony

LETTER: Increased State Consultation on Tribal Authority under Clean Water Act

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Western Governors sent a letter on March 30, 2015 to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting increased consultation with states during development of regulatory efforts regarding Tribal Authority under the Clean Water Act. In particular, the Governors were concerned with the process by which tribes obtain "Treatment in a Similar Manner as a State" (TAS) status, noting: "Many western states count a dozen or more Indian tribes within their boundaries...This creates a more complicated regulatory environment for water managers and users." The governors add that "Congress’ imperative to avoid potential conflicts can only be achieved if states have a substantive role in the development of the proposals for tribal TAS authority and in future tribal action under the CWA."

LETTER: Governors support Congressional efforts to end “fire borrowing” practice

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Western Governors sent a letter on March 19, 2015, to leadership of the Committee on the Budget in the Senate and House in support of Congressional efforts to end the so-called “fire borrowing” practice used by the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to fund their wildfire suppression activities. The Governors' letter notes "the current funding situation has allowed severe wildfires to burn through crippling amounts of the very funds that should instead be used to prevent and reduce wildfire impacts and costs. This represents an unacceptable set of outcomes for taxpayers, at-risk communities, and responsible stewardship of federal land."

TESTIMONY: James D. Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director, before House Interior Appropriations

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James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), testified on March 18, 2015, on behalf of the WGA before the House 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.

COMMENTS: Governors submit comments on proposed adjustment to National Ambient Air Quality Standard

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Western Governors sent comments on March 17, 2015, to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that urged the agency to take a balanced, holistic approach in determining whether or not to adjust the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The Governors note in their comments that should EPA seek to establish a stricter NAAQS for ground-level ozone, implementation in the West would require a better understanding of the role contributory factors – including factors unique to the region – play in this process.

LETTER: WGA advocates for funding of Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting programs

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on March 12, 2015, to express support for adequate funding of the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. WGA's Policy Resolution Water Resource Management in the West, which expressly supports this program, states that “basic information on the status, trends and projections of water resource availability is essential to sound water management.” The letter was sent to Sen. Jerry Moran, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, and Rep. Sam Farr.

LETTER: WGA supports funding for Cooperative Water Program and National Streamflow Information Program

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on March 12, 2015, to express support for adequate funding of the Cooperative Water Program and National Streamflow Information Program, both administered by the Department of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. WGA notes "this data is integral to water supply management decisions for states, utilities, reservoir operators, and farmers ... and particularly useful as drought persists in Nevada, the Pacific Coast states and the Southern Great Plains." The letter was sent to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Betty McCollum and Suzette Kimball, Acting Director, U.S. Geological Survey.

LETTER: Governors Support National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

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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. 

LETTER: Governors urge FCC to ensure spectrum auction does not disenfranchise any American

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Western Governors sent a letter on March 10, 2015, to members of the Federal Communications Commission in support of free, over-the-air reception of television broadcasts for all Americans. The Governors also urged the FCC to ensure that a planned spectrum auction does not disenfranchise any American by leaving them without access to news, weather, emergency messages, arts and entertainment programming accessible through free over-the air broadcast signals.

LETTER: Governors request reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program

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Western Governors sent a letter on Feb. 21, 2015, to House and Senate leadership requesting reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The governors emphasized the importance of this program as it "provides essential funding to timber-dependent counties to provide necessary government services to their citizens."

LETTER: WGA feedback on development of National Seed Strategy and Implementation Plan

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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.

LETTER: Governors seek conclusion to contract talks hobbling West Coast ports

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Western Governors sent a letter on Feb. 18, 2015, requesting that representatives of the International Longshore Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association immediately conclude contract negotiations that had dragged on for some nine months.  As western states are reliant on West Coast ports for the export of goods and merchandise, the protracted negoatiation was damaging states’ industries.

LETTER: Governors seek clarity on state-federal collaboration on sage-grouse conservation

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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.”

LETTER: Governors seek clarification on BLM's Planning 2.0 Initiative

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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.

COMMENTS: Governors submit comments on definition of “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act

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Western Governors sent the following comments on Nov. 14, 2014, to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy regarding the jurisdiction of the Waters of the United States Under the Clean Water Act as published in the Federal Register. The Governors noted "States have significant authority and responsibility regarding water management. It is imperative that any policies developed by EPA and the Corps affecting water resources be crafted in a manner consistent with state laws governing water allocation and water quality." 

