News 2014

Eight Western Governors join Energy Secretary Moniz, Interior Secretary Jewell at Winter Meeting in Las Vegas

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Gov SandovalSeven Western Governors will join Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association, for two days of conversation on the vital issues facing the West at the WGA Winter Meeting Dec. 6-7 at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas.

Governors John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Butch Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Gary Herbert (Utah) and Matt Mead (Wyoming) have committed to attend.

WGA meetings routinely include significant federal guests, who

California Gov. Brown, Nevada Gov. Sandoval open Western Governors' Drought Forum on agriculture

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Governor Brown

California Gov. Jerry Brown and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday kicked off the third meeting of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum, “Drought Impacts and Solutions in the Agricultural Sector.”

Governor SandovalGovernors Brown and Sandoval offered opening remarks at the two-day meeting being held at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. The gathering organized by the Western Governors' Association (WGA) is the third of four to be held this year as part of the Drought Forum, the Chairman’s Initiative of Gov. Sandoval, WGA Chairman.

Gov. Sandoval opened the meeting with remarks that noted California's historic drought and reminded that much of the West also faces drought. In fact, Gov. Sandoval noted that 97% of Nevada is experiencing some level of drought.

Gov. Brown, who has spearheaded his state's response to a historic three-year drought, mentioned that while California is making progress in battling drought's impact, the process will continue "to test our imagination, our science and our political capacity to collaborate." (Read more in this Associated Press story.)

The first day of the California meeting also included sessions on current drought conditions in the West and drought’s impact on the agricultural sector. Each Drought Forum workshop highlights a case study. On Thursday that was a roundtable of California and federal officials discussing “Cross-Agency Collaboration in Addressing Record Drought.”

Droiught Forum Room ShotThe Western Governors' Drought Forum is the Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. The Drought Forum fosters a regional dialogue in which Western states and industry can share best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management. Participants at Drought Forum workshops identify ways to avoid and mitigate the impact of drought on communities, economies and the environment in a specific sector.

Previous workshops have been held in Norman, Okla., where the focus was drought impact on energy, and Tempe, Ariz., which focused on the energy, mining and manufacturing sectors. The final meeting of 2014, “Drought Impacts & Solutions for Water Supply,” will be held Dec. 8-9 in Las Vegas.

The Western Governors’ Drought Forum includes an online resource library, a collection of best practices, case studies and news about drought that can be found on the WGA website.

You can find 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).

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

WGA announces new Communications Assistant in Denver headquarters

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Amy Schweig Mug ShotThe Western Governors' Association is pleased to announce the hiring of Amy Schweig as Communications Assistant. Amy will support WGA's growing reach in digital media, including social media and blogging.

Born and raised in Tennessee, Amy earned a BA in political science and business administration from the University of Tennessee. She worked on the campaign of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, the first woman to hold that office, and subsequently worked in communications for the City of Knoxville and the Office of the Mayor.

Prior to joining WGA, Amy's work experience included

Western Governors urge House, Senate leadership to fully fund PILT, SRS

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PILTCoverWestern Governors have reached out to House and Senate leadership, requesting full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) programs for Fiscal Year 2015.

Western Governors remind leadership in the Nov. 12 letter, signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Vice Chairman and Oregon Gov. John A. Kitzhaber, that the federal government "must fulfill its longstanding obligation to fund these programs for rural counties with tax-exempt federal lands and for timber-dependent counties that rely on this funding."

State and local governments need PILT and SRS to pay for basic but necessary services such as education, infrastructure and public safety. Because authorizations for PILT and SRS are currently expired, if they are not reauthorized state and local governments may soon be unable to provide these important services.

Therefore, Western Governors urge leadership "to work together to find a permanent funding solution for these programs and end the annual authorization and appropriations uncertainty that interferes with planning and budgeting in these small communities."

Read and download the Western Governors' letter.

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

Watch videos of case studies presented at first two Drought Forum Workshops

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The first two workshops of the Western Governors' Drought Forum are now in the books. The presentation of a case study is a major part of each workshop. In addition to making those case studies available in print form online, we have also created video presentations of each.

