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News 2014

Western states leading the way in solar energy

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Solar StatesA new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center shows that six of the top 10 solar energy states are in the West.

Arizona is tops, followed by Hawaii (2), Nevada (3), California (4), New Mexico (6), and Colorado (9).

The "Lighting the Way" report is a numbers-based take on the U.S. solar energy movement, the top states that fostered it last year, and what other states are doing. Read and download the report.

The Western Governors have published a "10-Year Energy Vision" for the West that recognizes the important of renewable energy sources such as solar. Read and download the Energy Vision, and also look at the report "State of Energy in the West," an account of energy resources and issues in the region.

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

Drought Update: Lake Mead getting a boost; monsoon rain doesn't fill Utah reservoirs; California to vote on water bond

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This year's Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is the launch of the Western Governors' Drought Forum. Part of that effort is to share the latest news about drought and its impact on the West on our blog, and you can sign up for e-mail updates (select "Water and Drought" on this page).

Here are recent headlines about drought in the West::

Farmers in Central California are paying up to 10 times more for water this summer than last year, so some are selling their water to those in need down south. More.

Learn how Nebraska’s Water Sustainability Fund provides funding to programs that increase aquifer recharge and enhance water quality. More.

California lawmakers voted to place a $7.5 billion bond measure on the November ballot to build

Executive Director's Notebook: Hickenlooper, Herbert demonstrate deep knowledge, willingness to listen on energy topics

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By Jim Ogsbury

Gov Hickenlooper for webColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (Photos courtesy Jason Hallmark, Hallmark Photos)Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado began his career as a geologist in the petroleum industry.  He points out that he is the first American in history to work as a petroleum geologist, then as a brew pub master, then as a major city mayor, and then as a Governor. As I joked with the Governor, there are those in the energy industry who would consider this career trajectory as a downward spiral. But it cannot be gainsaid that his practical experience in energy development (combined with an uncommon grasp of the technical aspects of energy production) has been an asset as he has confronted energy policy challenges in the Centennial State.

Governor Gary Herbert of Utah is also well versed in energy policy, and he has identified energy

Western Governors taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been burning up social media, providing big smiles and big support for finding a cure and treatments for ALS. So it only makes sense that Western Governors would not only accept the challenge to take the (very) cold plunge, but to also donate money to the cause.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple have taken the challenge so far. California Gov. Jerry Brown passed the honor along to his corgi, Sutter Brown. WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury took the plunge as well. Watch all of these videos and check back for more.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (click photo to find video)

Heineman Bucket

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (click photo for video)

Gov Hickenlooper Ice Bucket

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (click photo for Facebook video)

Martinez Ice Bucket

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (click photo for video)

Gov Dalrymple Ice

Sutter Brown of California (click photo for video)

Sutter Brown Ice Bucket Challenge

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

Western Governors again urge President Obama, Congress to end 'fire borrowing'

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Wildfire EditorialMedia coverage: U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) of Oregon told Northwest Public Radio last week that the Forest Service will soon run out of budgeted money to fight wildfires and "they'll do what they always do, they'll start pulling back money from the fuel reduction, forest health and other programs to fight the fires.” Read more in the Christian Science Monitor.

A story by Denver Post reporter Jesse Paul about WGA's "fire-borrowing" outreach, including comment about its negative impact from the Director of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, ran Aug. 20 in the Post and Canon City Daily Record. Read the story.

Aug. 15: Western Governors have reiterated their strong support for an end to the practice of “fire borrowing” in outreach to President Obama and House and Senate leadership.

The outreach was signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Vice Chair and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. It was delivered to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, among others.

Western Governors noted that in the past decade, wildfires have increased in size and intensity and the fire season now extends 60-80 days longer than historic averages. Ineffective management, droughts and insect infestations also have left western forests far more susceptible to catastrophic fires.

Even so, federal wildfire budgets have not increased to meet this escalating fire trend and

WGA's hiring: Strong writing skills, knack for social media key to Communications Assistant job

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WGA Hi Res LogoThe Western Governors' Association is hiring a Communications Assistant to expand its outreach efforts.

WGA is seeking a self-starter who can multi-task in a fast-paced environment, with an emphasis on exceptional writing skills, to serve as Communications Assistant in our Denver headquarters.

Applicants for this full-time, entry-level position also must demonstrate advanced web and social media skills. Working at the direction of the Communications Director, this person will:

Manage WGA’s social media platforms;
Ensure website content is up to date, write blog posts;
Create effective email newsletters;
Support traditional media outreach; 
Articulate WGA’s position on Western policy issues.

Get the complete job description to learn more about the job and how to apply. The deadline is Aug. 29, 2014.

