logo

News 2013

See photos of Western Governors, read media coverage of our Winter Meeting in Las Vegas

Published on .

WGA Governors Winter Meeting 2013 Las Vegas

The 2013 Western Governors’ Association Winter Meeting in Las Vegas was a great success, drawing a half-dozen governors, high-profile speakers and nearly 300 attendees.

In the interest of sharing the policy discussions and energy of the gathering, we've collected some of the best media coverage here. In addition, we've included photos from the two-day event attended by, in the photo above from left: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Colorado Gov. (WGA Chairman) John Hickenlooper, Nevada Gov. (WGA Vice Chairman) Brian Sandoval, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

WILDFIRES: Reporter Henry Brean of the Las Vegas Review-Journal covered the "Combatting Wildfires" session. His story discussed, among other things, the governors' desire to work more closely with the federal government on fire prevention. Read

ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES: The story by Reid Wilson of The Washington Post on the "Accelerating Adoption of Green Transportation Vehicles" session noted that state initiatives could save "millions of dollars over the long run — while helping to spur an emerging industry. Read

CRUCIAL HABITAT ASSESSMENT TOOL: The public rollout of our CHAT tool for pre-planning projects of all kinds in 16 Western states concluded the meeting with a bang at a crowded press conference. Here's what reporter Scott Sonner of the Associated Press wrote about the tool.

Gov Otter Quagga Plate

Gov. Otter showed off a quagga mussel-encrusted license plate, while Gov. Sandoval looked on, to make a point about invasive species while asking Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a question.

CHAT Rollout Press Conference

Gov. Hickenlooper introduced the CHAT tool at the launch of the new project planning tool.

Gov Bullock at CHAT Presser

Gov. Bullock discussed Montana's role from the first days of CHAT and how the state has used the tool with success.

State of Mexico Governor

State of Mexico Governor Eruviel Ávila Villegas delivered a well-received keynote.

Gov Sandoval at Keynote Speech

 Gov. Sandoval, after introducing State of Mexico Gov. Ávila Villegas, listens to the speech.

Sec Jewell with attendee

Interior Secretary Jewell delivered a keynote, spoke at the CHAT rollout and spent time after the press conference speaking with the governors informally.

Gov Herbert at podium

Gov. Herbert addressed a question at the meeting-ending press conference.

Gov Mead asks question at Winter Meeting

Gov. Mead makes a point during the "Combatting Wildfires" session.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

22 planes being added to federal fleet to fight wildfires

Published on .

C130 HerculesThis week's passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 included good news for Western states: the transfer of seven C-130 Hercules air tankers and 15 C-23B+ Sherpa smoke-jumper aircrafts to the Forest Service for use in fighting wildfires.

Western Governors recently discussed the increasing challenge of battling wildfires at the WGA Winter Meeting in Las Vegas. One item of discussion: The dwindling number of air tankers available from the federal government to fight fires. A U.S. Government Accountability Office report from August noted that the number of Forest Service large air tankers (LATs) had dropped from 44 aircraft in 2003 to just 8 in 2013.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft will be used as LATs and the C-23B Sherpa aircraft will serve as smoke-jumper and cargo transports. The tanker capacity of the C-130 is 3,000-4,000 gallons per aircraft. Each aircraft will be structurally reinforced by the U.S. Air Force to extend their operational lifetime to about 10 years, according to the Forest Service.  

The legislation now heads to President Obama’s desk for signature. Once approved by the President, the aircraft will be transferred to the Forest Service after necessary modifications are made.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

WGA requests full funding of PILT by Congress

Published on .

Forest Management

UPDATE, Jan 22: Allison Sherry of The Denver Post wrote about ongoing efforts to fund PILT. Read the story.

Jan. 21: Western Governors today sent to the House and Senate leadership their strong support for providing full funding for the PILT program in the Farm Bill currently in conference. Read the letter.

Jan. 15: Reporter Ellyn Ferguson of CQ Roll Call is reporting "Western lawmakers are eyeing the farm bill as a possible source of money to fund the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program left out of the omnibus spending bill released Monday."

Jan. 13: The current budget being created by House and Senate negotiators currently does not have any money for PILT. Read the story in Politico.

DEC. 20, 2013: The Western Governors' Association has requested that House and Senate Appropriations Committees support full Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding in the final FY14 Appropriations bill. 

The recently-approved Congressional budget deal included language for PILT to be funded, but left it up to appropriators to make the final decision on whether PILT would be funded and to what extent.

The joint letter signed by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury and National Association of Counties (NACo) Executive Director Matthew D. Chase requests that the "Committees fully support the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program that provides critical funding to nearly 1,900 counties in 49 states and three U.S. territories. 

"PILT is currently authorized at $425 million for fiscal year 2014 to help offset losses to local governments from the presence of non-taxable federal lands through direct payments to counties and other local governments. The federal government must honor its historic PILT agreement with states and counties to compensate them for tax-exempt federal lands within their borders." Download the letter.

The letter was sent to Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Richard Shelby, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, House Appropriations Ranking Member Nita Lowey, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

A recent story in the Washington Post highlighted the fact that the current budget agreement left PILT in a situation where "county officials and senators from Western states, where a disproportionate amount of the PILT money goes, worried that the money won’t arrive in time to plug budget holes."