VIDEO: Adopting Efficient Water Management Strategies to Promote Economic Development in the Oklahoma Panhandle (Presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum workshop, Managing Drought in the Energy Sector, in Norman, Okla.)

VIDEO: Gila River Water Shortage: A Productive Partnership between Gila River Indian Community and Salt River Project (Presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum workshop, Drought Impacts and Solutions in the Manufacturing, Mining and Industrial Sectors, in Tempe, Ariz.)

The Western Governors' Drought Forum is the Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. 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).

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

Nevada celebrates 150 years of statehood, while the Dakotas mark 125th anniversary

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state-flag-nevadaThree Western states mark memorable milestones this weekend: Nevada celebrates 150 years of statehood, while North Dakota and South Dakota mark their 125th anniversary.

October 31 is Nevada Day, the annual celebration of statehood. The 36th state admitted to the union began the process in September of 1863 when Nevada Territory voters approved the concept of statehood. After several procedural ups and downs, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Nevada a state on October 31, 1864.

Read more about Nevada's path to statehood -- and the longest and most expensive telegram ever sent up to that time, which conveyed the state constitution to Washington, D.C. -- Flag of North Dakotain the Online Nevada Encyclopedia.

November 2 marks 125 years of statehood for North Dakota and South Dakota, our 39th and 40th states.

American settlement of the Northern Plains began in earnest when The Dakota Territory was organized in 1861 by Congress, but significant immigration didn't start until construction of the Northern Pacific Railway began in 1872. North Dakota and South Dakota were granted statehood by President Benjamin Harrison on Nov. 2, 1889.

flag of south dakotaSo why two Dakotas? For one, the two population centers in the territory were far from each other in the northeast and southeast corners of the territory. Nationally, there was pressure from the Republican Party to admit two states to add to their political power in the Senate.

Whatever the reasons, we congratulate Gov. Jack Dalrymple of The Peace Garden State and Gov. Dennis Daugaard of The Mount Rushmore State on their 125th anniversary, as well as WGA Chairman and Gov. Brian Sandoval of Battle Born Nevada. 

Here are stories on the celebrations in NevadaNorth Dakota (where they opened a $52 million expansion of the state heritage center) and South Dakota.

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

Drought Update: NOAA Winter Outlook calls for warm West, L.A. slashes water use, Phoenix planning for a not-so-rainy day

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The Western Governors' Drought Forum is the Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. 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).


NOAA Winter Outlook 2014The recent U.S. Winter Outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center calls for above-average temperatures in the western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.

The report noted: "While drought may improve in some portions of the U.S. this winter, California's record-setting drought will likely persist or intensify in large parts of the state.

"Complete drought recovery in California this winter is highly unlikely. While we’re predicting at least a 2 in 3 chance that winter precipitation will be near or above normal throughout the state, with such widespread, extreme deficits, recovery will be slow." Read the outlook.

Here are other headlines about drought in the West:


NEVADA: Northern Nevada’s fish affected, but weathered a third summer of drought.


UTAH: Late summer rains didn't add much to state's water year.

IDAHO: See why this year's Idaho irrigation season was short for some, long for others.

COLORADO: See how state's eight water basins water basins are working on solutions that will culminate in a state water plan.

The Western Governors' Drought Forum also includes regional workshops that gather experts to share best practices, case studies and other information to help states better anticipate and manage drought. Read a complete summary of our Oklahoma meeting on the energy sector and the highlights from our recently completed Arizona workshop on mining, manufacturing and industry. 

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

Case Study takes closer look at many uses of Western Governors' Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool

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CHAT Case Study CoverThe Western Governors’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) represents an unprecedented effort by 16 western states to create an online mapping tool that depicts crucial wildlife habitats.

"Crucial habitats" provide the natural resources important to aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, including species of concern and hunting and fishing species.

The non-regulatory tool that debuted in December 2013 provides a common starting point for project pre-planning – particularly for regional, multi-state projects. The launch of CHAT followed years of work by Governors and their state wildlife agencies – as well as partners in industry, non-profits and the federal government.