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

Executive Director's Notebook: PNWER reminds of our important connection with western Canada

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By Jim Ogsbury

PNWER LogoOn various occasions, I have heard our neighbors from the Great White North lament that the founders of the United States and Canada would have been well advised to substitute their coast-to-coast nation-building for more of a north-south orientation.  The notion is that, in many respects, the denizens of western provinces and states have more in common with each other than with their east coast countrymen.

The point of view has much to commend it. Among other things, the western provinces and states share the natural splendor of the Rockies, incredibly rich

WGA's Jim Ogsbury joins Gov. Hickenlooper, Gov. Herbert for energy session at Colorado Oil & Gas Association 2014 Energy Summit

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COGA Panel BlogGovernors John Hickenlooper, center, and Gary Herbert were joined on the panel by reporter Jennifer Dlouhy (Photos courtesy Jason Hallmark, Hallmark Photos)

Herbert with Vision BlogGov. Herbert made a point about having an energy plan by highlighting the "10-Year Energy Vision for the West" he spearheaded as WGA ChairmanColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert discussed a variety of energy issues facing the West during a public session on Wednesday (Aug. 6) of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Energy Summit.

The session, "Unscripted: Energy the Western Way," was co-sponsored by the Western Governors' Association and Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), which staged the Energy Summit.

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury introduced the governors at the session, moderated by reporter Jennifer Dloughy, who covers energy policy and oil and gas from Washington, D.C., for Hearst Newspapers.

The Governors addressed an array of issues, including fracking, how the marketplace can influence "winners and losers" in energy sources, the role of the industry to inform the public Jim O Mentoring BlogWGA's Jim Ogsbury later shared insights on leadership with young leadersabout its practices, even sage-grouse conservation efforts in the West.

After the session, Ogsbury participated further at the event held in the Colorado Convention Center, sharing insights on leadership with young leaders.

Read a story about the session by Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press, as well as one by Cathy Proctor of the Denver Business Journal. Carolyn Davis of Shale Daily filed this report.

Learn more about COGA and the Energy Summit by visiting the association's website.

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

Congress doesn't act on wildfire funding, while fires keep raging out West

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prescribed-fireWestern Governors want land management to continue even when wildfire suppression costs soar.

More wildfire coverage: Seattle Times reporter Joe O'Sullivan spoke with WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury and others for an Aug. 10 story about the growing issue of how to fund wildfires. (More). An Aug. 6 story in the Twin Falls (ID.) Times-News by reporter Brian Smith reported on Congressional inaction on wildfire funding, examined next steps for legislation and noted the support of Western Governors for a solution. More.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Forest Service will soon have to scale back some $500 million in projects designed to help prevent wildfires so that it can meet the expenses of fighting this summer's round of fires. More.

Aug. 4: Despite a bipartisan effort to secure additional funding to battle wildfires, members of Congress have left for their August recess. That in spite of the fact that 186 wildfires burned across the U.S. on Monday, according to the Coordination Center.

Reporter Alan Neuhauser of U.S. News & World Report just wrote a story about the problems that inaction will create.

Neuhauser's reporting includes reaction from Western Governors' Association Executive Director Jim Ogsbury about the pressing need to find a funding solution to help end of "fire-borrowing." That practice occurs when the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) use funds from non-fire suppression accounts – such as hazardous fuel reduction and restoration projects -- to pay for wildfire suppression. (Read more)

Efforts continue to solve the wildland firefighting budget issue

WGA's Jim Ogsbury testifies before Natural Resources Subcommittee in support of land-exchange reform bill

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Ogs TestimonyWGA Executive Director Jim OgsburyWestern Governors strongly support the Advancing Conservation Education Act of 2014 (H.R. 4901) to expedite federal-state land exchanges that benefit both parties.

That was the message delivered by Western Governors' Association Executive Director Jim Ogsbury during testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday (July 29) before the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.

Ogsbury's testimony noted that "State land managers have a fiduciary duty to manage state trust lands to maximize their revenues for specified constitutional purposes, such as public education. Federal lands are managed for entirely different purposes."

Ogsbury continued: "Where state lands are effectively trapped inside federal conservation areas, it only makes sense to effect exchanges so that the federal government can acquire and manage that land consistent with its purposes and the state can acquire land from which economic value can be realized.

"The problem is that the ... time-swallowing bureaucratic requirements associated with appraisals, analyses and environmental reviews (and their staggering costs) operate to defeat otherwise sensible trades. It is critical that Congress enact legislation

Drought Update: California still struggling, while Nevada, Oklahoma, New Mexico also experience severe conditions

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NYT Drought MapThis interactive map from The New York Times shows how drought has grown and retreated since March.Drought continues to plague the West.

According to the U.S Drought Monitor, 30 percent of the U.S. was grappling with moderate to extreme drought at the end of June. The New York Times just published an interactive graphic map (Mapping the Spread of Drought) that shows how drought has grown and retreated in the U.S., particularly in the West.