The report by GovBeat reporter Reid Wilson noted the budget deal makes the "PILT program a priority through deficit-neutral reserve fund language. (But) now, it’s up to Congressional appropriators to actually fund the program." And that's the cause for concern, given the later-than-usual timing of the process. (Read the post)

PILT is payment to local governments for federally-owned lands to make up for taxes that would be collected locally if those lands were privately held. Western Governors just addressed PILT in their newly-approved Policy Resolution 2014-02: "Tax-Exempt Federal Lands and Secure Rural Schools."

You can download and read the entire resolution, but it says in part: "The federal government must honor its historic PILT agreement with states and counties in the West to compensate them for tax-exempt federal lands within their borders."

Western Governors have maintained this stance over the years, in part, because not honoring this statute creates uncertainty and hardships for states and local governments who budget, based on PILT, for basic emergency response services such as law enforcement and medical needs -- as well as services like public safety and roads -- that counties are required to provide under state and federal law.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

Western Governors roll out Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool to ensure wildlife values incorporated into land use decision-making

Published on .

CHAT Rollout Press Conference

UPDATE, March 18: The state of Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Department just rolled out its new online mapping system to identify crucial fish and wildlife habitats. Learn all about it and how it fits into the Western Governors' CHAT. Read more.

March 13: Directions Magazine just published an interview with Michael Terner, executive vice president at Applied Geographics, the company that developed and implemented CHAT. Learn more.

LISTEN: Learn more about the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool by listening to an interview with WGA Policy Advisor Carlee Brown, who discusses the new tool with Nevada Public Radio. Listen.

DEC. 12, 2013: The Western Governors’ Association today (Dec. 12) unveiled its Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), a cooperative effort of 16 Western states to provide the public and industry an overview of “crucial habitat” across the West.

CHAT LogoThe CHAT provides a “30,000-foot view” of habitat for pre-planning that can be used for projects as varied as “macro-siting” energy corridors and transmission routes, to comparing fish and wildlife habitat across the West.

The free, online tool unveiled at a press conference at the conclusion of the WGA’s 2013 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas is designed to enable industry to reduce time, costs, conflicts and surprises. It also will help conservation groups, state and federal agencies ensure wildlife values are better incorporated into land use decision-making. (Download a four-page publication with CHAT highlights.)

“The public release of the Western Governors’ CHAT shows the Governors’ commitment to responsible development of Western resources, while at the same time protecting the environment,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, WGA Chairman.  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (in photos below) also spoke about the tool's promise.

Sec Jewell Speaks at CHAT“The tool is an example of WGA’s ongoing work with federal agencies – including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service – to enable use of state fish and wildlife data and analyses to guide land use, planning and related natural resource decisions.”

“Crucial habitats” are places that are likely to provide the natural resources important to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, including species of concern, as well as hunting and fishing species. States collaborated to ensure information is compatible across the region. 

“The CHAT is meant to provide a first look at wildlife habitat using the same framework across the West,” said John Harja, Chairman of the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council, which oversaw the project. “It will help planners be better informed about wildlife priorities early in the process, so they can be better prepared as they engage in actual permitting with state and federal agencies.”

Gov Bullock at CHAT Presser"The states have provided a great service in developing this West-wide Crucial Habitat tool,” said Pam Eaton, Senior Energy Advisor at The Wilderness Society.  “This tool will be invaluable as we work to guide development to appropriate areas while also protecting sensitive lands. The Western Governors' CHAT can help reduce conflict as the place to go for wildlife information for energy and transmission planning."

Arizona, California, Kansas, Montana, Washington and Wyoming have developed state-specific CHATs; Nevada also launched its CHAT on Dec. 12, while New Mexico and Oregon launched CHATs in December. The Southern Great Plains CHAT depicts Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat across five states.

The Western Governors' CHAT can be found at westgovchat.org.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook.  

Western Governors approve resolutions on water, radioactive waste, mine reclamation, Secure Rural Schools

Published on .

Governors on Dais

Western Governors have announced eight new policy resolutions on a variety of issues that range from water to radioactive waste, bonding for mine reclamation to Secure Rural Schools.

The new resolutions approved by the Governors were announced by Colorado Gov. John Gov Hickenlooper Winter Meeting PortraitHickenlooper, the WGA Chairman, on Wednesday (Dec. 11) at the Western Governors’ Association Winter Meeting in Las Vegas. Along with previous WGA resolutions, the new resolutions form the basis for the association's efforts in the region and in Washington, D.C.

Below is a look at the newly approved resolutions. The complete language for these resolutions, along with other standing resolutions, can be found here. We encourage you to read them and welcome your feedback.

Water Resource Management in the West: Western Governors re-assert that states are the primary authority for water supply planning and management within their boundaries. Our water management priorities are (1) state primacy, (2) new infrastructure, (3) innovative water management, and (4) reliable water data.

Water Quality in the West: States and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work together as co-regulators under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  In this resolution we lay out our views on priority issues under these federal water quality regulations, including the preservation of state authority in managing water resources. 

Transportation of Radioactive Waste: Western Governors encourage the Department of Energy to continue to comply with both the letter and spirit of the WIPP Land Withdrawal Act and expect DOE to follow the transportation safety standards, principles and procedures agreed to with the states.

Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel: Western Governors assert that development of any proposed storage facility for high level radioactive waste located in a Western state or U.S. flag island must have the written consent of the governor in whose state or territory the facility is to be located.  