So who is using CHAT? And how are they using CHAT? Six months after the launch of the tool, Western Governors' Association Policy Advisor Katie Kalinowski conducted a survey on how CHAT had been adopted and applied. Some highlights:

  • The primary focus for CHAT use was conservation, followed by energy development;
  • CHAT has been used by people from all 50 states, but the top 5 are Colorado, Oregon, California, Washington, Montana;
  • There were nearly 35,000 page views in the first six monts after its debut.

The Case Study, produced with support from the Hewlett Foundation, offers much more information about how CHAT has been used. In addition, you'll see comments from three entities (EDF Renwable Energy, Noble Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) about how they use CHAT and their suggestions for further improvement of the tool.

Read, download the CHAT Case Study.

 Read, download a previous Case Study supported by the Hewlett Foundation on a collaborative effort by state, federal, local and private entities to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions along a stretch Highway 89 in Southern Utah.

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

Western Governors’ Drought Forum in Arizona targets solutions both simple and intricate to manage impact on mining, industry, manufacturing

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MEETING SUMMARY: Read WGA's complete report on the meeting.

MEDIA COVERAGE: Read an Arizona Republic story by reporter Brenna Goth and listen to a report by Andrew Bernier of KJZZ. ALSO: The NOAA Winter Outlook issued Oct. 15 notes there is "at least a 2-in-3 chance that wintertime precipitation will be near or above average throughout (California)." More

The second meeting of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum examined the challenges facing mining, manufacturing and industry during a period of drought. Here are some highlights of “Drought Impacts and Solutions in the Manufacturing, Mining and Industrial Sector,” a two-day meeting (Oct. 7-8) at the Salt River Project PERA Club in Tempe, Ariz. The gathering organized by the Western Governors' Association (WGA) for the Chairman’s Initiative of WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval was sponsored by the Salt River Project. (See the agenda.)

Keynote: Sandra Fabritz-Whitney, Director of Water Strategy, Freeport-McMoRan

“One thing that we struggle with in Arizona is people telling us we are going to run out of water … We aren’t. People have worked for decades to ensure that we are not going to run out of water.”
rsz fabritz whitney profileSandra Fabritz-Whitney“Our facilities (Freeport-McMoran) are zero discharge facilities. We want to capture every drop of water that leaves an operation to minimize any potential environmental impact, while also conserving water.”
“If the state is going to continue to grow economically, our water supplies must keep pace. Gov. Brewer has launched a planning effort to close the projected future gap between water supplies readily available and where the state needs to be positioned in order for the state economy to grow.”
“Arizona needs to recognize the importance of local neighbors, water providers, and agricultural providers. Those partnerships are where these problems will be solved. Companies like Freeport may be able to solve short-term problems alone, but wide-reaching planning issues can’t be solved alone.”

 Roundtable: Setting the Stage: Drought Impacts in Arizona and the West 

Kevin Werner profileKevin WernerKevin Werner, Western Regional Climate Services Director, NOAA: “We are not out there to do science for science’s sake; we are doing things to help inform decision makers.”
Nancy J. Selover, Ph.D., Arizona State Climatologist: 
“It is important to remember that in arid and semi-arid environments, it is typical to have extreme variability within wet or dry periods. You will likely have a huge spike in rain even during dry periods and vice versa.”
Charlie Ester III, Salt River Project:
 “People ask me if the drought is over. I usually answer, does it matter? Arizona is such a dry climate that planning for drought needs to become the norm, not just something done during dry years.”
“Salt River Project is, above all else, a drought management agency. Our job is to provide water no matter what. That means adapting to meet projected increases in future demand as well as an expected decrease in supply.

View, download the slides for this roundtable.

Roundtable: Drought Impacts and Strategies for the Manufacturing, Mining and Industrial sectors

Leisa Brug, Director, Governor’s Office of Energy: “In terms of water treatment efficiency, using less water means treating less water. We are encouraging system Bill Staudemire profileBill Staudenmaierowners to use best practices like leak detection and benchmarking.. This may sound easy but it is often being overlooked.”
William “Bill” Staudenmaier, Partner, Snell & Wilmer: “Effluent water needs to be addressed as a source of power plant water. It is about as close to a drought-proof water supply source that you will get. As population grows, so does your effluent – and, so does your demand for power.”
Travis Brady, President and CEO, Brady Industries: “Even though (our company) reduced a tremendous amount of water use, the cost of the water didn’t directly justify the investment. It was more about the long-term survivability of our business.”
Steve Schnoor, Director Land Water and Energy, Rio Tinto Kennecott: “Water is essential to our operation. It is used in most facets of mining, so it is incumbent upon us to look at how we are using best practices.”