California has been especially hard hit by an historic drought. Some recent headlines:

The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 50% of California is experiencing "exceptional" drought -- the harshest on a five-level scale. Previously, the Times reported that more than 80% of California is now in an "extreme drought." Three months ago, it was 68%. Read the story.

Heat and drought have meant more wildfires in California this year by a wide margin. See how much more.

A recent study by the University of California, Davis showed a staggering 2014 impact of the drought on state agriculture.

The groundwater level in the San Bernardino Basin area is at its lowest point in recorded history.

The opening in San Jose of a new, high-tech water purification plant means they will be able to greatly expand use of recycled water.

Drought also continues across the West as well:

Lake Mead in Nevada has dropped to its lowest level since it was first filled

Wildfires continue to rage in Washington, Oregon

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Northwest Wildfires 2014Northwest Fires Map, 2014 (Northwest Interagency Coordination Center)Wildfires continue to burn in enormous areas of Washington and Oregon. Here's an update:

WASHINGTON

The Carlton Complex of fires has burned nearly 400 square miles in the north-central part of Washington and destroyed 150 homes. The Associated Press now reports that the cost of fighting this season's wildfires in Washington has crossed the $50 million mark. Learn more and get the latest on fire-fighting efforts.

President Obama on July 22 approved a request by Gov. Jay Inslee for an Emergency Declaration to make additional federal resources available to help with the ongoing wildfires response. According to the Governor's office, "this assistance will help address power outages in areas where electric infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, and will also assist with debris removal." (The president also mentioned his work with Western Governors on wildfires in some remarks at a Washington event.)

Gov. Inslee declared a state of emergency on July 15 in the 20 counties of Eastern Washington and since then has amended the proclamation on July 21 and on Aug. 1 to include a temporary outdoor burn ban in Eastern Washington, effective through Aug. 8.

OREGON

In Oregon, firefighters are closing in on full containment of the massive wildfires in the state, but hot weather will continue to cause problems as they continue to monitor the 13 wildfires that have scorched nearly 620,000 acres. Learn more.Oregon Wildfire 2014The White River Fire (Oregon De

Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency on July 16, which mobilized the Oregon National Guard to assist the Department of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office, and others with firefighting. See fire updates from the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Find updates and maps of wildfires for Oregon and Washington by visiting the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

CALIFORNIA

The Los Angeles Times reports that frought and high temperatures have led to a significant jump in wildfires in California (Learn more) and NBC News reports that the cost to battle wildfires could reach $1 billion in the state alone.

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

Executive Director's Notebook: A cowboy's principles offers great guidance for us all

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By Jim Ogsbury

The first time I introduced former congressman and current Idaho Governor Butch “C.L.” Otter, I publicly ventured that he was more comfortable in his cowboy boots than in the wingtips of Capitol Hill. Later he took me aside and explained that he never wore a pair of wingtips in his life.

Cowboy EthicsGov. Otter is no drugstore cowboy. He and his wife, Lori, have a long history of rodeo participation, and I’ve learned that the sure way to draw him to the Western Governors' Association Winter Meeting is to hold it in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo.

Illustrating his devotion to the Western way of life, the Governor recently shared with me 10 principles to live by (drawn from James Owens’ book Cowboy Ethics):

1) Live Each Day with Courage.
2) Take Pride in Your Work.
3) Always Finish What You Start.
4) Do What Has to Be Done.
5) Be Tough, But Fair.
6) When You Make a Promise, Keep It.
7) Ride for the Brand.
8) Talk Less and Say More.
9) Remember That Some Things Aren’t For Sale.
10) Know Where to Draw the Line.

My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I’m committed to learning these principles – not only because they offer a great guide to life but also because Governor Otter has threatened to quiz me on them during WGA’s meeting in December.

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 Governors support 'Protecting Lakes Against Quaggas Act'

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Quagga PhotoWestern Governors support S. 2530, the “Protecting Lakes Against Quaggas Act of 2014,” introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada).

"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," the governors said in a letter signed by Western Governors' Association (WGA) Chairman, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Vice Chairman, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

WGA previously expressed support for similar legislation introduced in the House last year (H.R. 1823, the “Protecting Lakes Against Quaggas Act of 2013.”).

The governors, however, welcomed the additional provision in the Senate bill "clarifying that water transfers which may unintentionally transport quagga mussels through water conveyances are not in violation of the Lacey Act. The Governors note that restricting the movement of water across state lines would place an undue burden on states that rely on deliveries of water from upstream neighbors."

Read and download the letter.

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

California drought study shows statewide cost of $2.2 billion, loss of 17,100 agricultural jobs

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A new study revealsCalifornia Drought Study that California's historic drought will cost the state $2.2 billion in 2014 and result in the loss of more than 17,000 jobs. The report released on Tuesday (July 15, 2014) by the University of California Davis Center for Watershed Sciences also reports:

The drought in 2014 will result in a 6.6 million acre-foot reduction in surface water available to agriculture.
This surface water loss will be partially replaced by increasing groundwater pumping by 5 million acre-feet, at a cost of $454 million.
The resulting net water shortage of 1.6 million acre-feet will cause losses of $810 million in crop revenue and $203 million in dairy and other livestock value.
Direct costs to agriculture total $1.5 billion.
The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion, with a total loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs.