Tax-Exempt Federal Lands and Secure Rural Schools: Western Governors assert that the federal government must honor its historic agreements with states and counties in the West to compensate them for tax-exempt federal lands within their borders and these payments should not be subject to federal sequestration. 

States’ Share of Royalties and Leasing Revenues from Federal Lands: The federal government collects royalties and lease payments for energy development on public lands.  By law these revenues are shared with states.  Western Governors believe these shared revenues should not be treated as federal expenditures, subject to sequestration.

The Regulation of Coal Combustion Waste: Western Governors assert that the Western states should continue to be the principal regulatory authorities for coal combustion residual waste and urge EPA not to create unnecessary additional federal regulations.

Bonding for Mine Reclamation: Western Governors believe that states currently have financial responsibility programs in place for mining operations that are working well and they should not be duplicated or pre-empted by any program developed by EPA.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

Follow the Western Governors Winter Meeting in Las Vegas

Published on .

UPDATE: The Western Governors Western Governors' Association 2013 Winter Meeting was held Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas. Learn about the resolutions approved and see a report on the public launch of the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT).

Gov HickenlooperDec. 10, 2013: The WGA Winter Meeting includes a keynote by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the public rollout of the Western Governors’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT).

The agenda was developed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association. Other governors attending include Nevada's Brian Sandoval (WGA Vice Chairman),  Butch Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana), Gary Herbert (Utah) and Matt Mead (Wyoming).

Executive Director's Notebook: WGA's new CHAT a boon to the environment, resource development in the West

Published on .

CHAT Map AugustBy Jim Ogsbury

The Western Governors’ Association recently hosted a sneak preview of its Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), a cooperative effort of 16 Western states to provide the public and industry an online overview of “crucial habitat” across the West for pre-planning a variety of projects. Completion of the CHAT caps a years-long effort by Western Governors to make meaningful use of state-developed wildlife data and analysis on a regional basis. It is an innovation that encourages both responsible development of Western resources and environmental protection.

The preview was composed of an instructive and informative webinar designed by Carlee Brown, WGA policy advisor and resident CHAT expert. The demonstration, however, did not go off without a hitch. Because public interest in the CHAT is sky-high, far more people called in than our webinar host could accommodate. Consequently, many participants were unable to access the live online component of the presentation. That was certainly a problem, but it’s exactly the kind of problem I want to be in a position to address as the Executive Director of WGA.

WGA News: Methane emisson regulation in Colorado, digital education in Alaska, water plans in Wyoming and Utah

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association November roundup of Western states' news examines pioneering methane emisson regulations in Colorado, a proposal for expanded digital education in Alaska, and long-term plans for water in Wyoming, Utah and Kansas.

Economic Development

Administrative Rules Website: As part of his mission to streamline government and promote openness, Gov. Dennis Daugaard launched a website that will provide the public with the relevant information about previous and pending administrative rules in South Dakota in one location for easy access.

Alaska Gov Sean ParnellDigital Teaching Initiative: Gov. Sean Parnell (right) announced a state-wide education initiative to bring more of Alaska’s best teachers directly to Alaskan children. The governor’s initiative will digitally link teachers, courses and students from across Alaska in a shared goal of excellence.

Broadband Bridge to the Future: Gov. Matt Mead's second annual Wyoming Broadband Summit brought together leaders from the state technology sector to discuss opportunities and challenges in the industry. Access to ethernet internet in the state’s schools has grown 700 percent in the past year alone.

Broadband technology conference: The Utah Broadband Project, which oversees the deployment of the state's broadband networks, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development recently hosted its 2013 Broadband Tech Summit. It featured discussions on social media, website development, digital marketing, commercial broadband and broadband planning for local governments.

NOAA Winter Outlook sees little drought relief for the Southwest

Published on .

NOAA Outlook Map PrecipitationNOAA’s annual Winter Outlook offers little relief to the drought-stricken U.S. Southwest. The Outlook, released today (Nov. 21), says in part:

"Winter is likely to offer little relief to the drought-stricken U.S. Southwest ... Drought has been an ongoing concern across parts of the Southwest and Texas for nearly three years, and after some relief during the past few months, drought is likely to redevelop during winter.

"Sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have been near average since spring 2012, and forecasters expect that to continue through the winter. This means that neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to influence the climate during the upcoming winter." (Read the Outlook.)

All of the maps and information presented in the Outlook are also available from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), which provides a number of online drought information tools at drought.gov. Western Governors were instrumental in the passage of NIDIS in 2006;  NIDIS is currently up for reauthorization by Congress.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

Wildfire season never ends

Published on .

Yosemite Fire TrackerWildfire season might be over, but there's no shortage of wildfire news.

The Rim Fire, the third-largest wildfire in California history that burned 257,000 acres, is the subject of two recent stories:

Logging controversy: Machinery is already felling trees burned on private land by the Rim Fire. The president of the logging company Sierra Resource Management says the timber industry could salvage about a quarter of the area damaged in the Stanislaus National Forest. Environmentalists say the public’s forests don’t belong to the timber industry. Read more from Capital Public Radio.

Lingering Damage: The first rainstorm is set to hit the Sacramento area since the Rim Fire, which could send trees, ash and mud downstream into local water supplies. Read the story by CBS Sacramento 13.

Finally, scientists at Boulder's National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are touting a recently developed computer modeling technique they say can provide accurate predictions of the growth and behavior of long-lived wildfires.