Case Study: Partnership between Gila River Indian Community & Salt River Project

 The Gila River Indian Community in central Arizona had used irrigation to support agriculture for more than 2,000 years. Diversions and a lack of federal policy to protect the water led to agricultural production declines and famine. Years of litigation led to McJunkin Case Study ProfileChrista McJunkinthe Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004.

Jason Hauter, Akin Gump, Gila River Indian Community: “The community is not located on the Colorado River -- its claims are to the Gila River and the Salt River. The political reality is that those rights are not available. So the tribes had to make use of the water available on the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project (CAP). This makes the tribes the single largest customer of CAP water.”
Christa McJunkin, Senior Water Resource Analyst, Salt River Project: “When you have a defined goal, it is easier to come up with a definite fix. When you have multiple stakeholders involved the discussion of a solution is much more involved than with an individual party.”

Read more about the case study or watch a video of the case study.

Drought Forum Case Study Gila River Community Salt River Project

Roundtable: Needs and New Frontiers for Data and Analysis

David Yates, Scientist, Hydrometeorological Applications: “Data integration is very difficult. Bringing observation into models is very difficult. New satellite observations will Room shot profileallow data assimilation to improve.”
Brian Conway, Hydrologist, Arizona Department of Water Resources: “During periods of drought, datasets on groundwater and land subsidence become increasingly important for those making water management decisions. New satellite technology is really helping in this.”
Doug Toy, Water Regulatory Affairs Manager, City of Chandler, Arizona: “We have found that gallons per capita, per day is an inappropriate metric for industrial cities like Chandler. It is more beneficial to look at economic activity per acre-foot. Eventually we would like to take a metric like that and build it into policy making.”

View, download the slides for this roundtable.

DAY 2: Roundtable on Technologies and Innovative Approaches

Robert Lotts, Manager of Water Resources, Arizona Public Service: “We have Business Solutions Teams that are working with industry to develop energy saving Nate Hines profileNate Hinestechnologies. In saving energy, we are also saving water.”
Nate Hines, Principal, Hines, Inc.: “The key to better water management is minor behavioral changes. Roughly 1 million gallons per acre per year is wasted from irrigation, with many sites over-watering by 200%. There is a lot of room for water savings by simply changing this behavior.”
Matt Cook, Water Resources Section Manager, HDR: “The need to be water sustainable for packaged goods is being driven by huge retailers. You need to be able to show sustainability throughout the supply chain. It is a social imperative in the food and beverage sector, because consumers demand it.”
Cheryl Lombard, Government Relations Director, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona: “Many parts of Arizona rely on groundwater and stretching that supply is critical to our future. The time may come for Arizona to talk about expensive infrastructure augmentation, but there is still a lot that can be done now with existing infrastructure to save water and money.”

View, download the slides for this roundtable.

Roundtable: Policy Approaches that help/hinder industry adjusting to drought 

Michael Lacey, Director, Arizona Department of Water Resources: “When you look Michael Lacey profileMichael Laceyat what it took to get the Salt River Project built, the Central Arizona Project built – it was a sustained, multi-generational effort. We are at that point again where we must recognize that we need additional supplies and work towards that point.”
Vanessa Hickman, Arizona State Land Commissioner, Arizona State Land Department: "The Land Department benefits from having land in basins eligible for transportation of groundwater under state law. How to implement this is a lengthy conversation, but it is worth pursuing to make sure the state’s long-term water needs are met.”
Nicole Patterson, Arizona Director, Protect the Flows: “We are building the business voice for sustainable water, water conservation and healthy, flowing rivers. Sustainability is not just a marketing campaign. Conservation of water matters directly to the bottom line.” 

View, download the slides for this roundtable.

Read and download the agenda and a list of attendees. Learn about other Western Governors' Drought Forum meetings here. Don't forget to consult the Western Governors’ Drought Forum online resource library to find a collection of best practices, case studies, resources and news about drought.