The study notes that groundwater pumping is expected to replace most river water losses, but that could be a perilous solutions. “California’s agricultural economy overall is doing remarkably well, thanks mostly to groundwater reserves,” said Jay Lund, a co-author of the study. “But we need to treat that groundwater well so it will be there for future droughts.”

Western Governors are well aware of the impact of drought. At the recent Western Governors' Association (WGA) Annual Meeting, the governors renewed a Memorandum of Understanding with NOAA to continue working together to disseminate drought and extreme weather data, information and analysis in support of resource management decisions in Western states.

New WGA Chairman, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, also announced that his Chairman's Initiative would be creation of the Western Governors Drought Forum. The Drought Forum, created to foster a dialogue about best practices for drought management, will include an analysis existing state drought plans, regional meetings on drought impacts to specific communities, and a report that captures these lessons learned.

Read and download the report.

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

Forest Service 'Groundwater Directive' prompts questions from Western Governors on state authority, science

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US Forest Service LogoSept. 17, 2014: Read a story by Amy Joi O'Donoughue of the Deseret News about members of the Utah Water Development Commission sending a letter to the U.S. Forest Service expressing their concern over the agency's proposed Forest Service directive on groundwater management.

July 23: Read the Elko Daily Free Press Commentary: Drunk with power, agencies come for our water.

July 3: Western Governors have expressed concern to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) recent Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management.

Western states are the exclusive authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing groundwater resources, and they are responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries. That authority was recognized by Congress in the Desert Land Act of 1877 and reasserted in a 1935 Supreme Court ruling.

Despite that background, the Proposed Directive only identifies states as “potentially affected parties” and asserts that the proposed actions would “not have substantial direct effects on the states.”

An initial review of the Proposed Directive, however, leads Western Governors to believe that this measure could have significant implications for states and their groundwater resources. (Read our letter)

As a result, the Governors are requesting that USFS seek "authentic partnership" with the states to help achieve policies that reflect both the legal division of power and the on-the-ground realities of the region. In addition, the letter from the Western Governors' Association -- signed by WGA Chairman and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and

WGA 2014 Annual Report highlights policy work in wildlife, energy, water, drought and wildfires

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2014 Annual ReportIt's been another busy, productive year of policy work for Western Governors.

That's not just talk: The recently published Western Governors' Association 2014 Annual Report details a year of successful policy initiatives on issues that included wildlife conservation, energy, water, drought and wildfires. And that's just to name a few of the regional issues tackled by the governors.

In addition to learning about WGA's extensive policy outreach, you'll find a letter from 2014 WGA Chairman and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper that examines the work of the past year. Gov. Hickenlooper also shines a light on the Western Governors Drought Forum, the coming year's initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, the 2015 WGA Chairman.

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury offers a compelling read on exactly why Western Governors are national leaders and you can learn more about how WGA operates, from finances to our board of directors.

Here's where to go read and download the 2014 WGA Annual Report

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

Nevada Gov. Sandoval supports USDA investment in Bi-State Action Plan for sage-grouse

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Gov SandovalNevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, incoming Chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, expressed his support today (June 20, 2014) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to provide up to $25.5 million of conservation investments as part of its contribution to the federal, state and local 2012 Bi-State Action Plan.

"I am pleased with these agreements and the strengthening of our ongoing partnership with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior," said Gov. Sandoval. "This announcement, coupled with promising population data, underscores our firm belief that the bi-state sage grouse is not warranted for protection under the Endangered Species Act."

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a release, said the investment over the next 5 to 10 years will "accelerate and focus conservation efforts that will benefit ranchers and also the distinct population of greater sage-grouse that lives along the border of Nevada and California." The bi-state population of sage-grouse is being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

On the state level, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is committing $2.5 million

Western governors support bipartisan land-exchange reform bill introduced in the House

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idaho farragut 2LISTEN: Public radio station KUER in Salt Lake City, part of the National Public Radio Digital Network, reported this story about why land exchange reform is a good idea with bipartisan support. Story.

Western Governors strongly support federal land exchange reform legislation introduced in the House today (June 19, 2014) by Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

The Advancing Conservation Education Act of 2014 (H.R. 4901) facilitates state-federal land exchanges, now a complex process that more often prevents land exchanges. Consequently, state lands remain locked in federal conservation areas, and states are deprived the economic benefit of land grants that were made to fund education and other purposes.