The approach to wildfire mapping uses fine-scale satellite data collected on active wildfires, combined with advanced simulations of the interactions of fire and weather, to offer its forecast. Read more in the Boulder Daily Camera.

Western Governors will discuss the topic at "Combatting Western Wildfires: Shared Resources, New Technologies and Policies" at our upcoming Winter Meeting. The meeting will be held Dec. 11-12, 2013, in Las Vegas. Learn more.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

 

WGA announces new Manager of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C.

Published on .

Laura Wilkeson Cropped MugThe Western Governors' Association is pleased to announce the hiring of Laura Wilkeson as Manager of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C.

As Manager of Federal Relations, Laura will advance Western Governors’ interests with Congress, the Administration and stakeholder groups in the nation’s capital. (Laura begins work on Dec. 1.)

Laura's work will enhance WGA's ongoing work for the Governors of 19 Western states and 3 U.S.-flag islands to develop and advocate bipartisan policy on issues of critical importance to the Western United States.

Previously, Laura handled a legislative portfolio that included forestry, natural resources, energy, fisheries and environmental issues for Congressman Kurt Schrader of Oregon. Other experience includes work with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and policy advocacy for a sportsmen’s organization.

The Oregon native graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in Political Science and a concentration in Forest Management.

ALSO: Learn more about new Policy Advisors Katie Kalinowski and Chris Scolari and meet the rest of the WGA team.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

Interior Secretary Jewell will join Western Governors at Winter Meeting to discuss wildfires

Published on .

Interior Secretary Sally JewellInterior Secretary Sally Jewell will join Western Governors to discuss fighting wildfires at the WGA 2013 Winter Meeting (Dec. 11-12) in Las Vegas.

Secretary Jewell will take part in the session "Combatting Western Wildfires: Shared Resources, New Technologies and New Policies" along with the eight attending governors and Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary of Agriculture.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, WGA Chairman, has created a meeting agenda that also includes sessions focused on transportation: "Accelerating Adoption of Green Transportation Vehicles" and "Creating a Regional Transporation Vision." Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has been invited to participate. (Here's the agenda.)

Gov. Hickenlooper will be joined by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA Vice Chairman, and Governors Jan Brewer (Arizona), C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Gary Herbert (Utah), and Matt Mead (Wyoming).

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

Governors on the rise as gridlock sinks Washington

Published on .

Gov HickenlooperTurns out we're not the only ones who have noticed that Governors are getting significant work done in their states while Congress remains gridlocked by partisanship. (A Gallup Poll shows Americans' approval of Congress at 9%, the lowest ever. Read more.)

A Nov. 9 story from The New York Times makes this observation: "At a time when President Obama and members of Congress are mired in partisanship and gridlock, many governors — including Chris Christie of New Jersey ... and the chief executives of such states as Arkansas, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Ohio — are showing that it is possible to be successful in Gov. Martinezelected office, even in this era."

The story goes on to recount how governors in many states are "pushing through major legislation and trying to figure out ways, with mixed success, to avoid the partisan wrangling that has come to symbolize Washington."

And it's also no surprise to us that a number of members of the Western Governors' Association are specifically cited for their success, including: Jerry Brown of California, Susana Martinez (pictured) of New Mexico, John Hickenlooper (pictured) of Colorado, Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Learn more by reading the story.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

WGA announces new policy advisors for natural resources, energy

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) is pleased to announce the addition of two Policy Advisors to its team: Katie Kalinowski and Chris Scolari.

"Katie and Chris add considerable firepower to the WGA policy apparatus. They are well equipped to fiercely promote the bipartisan policy priorities of Western Governors,” said Jim Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director.

Katie S Cropped MugshotMeet the new Policy Advisors

Katie Kalinowski will handle natural resources with an emphasis on wildlife- and public lands-related policy and projects. She previously worked at the National Academies, Renewable Northwest Project and the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative at RESOLVE. Katie grew up in Colorado and holds a master’s degree in Economics from North Carolina State University and a B.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Chris S Cropped MugshotChris Scolari will focus on energy policy, including conventional and renewable energy development and sustainability, efficiency and transmission. The Colorado native previously worked in the private energy sector as well as in private law practice, specializing in regional and national energy clients. Chris holds a B.S. from the University of Kansas and a law degree from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Meet the rest of the WGA team.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook. 

Watch a webinar on our new Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool

Published on .

CHAT Map AugustThe Western Governors’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) is closing in on its Dec. 12 public rollout at our Winter Meeting.

The online GIS map will offer a survey of wildlife habitat across 16 Western states. The tool is designed to help planners in energy, transportation and land -- and inform conservation groups – while helping state agencies ensure wildlife values are better incorporated into land use decision-making.

Want to learn more? The WGA recently hosted a webinar that explained the genesis of the project and also offered a demonstration of what it can do. Watch the webinar.

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook. 

 

Idaho plan to conserve sage grouse acknowledged by BLM, Forest Service

Published on .

sage-grouseThe Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have acknowledged Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's collaborative efforts to protect the sage grouse by making the state's proposal one of two "co-preferred" alternatives, according to a story in the Idaho Statesman.

In the draft analysis released Friday (Nov. 2) the agencies also chose their own, similar proposal for conservation measures as a co-Preferred Alternative. The Statesman story noted the public has 90 days to comment on the proposals, which will affect 9.3 million acres of BLM land and 1.9 million acres of Forest Service land in Idaho and southwestern Montana. Read the story.

