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News 2016

Drought Update: California water concerns continue despite filling reservoirs

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shastaLake ShastaFollowing a weekend of heavy El Niño storms, California's two largest reservoirs have risen above historically average levels. The critical boost marks the first time in three years that the state's largest reservoir, Lake Shasta, has met this milestone.

While the shift in weather has been positive for California, water officials urge cautious optimism. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that while the California is closer to recovery, state officials say the historic drought certainly is not over and much of its resulting damage and deficits remain.

State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus has advised (More)

Documentary filmmaker Dayton Duncan to speak about National Park Service Centennial at Annual Meeting

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Dayton Duncan for 2016 Annual MeetingDayton DuncanWe're excited to announce that award-winning author and documentary filmmaker Dayton Duncan will speak about the National Park Service's founding at the Western Governors' Association 2016 Annual Meeting (June 12-14) in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Duncan, who wrote and produced The National Parks: America's Best Idea with legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, will deliver a multimedia keynote on June 12 as part of an opening-day session marking the centennial of the National Park Service.

Ten Western Governors will be on hand for the meeting hosted by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. Others include: WGA Vice Chair Steve Bullock of Montana, and Governors Doug Ducey (Arizona), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho), Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota), Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres (Northern Mariana Islands), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota) and Gary R. Herbert (Utah).

The National Parks is only one of many significant projects for Duncan and Burns, who also collaborated on the 12-hour series The West. Duncan's other credits include Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, a four-hour documentary that earned the second-highest ratings in the history of PBS, following The Civil War .

Previous documentaries by Duncan explored (More)

Best of the West: NM OKs ridesharing, Oregon shooting investigation

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting March 7, 2016, that you don't want to miss: 

New Mexico Gov Susana MartinezGov. MartinezRidesharing expansion: New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has signed a bill allowing ride-booking companies Uber and Lyft to operate in the state.

Malheur Investigation: The fatal shooting of an Oregon occupier has been deemed justified "and, in fact, necessary," but an FBI team still faces an investigation for misconduct. Also: there are new charges against the militants, including theft of government property.

Safer wind energy: Colorado's National Renewable Energy Lab is working on self-stopping wind turbines to save birds.

Wildfire innovation: Trying to predict the next wildfire? There's an app for that.

Rocky Mountain High rent: Colorado ski areas just sent a record $23 million in rent to the federal landlord.

See last week's Best of the West.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Governors Hickenlooper, Mead launch Denver workshop on ESA Initiative

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Governor HickenlooperGov. HickenlooperColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead kicked off the latest workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative in Denver by challenging participants to continue collaborative conservation work while looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act.

Gov. Hickenlooper, who hosted the two-day (March 9-10) workshop, said it was important for Western states to harvest their natural resources while protecting the native habitat.

Gov. Mead reminded attendees of the ESA's 1.4% success rate for species recovery, noting that often it was legal challenges alone that keep species listed. "Lawyers are winnning on the ESA. The question is: Are the species winning?"

The Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative is (More)

Best of the West: FWS proposes delisting Yellowstone grizzly, avalanche deaths spike

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GrizThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed to delist the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. 

Thursday's (March 3) proposed rule from FWS comes as the result of extensive state conservation efforts to recover the bear. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead called the proposed ruling to remove the bears from the endangered species list a "great success story," while Montana Gov. Steve Bullock described the proposal  as "welcome news."

As the Western Governors’ resolution Endangered Species Act notes: (More)

Find agenda, livestream details for Denver workshop of WGA Species Conservation and ESA Initiative hosted by Governors Hickenlooper, Mead

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ESA Website Main Page

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hosted and spoke at the third workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative March 9-10 in Denver.

Gov. Hickenlooper was joined at the workshop by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who also spoke as part of his Chairman's Initiative. Topics discussed at the workshop included (More)

Species Spotlight: Recovering the Oregon chub through conservation partnerships

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chubOregon chub populations were in steep decline due to habitat loss and nonnative species predation in 1993 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Oregon native minnow under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This installment of Species Spotlight takes a closer look at partnership-driven conservation efforts since then by private landowners and conservation groups, as well as state, tribal and federal entities. That work helped grow populations and, in 2015, resulted in the Oregon chub becoming the first fish to be delisted under the ESA.

CONSERVATION ACTIONS (More)

Best of the West: Nevada Gov. Sandoval withdraws from Supreme Court consideration, Oregon standoff plea entered

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 22, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

Nevada Gov Brian SandovalNevada Gov. SandovalSCOTUS declined: Amid nomination rumors, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has announced he is bowing out of consideration for the open Supreme Court seat.