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) delivered a letter today that expressed WGA's belief that the bill's language, which improves the process by which states can relinquish lands within federal conservation areas and select unappropriated lands of equal value, represents a strong step toward

Interior makes $436 million payment to local governments in PILT funding for vital services

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PILTCoverInterior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today (June 17, 2014) that roughly 1,900 counties around the country are receiving a total of $436.9 million under the 2014 Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

The payments include about $384 million for states served by the Western Governors' Association, which worked with House and Senate Appropriations Committees back in December to support full funding in the final FY14 Appropriations bill. 

The FY14 Congressional budget deal included language for PILT to be funded, but left it up to appropriators to make the final decision on whether the program would be funded and to what extent. Ultimately, payments were included as part of the Farm Bill approved on Feb. 4, 2014. (Read and download our letter.)

PILT is payment to counties for nearby federally-owned lands to make up for taxes that would be collected locally if those lands were privately held. States and local governments use the funds for services such as

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury speaking at Wyoming Mining Association meeting

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jim color 2Western Governors' Association Executive Director Jim Ogsbury will address the Wyoming Mining Association during its annual convention in Jackson Hole.

Ogsbury will deliver his remarks on Thursday (June 19) at the Jackson Lake Lodge.

The WGA leader is part of an impressive speakers' lineup at the meeting, which includes Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, University of Wyoming President Richard McGinity, and Stuart Sanderson of the Colorado Mining Association.

The Wyoming Mining Association represents and advocates for 39 mining companies producing bentonite, coal, trona and uranium. The convention runs from Wednesday through Friday (June 18-20). Learn more.

WGA recently hosted 10 Western Governors at its Annual Meeting. Read a recap.

VIDEO: See what WGA has accomplished in the past 30 years. Watch.

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

WGA Annual Meeting Day 3: Governors elect Nevada's Brian Sandoval Chairman, Oregon's John Kitzhaber Vice Chair for coming year

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Gov SandovalNevada Gov. Brian Sandoval was elected Chairman of the Western Governors' Association (WGA) and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber was elected Vice-Chairman on the final day (June 11, 2014) of the 2014 WGA Annual Meeting.

Gov. Sandoval takes the gavel from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has served as WGA Chairman for the past year. After the announcement of the vote, the Nevada governor delivered closing remarks on his initiative for the coming year.

"Historically, Governors have led the fight against drought in their states. I expect that to continue," said Gov. Sandoval. "Such executive leadership is the heart of my Chairman’s initiative – the creation of the Western Governors Drought Forum.

"The Forum will support governors’ leadership on drought preparedness and response. We’ve touched on a number of topics during the meeting this week that I hope we can expand upon by leveraging the water, agriculture, and resource experts in our states."

During the course of the coming year, the Forum will work to foster a dialogue about best practices for drought management. Deliverables include:

An analysis, already initiated by Gov. Hickenlooper, of existing state drought plans, common themes and unique approaches;

A series of regional meetings on drought impacts to specific communities, resources or industries;

A report that captures these lessons learned;

Publication of case studies via a best practices digital library;

Codifying the framework so that the Forum lives beyond its initial year.

Gov. Sandoval's remarks brought the three-day Annual Meeting to a close.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Western Governors held their final public policy session on "Managing Inter-related Challenges of Wildfire, ESA and Invasive Species." The Governors discussed how policy responses for inter-related challenges impact each other and must be integrated to address problems holistically.

Read a DAY 1 RECAP and DAY 2 RECAP of the meeting.

Check out a slideshow of photos featuring Governors, special guests and Annual Meeting events.

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

Western Governors approve 6 resolutions ranging from Regional Wildfire Resources to State Clean Air Act Authority

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Western Governors have agreed to six new policy resolutions on a variety of issues that range from Species of Concern and Candidate Species to Regional Wildfire Fighting Resources.

The new resolutions approved by the Governors on June 11, 2014, were announced by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, the incoming WGA Chairman, at the 2014 Western Governors’ Association Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs, hosted by outgoing WGA Chairman, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Respecting State Authority and Expertise: Except as mandated by Congress, the management of resources through the establishment of environmental standards and natural resource planning goals, as well as the means of achieving those standards and goals, should be left to the states.

Regional Wildfire Fighting Resources: Western Governors believe western states should work together to identify options to expand the availability and sharing of wildfire firefighting resources.

Species of Concern and Candidate Species: Western Governors believe that states need clear, concrete guidance from Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service about the requirements of conservation plans in meeting minimum conservation goals.

Federal Agreements with Western States: The federal government should honor its historic agreements with states and counties in the West to compensate them for state and local impacts associated with federal land use and nontaxable lands within their borders that are federally owned.

State Clean Air Act Authority and Air Quality Regulation: States have significant regulatory responsibility under the Clean Air Act and are tasked with developing implementation plans to accomplish CAA objectives.

State Wildlife Science, Data and Analysis: Western Governors direct the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council to continue its guidance in the development, management and implementation with partners of the state CHATs and Western Governors’ CHAT.