That's not the only news on Governors’ work to conserve sage grouse. Other headlines from the West:

A draft plan for conserving Montana’s remaining sage grouse population recommends financial incentives for private landowners and new rules for state land managers to protect the prairie bird’s habitat, the Great Falls Tribune reports. The plan was developed by Gov. Steve Bullock’s Greater Sage Grouse Habitat Advisory Council. Read more.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has urged the federal government not to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species and instead defer to state efforts to protect the bird's habitat, The Denver Post reports. Gov. Hickenlooper made his remarks after commissioners from four Colorado counties called on him to help them oppose what they call overly strict measures being contemplated to protect the bird. Read more.

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook. 

Interior returns 'sequestered' 2013 mineral royalty payments to states

Published on .

Interior LogoThe U.S. Department of Interior has begun returning "sequestered" 2013 Mineral Leasing Act royalty payments to oil and gas producing Western states. On Wednesday (Oct. 30) the state of California received a letter, signed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, stating "we are disbursing the FY 2013 Funds that were sequestered."

In all, 31 states will receive a combined $101 million in mineral royalty payments, which are collected by the Department of the Interior from companies extracting oil, gas and minerals from federal lands. California will receive a total of $4.9 million in sequestered royalties for Fiscal 2013.

Western states receiving the most sequestered royalties include: Wyoming ($40 million), New Mexico ($20.8 million) and Utah ($6.2 million). Other Western states receiving royalty payments include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. Read the letter sent to states when the decision to return the payments was first announced.

Western states tops in livability, taxes, business

Published on .

LivabilityWe have been know to brag that Western states are national leaders. But as they say, it's not bragging if it's true, right? Just consider these recent headlines:

Livability Top 100 Places to Live: The ranking listed 15 Western cities in the Top 25. Palo Alto (Calif.), Boulder (Colo.) and Berkeley (Calif.) topped the list. See the rest of the list, which included cities in Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and more.

State Business Tax Climate Index: The Tax Foundation graded all 50 states and found that the West dominated the Top 10, with Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Washington, Montana and Utah in that list.

Best States for Business: The report by Forbes includes five WGA members in its Top 10 and a dozen in its Top 25. The WGA states in the Top 10 included North Dakota (2), Utah (3), Colorado (5), Nebraska (6), Texas (7) and Washington (9).

America's Top States for Business 2013South Dakota was tops in the list from CNBC, whose annual ranking also showed 8 of the top 10 states were in the West, including: Texas (2), North Dakota (3), Nebraska (4), Utah (5), Colorado (7), Wyoming (9) and Idaho (10).

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

Fish & Wildlife endorses Lesser Prairie Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan

Published on .

Lesser Prairie ChickenThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently endorsed the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' "Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation Plan," a significant achievement for the collaborative planning effort to conserve a species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The range-wide plan represents a dedicated effort by five Western Governors' Association (WGA) states -- Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado -- to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken. One of the centerpieces of the plan is the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), which was developed in collaboration with the WGA.

The plan calls for providing financial incentives to landowners who voluntarily manage their lands to benefit the species. It also includes a framework for mitigating the potentially harmful effects to lesser prairie-chicken habitat from development activity throughout its range. After an extensive review, the USFWS found the plan is consistent with criteria proposed last May for conserving the species.

"The unprecedented collaborative efforts of WAFWA and the five state wildlife agencies have produced a sound conservation plan for the lesser prairie-chicken," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "We applaud the states' commitment to lead conservation actions across the bird's range."

The Service's endorsement is not a decision that implementing the plan will preclude the need to protect the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA. The Service will carefully consider the plan, its implementation and effectiveness when it makes a final determination on whether to list the lesser prairie-chicken under the ESA in March, 2014.

The use of tools such as Southern Great Plains CHAT is an ongoing effort of the WGA. In December, WGA will roll out the Western Governors' Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, which provides the public and industry an overview of “crucial habitat” across 16 Western states. Watch a webinar about the Western Governors’ CHAT or find out more here.

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook. 

Western Governors support Congressional reauthorization of Water Resources Reform and Development Act

Published on .

drought-dried-cropsUPDATE: House lawmakers decisively approved the "Water Resources Reform and Development Act." But E&E News reports the current House-Senate divide still poses a significant hurdle before a final bill can be signed into law. Full story.

Oct. 23: Western Governors strongly support reauthorization of the "Water Resources Reform and Development Act" (WRDA), which reaches the House floor today (Oct. 23).

The reason for our support of WRDA is simple: The responsible development and management of water resources is particularly critical for Western states, which routinely face both scarcity issues and flood management challenges. (Read our letter.)

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) Policy Resolution 11-7, "Water Resource Management in the West," calls on Congress to pass WRDA legislation on a regular schedule. For this reason, we applaud Section 132 of the proposed bill, which would encourage Congress to consider a WRDA bill every two years.

The legislation previously was approved by the Senate.

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

Western Governors urge modification of Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit

Published on .

Solar PanelsWestern Governors are urging a modification of the Section 48 Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) from a “placed in service” standard of eligibility to a “commence construction” standard.

The letter was signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the WGA Chairman, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA Vice Chairman. The letter was sent to Sens. Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch (Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, Senate Committee on Finance), as well as Reps. Dave Camp and Sander Levin (Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, House Committee on Ways & Means).  (Read the entire letter.)