The Western Governor’s Drought forum is being conducted in partnership with NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. The Arizona meeting was sponsored by the Salt River Project.

Sign up for drought e-mail updates (select "Water and Drought" on this page) and follow the hashtag #wgadrought on Twitter.

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

Western Governors’ Drought Forum meets in Arizona to discuss impact on mining, manufacturing, industry

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Drought Forum for Home PageThe second workshop of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum just concluded in Tempe, Ariz. Participants at the two-day meeting examined the impact of drought on the manufacturing, mining and industrial sectors.

The Drought Forum opened with a keynote address by Sandra Fabritz-Whitney, Director of Water Strategy at Freeport-McMoRan, who noted that the state of Arizona used as much water last year (7 million acre feet) as it did 1957.

The speech was followed by a session that focused on drought conditions in Arizona and how the state is innovating in response. Nancy Selover, Arizona State Climatologist, and Kevin Werner, Regional Climate Services Director (Western Region) for NOAA, both took part.

Later sessions on the first day addressed drought's impact

Western Governors tell Forest Service proposed directive does not recognize state's sole authority over groundwater

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US Forest Service LogoMedia coverage: Reporter Amy Joi O'Donoghue of the Deseret News wrote about the USFS proposed directive and pushback from Western Governors and other concerned parties (Story). Previously, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Sean Whaley wrote about the governors' response and E&E News reporter Scott Streater also wrote about the governors' comments (Story, subscription required)

Oct. 6: Western Governors have submitted comments to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) about its proposed directive on groundwater resource management that details why this measure could have significant implications for Western states and their groundwater resources.

For a complete description of Western Governors’ concerns

Western Governors support bipartisan bill to improve Forest Service trail maintenance

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Hitting the trail is a Western tradition; outreach by Western Governors aims to keep that trail well maintained.

Forest Service trailU.S. Forest Service photoWestern Governors expressed their support this week for the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (H.R. 4886), bipartisan legislation that would, if enacted, expand National Forest trail maintenance efforts in the West.

In a letter to the bill's co-sponsors, Reps. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Timothy Walz of Minnesota, the governors noted: "Our highest priority regarding our nation’s forests is to improve forest health in order to reduce wildfire threat and improve watersheds and habitat. Congress has provided new tools and programs to facilitate state and private efforts to help the Forest Service improve the health of forests they manage.

"Similarly, your bill would facilitate the use of volunteers and guides to help repair and maintain trails on Forest service lands. In a budget constrained environment, this only makes sense."

The letter was signed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Western Governors' Association (WGA) Chairman, and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, WGA Vice Chairman.

The legislation is timely, the Governors noted, because currently only a quarter of National Forest trails are maintained to Forest Service standards, and the agency currently faces a $314 million backlog in trail maintenance. Given the trails' role in supporting western states’ recreation industry, this maintenance has long-term importance.

Read the letter.

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

Western Governors concerned federal work with states on sage-grouse conservation an "afterthought," seek "clear, concise input"

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Western Governors are concerned that federal coordination with states in the planning process for greater sage-grouse conservation is being "treated more as an afterthought" by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

Sage GrouseThe letter sent on Sept. 29, 2014 and signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, co-Chairs of the State-Federal Sage-Grouse Task Force, notes that the need for closer coordination was first identified at the task force meeting on June 12, 2014. However, the letter continued, "it was not until Sept. 19, 2014 that ...BLM proposed dates and times for these discussions."

The Governors' letter was sent to Steve Ellis, Deputy Director/Operations, Bureau of Land Management, and Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief/National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service.

The letter continues: "As Governors, we feel that federal coordination

Western Governors’ Drought Forum meeting showcases importance of innovative water use in energy sector

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MEETING SUMMARY: Read WGA's complete report on the meeting.

MEDIA COVERAGE: Read stories from the Norman Transcript and The Oklahoman, and watch a story by 7News (KSWO) about the Drought Forum meeting. Also: Read the latest U.S. Seasonal Drought outlook from the National Weather service.