To read and download these resolutions and previous resolutions, visit the Policies page on the WGA website.

For more information and to arrange an interview about the resolutions, contact Joe Rassenfoss, Communications Director, Western Governors’ Association, 303-803-8008 or send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

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

 

WGA Annual Meeting Day 2: Governors meet with EPA chief on carbon emissions rule, delve into water and energy issues

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Western Governors Colorado SpringsThe 10 Western Governors in attendance, from left: Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota, Gary Herbert of Utah, WGA Chairman John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Vice Chairman Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Steve Bullock of Montana, Jan Brewer of Arizona, and Butch Otter of Idaho.

Western Governors met with the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the recently proposed regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal plants during the second day of the 2014 WGA Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs.

While several Governors take issue with the rule, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy later characterized the discussions in a press conference as "collegial" and noted that the regulations aren't "the end-all be-all," but that she hopes it changes companies' strategies on energy EPA Chief McCarthyEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks with the mediadevelopment. Read what Governors such as John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Matt Mead of Wyoming had to say in this Associated Press story.

McCarthy later delivered a keynote at the meeting, in which she noted "the states in this region are doing some wonderfully creative things to promote clean energy and energy efficiency." She also discussed the proposed rules and the model of "cooperative federalism" she hopes to apply to their rollout.

Fred P. Hochberg, Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., delivered a keynote in which he noted that exports from western states that were supported by Ex-Im financing created or sustained 760,000 jobs over the last five years.

The first session of the day, about the challenges of managing water in the West, seemed appropriate on the same day that President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) into law. Western Governors advocated for WRRDA's reauthorization and worked to gain the inclusion of several priorities for western states. Learn more.

The day also included a session on energy in the west, as well as a "Western Issues Forum," hosted by Washington Post reporter Reid Wilson and featuring Governors Hickenlooper, Mead, Sandoval and Bullock.

Learn more by reading our DAY 1 RECAP and our DAY 3 RECAP.

Check out a slideshow of photos featuring Governors, special guests and Annual Meeting events.

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

WGA Annual Meeting Day 1: President Obama, drought readiness, Secretary Jewell, MOU with NOAA

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WGA Press ConferenceGovernor John Hickenlooper discusses the Western Governors conversation with President Barack Obama about wildfires joined by, from left, Matt Mead, Dennis Daugaard, Steve Bullock, Butch Otter and Gary Herbert.

VIDEO: "This Week at Interior" includes Secretary Jewell's visit to Annual Meeting. Watch

The opening day of the 2014 Annual Meeting was historic for Western Governors, as they participated in a live video-teleconference with President Barack Obama to discuss the wildfire season and efforts to improve forest management, including an end to the practice of "fire borrowing."

While it was a continuation of the Governors' discussion with the President on wildfires, following a White House meeting in February, it represented the first time the Western Governors have had an in-person conversation with any president during a WGA meeting.

At a press conference that concluded Day One of the meeting at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, all of the governors characterized the conversation as positive and said they supported legislation in the House and Senate that would end the practice of taking money that would be used for fire mitigation to use for fire suppression.  

Jewell and GovsSecretary Jewell with governors Herbert, Otter and Mead at tourism MOU signing.The day began with members of the Western States Tourism Policy Council, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other federal agency heads today signing a memorandum of understanding aimed at promoting federal-state dialogue and cooperation on western states tourism and public lands issues. Governor John Hickenlooper spoke and was joined at the ceremony by governors Matt Mead of Wyoming, Gary Herbert of Utah and Butch Otter of Idaho.

The afternoon session included a keynote by Secretary Jewell, followed by a roundtable on "Preparing for and Responding to Drought and Flooding," moderated by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Guests on the panel included Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Department of Defense, and Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary, Department of Agriculture.

The afternoon session concluded the signing of an MOU by WGA Chairman Hickenlooper and Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Administrator, to continue a collaboration on drought, flooding, and wildfire preparedness (Read more and download the MOU.)

The official business of the day concluded with the governors conducting a press conference attended by the Colorado Springs Gazette, Associated Press, E&E News and Washington Post.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, WGA Chairman, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Vice Chairman, hosted eight fellow governors at the 2014 Annual Meeting, including Arizona's Jan Brewer, Idaho's Butch Otter, Kansas's Sam Brownback, Montana’s Steve Bullock, , North Dakota's Jack Dalrymple, South Dakota's Dennis Daugaard, Utah's Gary Herbert and Wyoming's Matt Mead.

Learn more by reading our DAY 2 RECAP and our DAY 3 RECAP.

Check out a slideshow of photos featuring Governors, special guests and Annual Meeting events 

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

Western Governors, NOAA sign agreement to deliver drought, extreme weather data to states

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The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding today (June 9, 2014) in Colorado Springs that renews and strengthens collaboration on drought and flood preparedness.