WGA notes in the letter: 

"Section 48 ITC benefits a variety of technologies and industries that are important to our state economies, including solar energy, fuel cells, microturbines, combined heat and power, small wind and thermal energy.

"Changing the ITC to a 'commence construction' standard would allow these industries to make full and effective use of the 30 percent investment tax credit for the duration of its existing authorization (which expires on Dec. 31, 2016), and will allow them to attract further investment - driving industry and job growth in our states." 

"Under a 'commence construction' standard, the credit could still not be claimed until the project is placed in service – providing important protection of taxpayer dollars."

Western Governors note that without the change, large-scale projects might be less likely to be completed. The governors  remind that "during the past eight years the ITC has been tremendously successful in growing clean energy industries in our states and across the United States, creating American jobs ... and driving down prices for American consumers."

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

WGA News: EV's in California, 'energy corridor' in North Dakota, Texas water plan and online poker alliances for Nevada

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association October roundup of Western news examines California's growing electric vehicle market, North Dakota's 'energy corridor,' Colorado's wildfire mitigation report, a state water plan for Texas and potential online poker partnerships for Nevada.

Economic Development

california-EV-Charging-StationGrowing California's electric vehicle market: Gov. Jerry Brown and more than 50 state business, automotive, consumer, technology and utility leaders gathered recently to advance public and private sector efforts to expand the state’s electric vehicle market. Some of their goals: creating a charging network to handle 1 million electric vehicles by 2020 and 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025.

Marianas Summit aims to unify: Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Eloy Inos held what they described as "the first Marianas summit for a stronger partnership." The two exchanged ideas and brainstormed solutions about the challenges they face over the military buildup, federal mandates, healthcare and more.

Hawaii Sports Development Initiative: Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui to spearhead the state’s Sports Development Initiative, which aims to coordinate efforts throughout Hawaii to build a thriving sports industry.

Arizona trade mission to India: Gov. Jan Brewer led a delegation on a mission of trade and tourism to India. Joined by the Arizona Commerce Authority the trade mission promoted

Western states unlikely to be repaid for opening national parks during government shutdown

Published on .

grand-canyon-npUPDATE, March 12, 2014: U.S. Senators Mark Udall (Colorado) Jeff Flake (Arizona) have teamed up to introduce legislation that would require the federal government to reimburse states for the cost of opening national parks. Read more.

March 4: The National Park Service reports that when federal officials closed national parks during the 2013 government shutdown, it meant nearly 8 million fewer park visits and cost local communities more than $400 million in economic activity. Read more.

Oct. 17, 2013: The governnment shutdown ended at 12:50 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 17), sending federal employees back to work. Here's a look at some of the impact it will have on Western states:

National Parks can fully reopen, but states that paid to reopen the parks (Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona) won’t be repaid under the current legislation, according to a story by Darren Goode of Politico

The story notes that states will be refunded money if it paid for "more days than necessary — for example, it donated money to operate a site for 10 days and the government reopened after seven." But when it comes to the full amount, "Congress would need to specifically authorize the repayment of any money spent that states had donated to fund the sites."

However, E&E News reports that there a pair of bills being proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that would reimburse the states within 90 days for costs associated with operating the national parks. (Read more)

The cap on the Federal Highway Administration's emergency spending ability to rebuild infrastructure has been lifted from $100 million to $450 million, the amount that Colorado lawmakers requested to cover damage caused by recent floods in the state, E&E News reports.

Western Governors reacted to the shutdown with various statements, including this one from Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie and coments from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Earlier, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter expressed his concerns on Wednesday. The Las Vegas Sun did a story on "5 Ways Nevada will benefit from the Budget Deal."

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

Western Governors make progress in efforts to streamline federal regulations for transmission projects

Published on .

TransmissionLineWestern Governors are making progress in efforts to work as partners with the administration to streamline federal regulations for permitting, review and siting of transmission projects in the West.

Large infrastructure projects in the West -- where federal, state and private lands are often impacted -- pose complicated and expensive challenges that involve myriad approvals and jurisdictional authorities. Streamlined federal-state regulatory processes can reduce conflict and financial risk in building such complex projects.

Western Governors began the process of working with the Administration on specific projects in the West by reaching out to Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in the wake of President Obama’s June 7th Memorandum: “Transforming our Nation’s Electric Grid Through Improved Siting, Permitting and Review.”

The governors noted at that time that "the effort of designating and developing Western energy corridors and streamlining permitting, review and siting is improved if states are included as equal partners." (Read the letter.)

Since then, Western Governors have received a response that left them "encouraged by indications that the Administration is receptive to including Governors as full partners in the review and re-designation of the 'Section 368' Western energy corridors agreed to in the settlement agreement."

Western Governors have now proposed a meeting with senior federal leadership for the Section 368 corridor review process for no later than late October, 2013, to finalize the commitment to work together and outline tasks that each party needs to complete. (Read the letter.)

The efforts by WGA reflects ongoing work by Western Governors in the area of energy policy, including the rollout of our 10-Year Energy Vision, which articulates the overarching goals of a Western energy policy. In addition, the governors have publiched The State of Energy in the West, which provides detailed background on energy resources and consumption in the West, and Energy Perspectives, essays by Western Governors on energy-related topics. (Download all three energy documents)

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona reopening National Parks

Published on .