The first meeting of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum examined the challenges facing the energy sector in a period of drought. Here are some highlights of “Managing Drought in the Energy Sector,” a two-day meeting (Sept. 18-19) at the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla., organized by the Western Governors' Association (WGA) for the Chairman’s Initiative of WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Fallin Taking Questions at OK Drought Forum

Welcoming Remarks: Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma 

"In Oklahoma we’ve been experiencing drought since the fall of 2010. Recent rains have reduced the severity and size of the drought, but still 70% of our state is experiencing

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin kicking off first Western Governors’ Drought Forum meeting

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Read a story in the Norman Transcript about the inaugural Drought Forum meeting.

Gov Mary FallinOklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will kick off the first meeting of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum, “Managing Drought in the Energy Sector,” with a speech on the impact of drought on the state and region.

The two-day meeting (Sept. 18-19) is being held at the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla. The event organized by the Western Governors' Association (WGA) is the first of four to be held this year as part of the Western Governors’ Drought Forum, the Chairman’s Initiative of WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Gov. Fallin's speech will be followed by a report on current drought

Western Governors applaud Senate approval of BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act

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Read our Letter in support of the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project

BLM LogoWestern Governors are encouraged by the Senate's passage of the BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act of 2014. The act would reauthorize and expand a successful Bureau of Land Management permit streamlining program established by the 2005 Energy Policy Act that is set to expire next year.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), told E&E News that the bill's passage was "a great step forward" for New Mexico BLM's offices and that "I am hopeful the House will act quickly to give the BLM and industry the certainty they need to produce for New Mexico." (Read the story, subscription required.)

The Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project was launched by then-Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton

Executive Director's Notebook: A Challenge to Congress: Enact Bipartisan State-Federal Land Legislation

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By Jim Ogsbury

Map of Grand Teton National ParkGrand Teton National Park is an extraordinary place. Its mountains are breathtaking, its lakes and rivers pristine. Wildlife is abundant and the majesty of nature reigns supreme. It is one of the crown jewels of the national park system.

When visitors pay their fee at the gate, are greeted by a park ranger and review the maps and literature they receive, there is no question that they have arrived at a national park. They might conclude that the United States has created a special enclave, to be protected forever for the enjoyment of future generations.

And they would be mostly right. There is, however, just one glitch.

The federal government doesn’t own the entire park.

At the time it entered the union, the State of Wyoming was granted school trust lands in what later became Grand Teton National Park. The state continues to own

Western Governors’ Drought Forum launched by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

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Sandoval Drought Forum Website

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval launched the Western Governors’ Drought Forum on Thursday, Sept. 11, with the announcement of the regional initiative’s first four meetings and the rollout of an online resource library to collect case studies and best practices.

Gov. Sandoval created the Drought Forum, his main initiative as Chairman of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), to foster a regional dialogue in which states and industry can

A graphic look at California's historic drought

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Time lapseThere are many ways to illustrate the increasing impact of drought in the West.

One of the best recent examples comes from the Los Angeles Times. The paper has collected data from the U.S. Drought Monitor to create a facinating and disturbing time-lapse graphic that shows since 2011 the rapid encroachment of extreme drought in more than 80% of California.

Here's where to find the 10-second snap-shot.

Speaking of California, Doyle Rice of USA Today recently reported on the state's current three-year-drought. Rice writes that it is "only part of a longer-term, 15-year drought across most of the Western USA one that bioclimatologist Park Williams said is notable because 'more area in the West has persistently been in drought during the past 15 years than in any other 15-year period since the 1150s and 1160s — that's more than

Montana Gov. Bullock signs Executive Order establishing Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Program

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Gov BullockMontana Gov. Steve Bullock has signed an executive order establishing the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, which seeks to maintain state management of the sage-grouse by protecting its habitat, while respecting the private property rights of Montanans.

The Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, according to a press release from Gov. Bullock's office, has broad support from a diverse group of interests, including the "natural resource industries, ranchers, wind power advocates, sportsmen, and conservationists."

“Montanans recognize that it is in the best interest of our state, its economy, and our quality of life, to maintain state management of the Greater sage-grouse,” Bullock said of the executive order. “Through a public process, and the work of a diverse group of stakeholders, we’ve developed

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:


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.


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.


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.