MOU Signing Gov. Hickenlooper and Dr. Kathyrn Sullivan at the MOU signing between NOAA and WGA. The purpose of the new MOU is to improve the development, coordination and dissemination of drought and extreme weather data, information and analysis in support of resource management decisions in Western states. 

The agreement was signed in a ceremony during the opening day of the 2014 WGA Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs by NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan and WGA Chairman and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

"The droughts and wildfires across our nation's western states directly, or indirectly, affect us all,” said Dr. Sullivan. “NOAA is working, along with our partners like the WGA and governors, to ensure that people have the environmental intelligence they need to be prepared to tackle threats from drought and wildfires. From weather and water forecasts to climate analyses and predictions, demand for NOAA's data is greater than ever, as western businesses and citizens plan for what is likely to be a very dry summer."

The parties will work to ensure that collection and sharing of crucial drought, flooding and extreme weather-related data and

Watch the video: Western Governors' Association remains committed to policy work on 30th anniversary

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Western Governors have been working together for the betterment of the West for more than a century, but 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of their work under the umbrella of the Western Governors' Association.

To mark that milestone from 1984, WGA has created a short video that explains the association's creation, mission and ongoing work, including the insights of WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury.

It's an especially good time to re-examine our heritage as we close in on the Western Governors' Association Annual Meeting June 9-11 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

Enjoy the video.

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

Reauthorization of Water Resources Reform and Development Act includes 'wins' for Western Governors

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The 91-7 vote today (May 22, 2014) in the Senate to reauthorize the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) delivers significant ‘wins’ for Western Governors. The House approved the measure 412-4 earlier this week.

WRRDAThe influential water infrastructure legislation that guides federal water development, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will cost $5.4 billion over the 2015-2019 period, with $6.9 billion spent from 2020-2024 and additional spending in the years after 2024.

Western Governors strongly supported reauthorization of WRRDA because the responsible development and management of water resources is critical for Western states, which routinely face both scarcity issues and flood management challenges. (Read our letter.)

Here are the results of three specific WGA “asks” for the bill:

State Authority in Water Management: WGA asked conferees to continue to recognize and protect states’ interests and rights in water management, and to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from charging for surplus water. The conference committee responded

WGA appeals 'water transfers' ruling that would limit states' rights, add expense to Western water

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hoover-damThe Hoover Dam is one of the many engineering marvels that brings water to the West.UPDATE, May 29: The Environmental Protection Agency formally announced that it intends to appeal the court decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that vacated and remanded the “water transfers rule.” Previously on May 28, 11 Western states announced their intention to appeal the decision.

Original post, May 13: The West would be uninhabitable if not for engineering marvels that bring water from near and far to agricultural and urban areas. But a recent court ruling would create unneeded regulatory hurdles that would make these critical water transfers difficult to accomplish and prohibitively expensive.

That's why the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the Western States Water Council are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to appeal a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that vacated and remanded the “water transfers rule.”

The rule clarifies that water transfers are not subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

A letter sent on May 12 to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, co-signed by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury

Colorado wildfire outlook 'normal,' but several parts of state worrisome

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Wildfire ScienceListen to the NPR story on scientists studying how wildfires behave. (Photo Sean Nealon/University of California, Riverside) The current outlook for significant wildland fire potential for Colorado is expected to be normal, at least for the early part of the wildfire season.

That was the word from Gov. John Hickenlooper and state wildfire experts, who made the announcement Monday (May 12).

At this time in Colorado the areas of greatest potential for wildfire are the plains of Eastern Colorado, until green-up expands; southeastern Colorado, where severe drought conditions continue; and southwest Colorado, where snowpack values are below average.

“We know wildfires are going to occur, and it’s up to everyone to make sure they are taking the right steps to mitigate the danger and be prepared,” Hickenlooper said. “With forecasts and planning, plus the addition of new resources related to wildfire response, we are doing what we can at the state level to be prepared in the best way possible.”

Find a complete report on Colorado here.

Learn more about wildfires by listening to this NPR story, which reports on how federal fire scientists are trying to better understand the physics behind what makes blazes spread. Listen.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper invites you to the Western Governors' Association 2014 Annual Meeting, June 9-11 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Learn more and register.

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

House, Senate edge closer to authorization of Water Resources Reform and Development Act

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WRRDAHouse and Senate lawmakers reached a deal Thursday (May 8, 2013) on a conference report for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

The E&E News story (subscription required) by Annie Snider notes "the legislation would authorize new lock, dam, levee and ecosystem restoration projects and attempt to peel back some of the red tape at the Army Corps of Engineers."

Western Governors strongly support reauthorization of WRRDA because 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 legislation passed the Senate last May and was resoundingly approved by the House in October, 2013. However, the bills were significantly different and conference negotiations have been ongoing since November.