NPS New LogoUPDATE: The governors of Utah, Colorado, South Dakota and Arizona all announced on Friday (Oct. 11) they would be reopening national parks in their states.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced a deal with the U.S. Department of Interior to re-open the state's five national parks, Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges national monuments, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The agreement with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the National Park Service (NPS) stipulates that Utah will pay the NPS up to $1.67 million ($166,572 per day) to re-open the sites for up to 10 days. If the federal government shutdown ends before then, the State will receive a refund of unused monies. Read Gov. Herbert's release.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Friday that the state would pay to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday (Oct. 12). Trail Ridge Road in the park will reopen as soon as the highway can be plowed. The reopening will prvide an economic boost to the area recently ravaged by flooding in Estes Park and Larimer County.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced an agreement to re-open Mount Rushmore on Monday using funds donated by various businesses and foundations from across the state who promised to “buy a day” of operation. Read more. And Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced late Friday on Twitter that she had "just negotiated a deal for Arizona

WGA testifies at Endangered Species Act forum in Washington

Published on .

ESA Working Group LogoWATCH a video of the forum.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) Congressional Working Group will host a forum Thursday (Oct. 10) in Washington, D.C., called “Reviewing 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act and Seeking Improvement for People and Species.”

The premise is simple, if lofty: feature stakeholders testifying about ESA's impacts on species and people during the past 40 years -- and potential improvements going forward. (Read the story in E&E.)

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) is ready to take part. Policy Manager Carlee Brown will offer testimony, including the Governors’ principles for ESA reform and the reminder that any changes to the ESA and its administration should recognize the legal responsibilities of states and their long-standing record of expertise in managing and conserving species

In addition, Brown will share WGA's recently passed a resolution on the Endangered Species Act. The hearing before the ESA Congressional Working Group, led by Representatives Doc Hastings of Washington and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon ET in 1300 Hearing Room in the Longworth House Office Building. Visit the group's website.

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

South Dakota digs out after massive blizzard

Published on .

South Dakota Off Ramp

UPDATE (Oct. 18): The State Veterinarian now estimates that 15,000 to 30,000 cattle died in the early autumn blizzard that buried western South Dakota in snow nearly two weeks ago. Read the story in the Rapid City Journal.

Oct. 10: South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is encouraging everyone to assist ranchers by donating to the Rancher Relief Fund. Find out how. Previously, Gov. Daugaard drove across western South Dakota for an "on the ground" survey of the situation. Read the story. Gov. Daugaard also used his weekly column to address the storm's impact. Read more.

Oct. 8: An early snowstorm's no big surprise in South Dakota. But 55 inches? That's historic and -- in many cases -- fatal. Two people have been found dead in the wake of last week's Black Hills blizzard and thousands of cattle perished.

The city of Spearfish was just about done clearing streets and downtown sidewalks on Monday, according to this story in the Rapid City Journal. Highways are another matter. While I-90 is now reopened, the heavy snow closed the road over the weekend. The photo above from a Twitter post, confirmed by the state's Department of Transportation, shows the impact of the snowfall on the Exit 60 westbound off-ramp in Rapid City.

It will take weeks to determine how much lifestock was lost in the storm, although early estimates are as high as tens of thousands of cattle. Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, told the Journal that most ranchers she had spoken to were reporting that 20 to 50 percent of their herds had been killed. Read more.

 Here are photos that show the extent of the storm.

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

Gov. Hickenlooper delivering keynote on natural gas at 'Think About Energy Summit' in Colorado

Published on .

logoSummitColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will deliver the opening keynote at the "Think About Energy Summit" on Oct. 29 at the Colorado Convention Center.

The Chairman of the Western Governors' Association (WGA), a self-described “recovering geologist,” will share his perspective on the role and benefits of natural gas in Colorado.

America's Natural Gas Alliance, in partnership with the Colorado Energy Office, created the "Think About Energy Summit" to bring together leading experts to discuss how natural gas is currently being used in Colorado and the West. In addition, there will be discussions of how it can fuel new high horsepower applications such as marine, rail and mining, as well as consumer vehicles. 

Admission to the Oct. 28-29 summit is free, but registration is required. Here's where to find more information and a complete schedule.

The Western Governors' Association invites you to attend the 2013 WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. Learn more about the agenda and get the lowest registration rate by visiting our website now.

Western states, tribes address concerns about Army Corps rulemaking on surplus water in reservoirs

Published on .

US Army Corps Of EngineersWestern states, the Western States Water Council (WSWC) and other stakeholders met with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Oct. 2 in South Dakota to ask questions and seek a role in rulemaking for the treatment of surplus water in Corps-managed reservoirs.

The meeting in Deadwood involved a frank conversation. Reporter Adam Hurlburt of the Black Hills Pioneer quoted Michelle Klose, an assistant state engineer with the North Dakota Water Commission, who summed up stakeholders' concerns: “The states and tribes all have rights along the river system for flows, and the Corps is making a different assumption here, it seems, than what we’ve understood in the past, since 1944.”

Northwest Division Program Director Dave Ponganis read an official statement that noted the Corps is solely "examining the need to update and clarify through notice and comment rulemaking the policies governing the use of storage in its reservoir projects" and that "any rulemaking that the Corps does pursue will ... provide ample opportunity for public comment and for consideration of all viewpoints expressed.” (Read the complete story in the Black Hills Pioneer.