Oregon standoff saga continues: Ammon Bundy and other militant occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have plead not guilty. Meanwhile, the FBI has completed processing crime scenes and returned control of the federal sanctuary to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is estimated that the 41-day occupation has cost taxpayers $3.3 million, a number expected to grow.

Fiery waterfall: Check out stunning images of Yosemite's rare "firefall," and learn the hurdles photographers have gone through to capture it.

Cosmic Crisp: Learn what's special about the new trademarked and focus group-tested apple that will be available for planting only to Washington farmers for at least a decade.

Water flows: California officials have boosted the amount of water they expect to deliver this year from the state's mountain-fed reservoirs to the highest allocation in three years.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Oregon 'picture of economic health;' 6 western states named Innovation Champions

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bloombergOregon has been called "the picture of economic health" in an analysis of Bloomberg's Economic Evaluation of States report on the first three quarters of 2015. 

Oregon's economic health index rose the most in the nation; Washington, Utah and Colorado were also listed in the top 10 states with the most improved economic vitality.

Also in the report: California, Utah and Oregon showed the highest percent increase in personal income, while Colorado, Nevada and Oregon had the highest percent increase in home prices. Read more

States across the West are making economic progress on a variety of fronts. Here are some highlights: (More)

Governors Hickenlooper, Mead to host March 9-10 workshop in Denver of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative

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Colorado Gov John HickenlooperGov . HickenlooperColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hosted and spoke at the third workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative March 9-10 in Denver.

Gov. Hickenlooper was joined at the workshop by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who also spoke as part of his Chairman's Initiative.

Topics discussed included state leadership in species conservation efforts; legal analysis of the Endangered Species Act, and species conservation funding. (Watch all the sessions)

Species Conservation & ESA Initiative Webinar: The Role of Conflict and Litigation in the ESA

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The Western Governors’ Association hosted a Feb. 25 webinar as part of its series for the Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.

The Role of Conflict and Litigation in the ESA examined how litigation shapes the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and affects species conservation efforts. Panelists representing a diverse range of interests will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. Watch the webinar.

WEBINAR DETAILS (More)

Best of the West: Oregon occupier seeks billions in damages, Colorado rockslide

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 15, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

Oregon standoff saga continues: The militant occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is over, but the news doesn't. The Oregonian is keeping up with the latest from the ongoing drama, including: One occupier is seeking $666 billion in damages from "the works of the devil"; Cliven Bundy and four others face a federal charges in Nevada; firearms, explosives and feces are among the items left behind at the refuge.

rockslideColorado rockslide

Toxic blooms: New algae research could explain all those strange happenings in Alaska's waters.

Rocky road: A massive rockslide on a major Colorado highway left three vehicles severely damaged and part of the interstate closed for repair.

Legislature approved: A bill aimed at welcoming and regulating ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft in New Mexico is headed to Gov. Susana Martinez's desk for consideration.

Potential skiing milestone: Utah ski resorts report that this year is on target to hit record skier numbers.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors' News: Arizona regulation freeze, Colorado innovation challenge, Oregon's small business boost

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The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup of news showcasing the work of Western Governors in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and other areas. Here is what the Western Governors have been working on lately:

Alaska Gov Bill WalkerAK Gov. WalkerALASKA Gov. Bill Walker released a report on the economic impacts of the Alaska Marine Highway System that found the state-run ferry system doubles every dollar invested.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey renewed his moratorium on all new regulatory rulemaking by state agencies.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown proposed an initiative to reduce wasteful spending at state prisons and reduce prison population sizes.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper launched Imagine Colorado, the nation’s first-ever statewide open innovation challenge.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation to (More)

Western Governors urge EPA to recognize state authority on water quality issues

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EPA LogoWestern Governors have sent comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to its request for Information on Existing Programs That Protect Water Quality From Forest Road Discharges.

The outreach, sent on Feb. 12, 2016, highlighted states' federally-recognized authority to manage and allocate water within their boundaries. Submitted comments included: "The Clean Water Act (CWA) does not require EPA to regulate forest road stormwater discharge," and "EPA should leave the management of stormwater discharges from forest roads to the states, unless otherwise determined by a specific state."