At this time, details of the deal are not being revealed until the final conference report is filed, so make sure to check back for updates.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper invites you to the Western Governors' Association 2014 Annual Meeting, June 9-11 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Learn more and register.

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

Fish & Wildlife Service seeks to delay Gunnison sage-grouse ruling until November

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Sept. 16: The Denver Post reports on the wide-ranging, cooperative effort in Colorado to keep the Gunnison sage-grouse from being listed as an endangered species. It also notes the concerns of residents that it still won't be enough when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes its decision on the bird's status Nov. 12.

As a member of the Gunnison County Board of Commissioners told the paper: "If you voluntarily alter how you work your land and that's not enough, it sends a clear shot across the bow. It says, 'Why put in the effort, why put in the money, why tax your resources? Because in the end it will never be enough.' " Read the story.

 

Read and download the formal court motion to extend the deadline.

March 6: The final decision to list the Gunnison sage-grouse as an endangered species appears to have been pushed back to November.

E&E News reported todayGunnsion Sage Grouse (May 6) that "The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is asking a federal court for a six-month delay in making a final determination whether to list the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species." Read the story (subscription required)

The current deadline for the decision on the Gunnison sage-grouse, whose range includes Colorado and Utah, is Monday, May 12. If the extension is approved by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, the ruling would move to Nov. 12.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter on April 28 to FWS Director Dan Ashe requesting an extension of the deadline, in part because "the counties that would be impacted by the listing in Colorado have worked diligently to conserve habitat and to demonstrate the effectiveness of their efforts to your agency."

U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, and Congressman Scott Tipton, also sent a letter seeking an extension.

The E&E story notes the "Bureau of Land Management partnered with Colorado

Natural Resources Conservation Service reports $350 million has been invested in conservation across 3.8 million acres in 11 states since 2010

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Read and download WGA's letter and the NRCS response.

Media Coverage: Reporter Benjamin Storrow of the Casper Star-Tribune covered the release of the NRCS figures and spoke with Wyoming officials about conservation work in the state (Story). Scott Streater of E&E News wrote about how the numbers bolster arguments by Western Governors that a listing could impede voluntary conservation partnerships with ranchers and other landowners (Story). High Country News associate editor Sarah Gilman wrote about sage-grouse conservation, including the NRCS report. Story.

April 28: Since 2010 more than $350 million has been invested to address threats facing sage-grouse and Western rangelands. Nearly $250 million of that total has come from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) via the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI), while more than $107 million has come from partners and landowners. 

Sage GrouseThat strategic investment through SGI has allowed the NRCS to partner with 953 ranches to implement conservation on 3.8 million acres across the 11-state range of the sage-grouse. An additional $15 million has been invested via NRCS and partners through the SGI Watershed Action Team.

The NRCS report notes, however, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) recent proposal to list the Bi-State distinct population segment of the greater sage-grouse as "theatened" has dampened participation by landowners in that region straddling Nevada and California.

"Although we experienced significant growth in Bi-State SGI participation in the period of FY 2010 through FY 2013, landowner interest has dropped precipitiously in FY 2014," the NRCS reported in a letter sent to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (WGA Vice-Chair).

"While several factors likely influence landowner participation, it appears this decline is associated with the FWS proposal to list the bird in the fall of 2013."

The NRCS report is in response to a letter from Western Governors seeking details on SGI's work and the impact of a "threatened" or "endangered" listing for the greater sage-grouse. FWS is expected to release a ruling on greater sage-grouse

WGA News: Montana Business Plan, wildfire vigilance in Arizona, California special session, workforce summits in South Dakota

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The Western Governors' Association monthly roundup of Western news includes updates from Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Hawaii, Oregon, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada and more.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Business Plan: Gov. Steve Bullock released a business plan for Montana, as part of his Main Street Montana Project, emphasizing a trained workforce, responsible development of natural resources, and the nurturing of innovative businesses.

Alaskan RefineriesAlaska Gov Sean ParnellGov. Parnell: Gov. Sean Parnell proposed tax credits worth up to $20 million a year for in-state refineries and a potential reduction in royalty payments. 

Expanded Market for Potatoes: Gov. John Hickenlooper announced that Mexico has published new rules that permit expanded access to the Mexican market for U.S. fresh potatoes. This will allow producers in Colorado to increase potato exports to Mexico.

Rainy Day Fund: Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. called for a special session of the California Legislature to replace the Rainy Day Fund on the November ballot with a dedicated reserve that would allow the state to pay down debts and unfunded liabilities.

Interstate 11: Gov. Brian Sandoval and Gov. Jan Brewer unveiled road signs for the future Interstate 11. The proposed corridor between Las Vegas, Nev., and Phoenix, Ariz., would link the two largest adjacent metropolitan areas without an interstate freeway.

ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES

Eradication of the Rhino BeetleGov. Eddie Calvo appointed a task force for the eradication of