LETTER: Governors support full funding for PILT and Secure Rural Schools programs

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Western Governors sent a letter on Nov. 12, 2014, to House and Senate leadership requesting full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act programs for Fiscal Year 2015. The governors asserted that "the federal government must fulfill its longstanding obligation to fund these programs for rural counties with tax exempt federal lands and for timber-dependent counties that rely on this funding to provide necessary government services to their citizens."

COMMENTS: Governors submit comments on USFWS voluntary prelisting conservation actions

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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."

LETTER: Governors support coal ash remaining regulated as solid waste

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The Western Governors' Association sent a letter on Oct. 30, 2014, to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding the regulation of coal combustion residuals (CCRs). WGA pointed to its existing policy resolution (The Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals) and cautioned, "Categorization of CCRs as hazardous waste would undercut existing and effective state regulations and result in additional and unwarranted regulations that could add costly burdens to already strained state budgets."

COMMENTS: WGA comments on proposed designation of critical habitat for the western yellow-billed cuckoo

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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."

COMMENTS: WGA comments on the Quadrennial Energy Review

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The Western Governors' Association sent the following comments on Oct. 10, 2014, to the U.S. Department of Energy regarding the Quadrennial Energy Review. The comments explained, "Upgrading and expanding the region’s transmission infrastructure is of critical importance to Western Governors." The Governors emphasized that developing a reliable, secure and modern energy distribution infrastructure will require the use of state data, analysis and expertise.

COMMENTS: Governors Submit Comments on Proposed Changes to Critical Habitat Designation

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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.

COMMENTS: USFS Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management

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Western Governors submitted comments on Oct. 2, 2014, to the U.S. Forest Service regarding FS-2014-0001- Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management, Forest Service Manual 2560. The Governors stated, "Clean water is essential to strong economies and quality of life... Because of their unique understanding of these needs, states are in the best position to manage the water within their borders."

LETTER: Support for Conservation Easements Legislation

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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"

LETTER: Support for Forest Trails Improvements Legislation

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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."

LETTER: Federal-State Sage Grouse Cooperation

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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."

COMMENTS: WGA on voluntary pre-listing conservation agreements rulemaking

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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.

LETTER: Comment period extension requested for proposed rule regarding jurisdiction of Clean Water Act

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Western Governors sent a letter on Aug. 27, 2014, to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy requesting an extension of the comment period on the proposed rule regarding the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The Governors expressed, "we are concerned that this proposed rulemaking could impinge upon state authority in water management."

COMMENTS: WGA on water rights for ski areas on National Forest System lands

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The Western Governors' Association sent the following comments on Aug. 21, 2014, to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) regarding a proposed directive concerning water rights for ski areas on National Forest System lands. The comments noted: "Western Governors urge USFS to continue to engage with states to make sure that the final directive respects state authority and fully addresses state concerns."

COMMENTS: WGA on proposed directive for water quality protection on National Forest System lands

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The Western Governors' Association sent the following comments to the U.S. Forest Service on Aug. 21, 2014, regarding the Proposed Directives for National Best Management Practices for Water Quality Protection on National Forest System Lands (FS-2014-0003-0001) and its potential to impact state authority to manage water. The comments note: "The proposed directive appears to go beyond its purported goal of water quality protection, encroaching upon the states’ water resource management authority." 

LETTER: Governors urge Congress to fix "fire borrowing" problem

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Western Goverors sent a letter on Aug. 15, 2014, to Congressional leaders to fix the perennial problem of "fire-borrowing," which occurs when the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior have to take money away from forest health and fire prevention activities to pay for costs to fight the current wildfires.

TESTIMONY: Advancing Conservation and Education Act of 2014 (H.R. 4901)

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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

TESTIMONY: Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013 (H.R. 596)

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James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association, testified on July 29, 2014, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, House Committee on Natural Resources in support of the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013 (H.R. 596). The testimony noted: "Western Governors support continued and accelerated deployment of renewable energy projects -- and the associated growth in clean energy jobs -- in Western states. They look forward to helping meet the current and future energy needs of the United States while ensuring protection of our precious natural resources."

LETTER: USFS should accelerate implementation of forest management projects

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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."

LETTER: Support of quagga mussels legislation

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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."

LETTER: BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act of 2014

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The Western Governors' Association sent letters on July 11, 2014, to Senator Tom Udall & Senator John Barrasso conveying the Governors' support for S. 2440, the BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act of 2014, legislation to reauthorize the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project. The letter states, "Based on feedback from affected states, it is clear that the Pilot Project has been successful in facilitating the development of domestic energy resources and merits continuation."