Western Governors also cited (More)

Best of the West: Oregon standoff ends, Colorado's billion dollar marijuana sales

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 8, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

oregonoccoverSource: OregonianOregon Occupation Over: The 41-day standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon ended today (Feb. 11) with the peaceful surrender of four holdouts after an hourlong negotiation with the last protester. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has also been arrested and will appear in federal court in Portland on charges from 2014. See the Oregonian's play-by-play account of the final day's developments and learn how you can help restore the Malheur refuge.

Pot Profits: Colorado marijuana sales reached nearly $1 billion in 2015, allowing the state to collect more than $135 million in related taxes and fees.

Housing Blueprints: Los Angeles has approved plans to fight homelessness with $1.85 billion over the next decade. Boise unveiled a "housing first" plan, modeled after a Salt Lake City program, aimed at permanently housing the city's homeless.

Ancient agriculture: The oldest ever footprints found in the Southwest, discovered in Arizona, provide new insights into how Native people practiced a complex system of irrigation agriculture 2,500 years ago. 

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Drought Update: California extends water conservation rules despite deep snowpack

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snowsurveyCA2California snow surveyRecent heavy rain and snowfall in California have some residents pushing back against the state's mandatory water conservation rules. State water officials, however, caution against an overly optimistic view of California's drought outlook and the State Water Resources Control Board recently voted to keep in place the conservation rules established last year.

"We are just at halftime in this rainy season," said Felicia Marcus, the State Water Resources Control Board chairwoman. "A lot could change."

Current benchmark reports concerning the California drought are encouraging. Statewide snowpack is the deepest it has been in five years, and the most recent monthly manual survey near Lake Tahoe measured the snowpack at 130% of normal. Conversely, new reports show that California's water conservation habits are starting to slip as heavy El Niño rains present a communications challenge in convincing residents to continue conserving. Learn more

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the (More)

Gov. Ige to host Hawaii workshop of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative April 7-8

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Hawaii Gov David IgeGov. IgeHawaii Gov. David Ige hosted and spoke at the final workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on April 7-8 in Oahu, Hawaii.

Topics discussed at the workshop included: protecting marine areas; state and local consultation and coordination; climate change and the Endangered Species Act; invasive species impacts on species conservation efforts; and listing and delisting considerations. (Find videos of all sessions.)

The workshop, continued the regional conversation about the signature initiative of WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

The Chairman's Initiative of (More)

Species Spotlight: How collaborative conservation led to a 'Not Warranted' ESA determination for Arctic Grayling in Montana

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Arctic grayling populations, including in Montana’s Big Hole River, had been declining for decades when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1992 first considered listing the freshwater fish under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

graylingThis installment of Species Spotlight takes a closer look at the collaborative conservation efforts since then by private landowners, conservation groups, state and federal entities. Ultimately, that work helped grow grayling populations and, in 2014, resulted in a USFWS determination that listing the species was not warranted.

Species Spotlight, a case study series examining the challenges and opportunities in species conservation, is part of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

CONSERVATION ACTIONS (More)

Western Governors ask EPA to engage states as partners in Clean Air Act considerations

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EPA LogoWestern Governors have sent comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed rule, Treatment of Data Influenced by Exceptional Events (the Exceptional Events Proposal), under the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the related Draft Guidance on the Preparation of Exceptional Events Demonstrations for Wildfire Events that May Influence Ozone Concentrations (the Draft Guidance).

The outreach, sent on Feb. 3, 2016, expressed Western Governors' appreciation for state concerns addressed in the Exceptional Events Proposal and Draft Guidance. The comments also communicated continued concerns over the proposed rules' retention of ill-defined criterion, such as “not reasonably controllable or preventable."

The comments emphasized: (More)

Best of the West: Oregon militants face federal indictments; Google changes forecast for self-driving cars

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 1, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

indictmentsOregon indictments: A federal grand jury has indicted Ammon Bundy and 15 others in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, including four militants who remain at the site. See the newly unsealed documents here.

Autonomous car wet run: Following years of trials in California and Texas, Google will begin testing its self-driving cars in Washington state to see how the vehicles perform in rainy conditions.

Species sighting: Watch the rare video of the only known jaguar in the United States roaming Arizona's mountains.

Western wellness: Looking to improve your sense of well-being? Head West where you'll find the top six states in the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. See how your state ranked.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

When it comes to Super Bowl 50, WGA is partisan in its support for the Denver Broncos

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United in Orange broncosUPDATE: Congrats to the Denver Broncos for their 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers. And we also loved the ads (see them all here).