While no decisions were made, the Corps' Ponganis did say that while “the different water rights is (sic) a very thorny issue ... that’s not a reason for us not to sit and talk about it, and it’s not a reason for us not to find ways forward.”

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) previously expressed its concern about the Corps rulemaking process in a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). Read the letter. WSWC, which represents 18 Western states on water policy, sent a similar letter to the Corps on Aug. 6.

Specifically, the WSWC and WGA are concerned that an expanded definition of “stored water” in the Corps rulemaking process could make the natural flows of the river (water that would normally pass through a reservoir if not for a dam) subject to contracts and fees. Such a measure would fail to recognize state authority over management of surface water.

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook.

Life on the Range examines impact of Elk Complex Fire in Idaho

Published on .

Elk Complex Wildfire"There was lightning everywhere, and I was listening on the fire channel frequency to the Danskin Lookout, and he started calling in fire reports everywhere. And we just went, 'Oh my god.' And then it went crazy from there."

Those are the words of Randy Davison, a rancher in the path of this past summer's massive Elk Complex Fire in Idaho, which ultimately consumed 281,000 acres.

Although Western states have lived through this scene all too often, we don't always see what happens after the fire. Now, a story on the Life on the Range website by Steve Steubner takes you from the beginning of the wildfire through the frantic efforts of ranchers to save livestock and buildings. And once the fire is contained, the story examines the challenges faced by ranchers who have lost their grazing land.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and others discuss the value of active range management (Here's what Western Governors have proposed in a similar area). There's also discussion of the other damages caused by the fire, including the loss of sage grouse habitat.

Learn more by watching the story and visit Life on the Range.

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook.

Executive Director's Notebook: Western states working as federal government shuts down

Published on .

ClosedBy Jim Ogsbury

This morning at midnight, the federal government of the United States shut down.

Demonstrating that gridlock is the new normal in Washington, D.C., national leaders have been unable to even craft a budget, one of the most basic functions of our elected federal officials. Partisan rancor rules the day, and compromise is a dirty word.

Look to the West for a stark contrast. Western Governors are on the job. They are making things happen. They’re tackling challenging issues and working across the political aisle and state boundaries to develop bipartisan solutions to the region’s most pressing problems.

Over the past two days, while political passions flared in Washington, D.C., cooler heads prevailed in Denver. That’s where Western Governors' representatives met to develop bipartisan policies on such nettlesome issues as nuclear waste disposal, species conservation and water management.

The deliberations were marked by civility, cordiality and good humor. Differences were aired and confronted in a respectful and thoughtful manner. The Governors and their staff are committed to reach consensus on critical regional policy, and the Denver meeting helped inform the WGA’s bipartisan policy agenda.

If you have some time in December and want to see government in action, skip our Nation's Capital. Instead, join Western Governors at their winter meeting in Las Vegas. Registration information can be found here.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Western states dominate Forbes 'Best States for Business List'

Published on .

Forbes-logoThe annual “Best States for Business” report by Forbes includes five Western Governors' Association members in its Top 10 and a dozen in its Top 25. The WGA states in the Top 10 included North Dakota (2), Utah (3), Colorado (5), Nebraska (6), Texas (7) and Washington (9).

When it comes to job growth, Forbes ranked Arizona No. 1, followed by fellow WGA states Texas (2), Colorado (3), North Dakota (4),Nevada (6), Utah (7), Idaho (9), and Oregon (10).

Here's where to find the complete list and read the entire Forbes report; some excerpts:

Arizona’s job and economic growth forecasts over the next five years are the best in the U.S.

North Dakota, over the past 5 years, is tops in job growth (3.7% annually), income growth (3.8%), gross state product growth (7.9%) and unemployment (3.6% average).

Utah companies benefit from energy costs 29% below the national average, helping its economy grow at 2% a year over the past five years — fourth best in the U.S.

Colorado is expected to have the third fastest growth for both jobs and household

Register now for WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 11-12 in Las Vegas

Published on .

Mandarin for Meeting Mail

 

The agenda is taking shape for the WGA 2013 Winter Meeting (Dec. 11-12) with sessions planned on fighting wildfires, forest management, accelerating adoption of "green" vehicles, cross border trade, and seasonal and skilled worker visas.

Invited speakers include Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. (Here's the agenda.)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA Vice Chairman, will host their colleagues for two days of conversation. Governors already committed to attending include Butch Otter (Idaho) and Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota).

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook.

Vice President Joe Biden tours flood damage with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Published on .

Biden

UPDATE, Sept. 25: The Denver Post reports that the last person unaccounted for in Larimer County has been located. Read more.

Sept. 23: Vice President Joe Biden visited Colorado on Monday (Sept. 23) to tour flood-ravaged cities and towns in the wake of recent massive rainstorms. 

After a helicopter tour of the towns impacted by the storm, the Denver Post reported that Vice President Biden promised that even if the "dysfunction of Congress" results in a shut down of the federal government, FEMA resource centers and hotlines still will aid Colorado flood victims. Read more and also read the Associated Press report. (Photo by Associated Press)

In addition, officials announced that the state will begin the biggest emergency dam inspection program in Colorado history, checking 200 dams in 10 days, mostly along the South Platte River. Read more.

The flood death toll officially moved to 8 with the discovery of another body. To keep up with ongoing developments, follow coverage from The Denver Post, as well as updates in the Boulder Daily Camera and reporting in the Longmont Times-Call.

Get the latest news of the West by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter and Facebook.