Feb. 5, 2016: When it comes to policy work, the Western Governors' Association is nonpartisan. When it comes to Super Bowl 50, partisanship takes over.

After all, we're Western. And we're based in Denver. So you can guess our office is pretty excited about the Denver Broncos facing off with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in a game that's being PLAYED out West in Santa Clara, Calif. (The very first Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, by the way.)

Forget the oddsmakers, (More)

WGA supports shared renewable energy lease revenues

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senenThe Western Governors' Association has reiterated its longstanding support for the sharing of revenues derived from renewable energy leasing on federal lands with impacted states and counties to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee leadership.

The letter to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, sent on Feb. 2, 2016, expressed the Western Governors' appreciation of the Committee’s consideration of the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2015 (S. 1407), which would enact such revenue sharing.

The letter highlighted, (More)

Western Governors applaud final rule for Stewardship End Result Contracting

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stewardshipWestern Governors have supported Stewardship End Result Contracting since it was introduced on a pilot basis in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Recently, USDA issued the Final Rule for Stewardship Contracting Projects on a permanent basis, as enacted in reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Stewardship Contracting allows land managers to leverage public-private partnerships with flexible, cost-effective methods that promote forest health. Stewardship Contracting, for example, allows forest products to (More)

Best of the West: Oregon standoff's violent end; California snowpack milestone

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 25, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

oregonmilitantOregon Occupation: Ammon Bundy has told the remaining militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to go home and "please stand down." Meanwhile:

Drought milestone: After recent storms, (More)

Western Governors request clarification on BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program

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whbprogram. WidePar 000104 Image.WideParimage.2.2Western Governors have asked Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze to answer questions and provide additional information regarding BLM's administration of the National Wild Horse and Burro Program

The letter, sent on Jan. 27, 2016, shared the Western Governors' position that burgeoning wild horse and burro populations, paired with the inability of federal agencies to adequately manage these populations, presents an urgent concern for western rangelands and ecosystems.

The outreach included WGA Policy Resolution 2015-01, Wild Horse and Burro Management, which supports thoughtful, appropriate and science-based management decisions for wild horse and burro management. (More)

Species Conservation & ESA Initiative Webinar: Critical Habitat and Invasive Species

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The Western Governors’ Association hosted a Feb. 4 webinar as part of its series for the Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.

WATCH: Critical Habitat and Invasive Species

The webinar examined how critical habitat designations are influenced by invasive species. Panelists representing a diverse range of interests will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. Register here.

WEBINAR DETAILS

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown calls Malheur occupation "intolerable," federal response too slow

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Oregon Gov Kate Brown Official Portrait MugGov. Kate BrownOregon Gov. Kate Brown called the ongoing occupation at the Malheur National Wildfire Refuge "absolutely intolerable" on Wednesday and requested that it be "resolved immediately" by the federal government.

The Oregonian story about Gov. Brown's remarks noted that security and other aspects of the standoff are costing the state about $100,000 weekly, for which she is seeking federal reimbursements. The cost goes well beyond dollars and cents for those living nearby, said Gov. Brown. "The very fabric of this community is being ripped apart."

Read the Oregonian story.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: California drought relief, Colorado's new First Lady, Washington marijuana delivery

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 18, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

hickpringleGov. Hickenlooper weddingEl Niño reprieve: Continued El Niño rains could be California's 'shot out of the drought.'

First Lady of Colorado: Gov. John Hickenlooper got married over the weekend. Learn more about his wife and their nuptials.

Montana mining: Gov. Steve Bullock challenged the moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands and demanded "a seat at the table" as the process moves forward.

Wolverine inventory: Four western states have teamed up on an unprecedented multistate wolverine study

Delivery next? Seattle city leaders are making moves to start the nation's first recreational marijuana delivery service in an effort to curb illegal delivery services.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Gov. Otter urges engagement, innovation to improve species conservation, ESA at Idaho workshop

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Gov Otter Podium Boise Workshop for BlogGov. C.L. "Butch" OtterIdaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter welcomed participants to the Idaho workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Jan. 19 and urged them to be "willing to engage, to listen to the other side's point of view."

"Being part of the process, being part of the solution, and being seriously considered with our ideas is what matters and will continue to matter," said Gov. Otter (Read the Associated Press Story). The governor spoke at the second regional workshop of the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead for the Western Governors' Association at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho.

Gary Frazer, Assistant Director of Ecological Services for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, highlighted the importance of engagement as well. "We can never stop learning, and we know we don't have all the answers, so we look forward to working with the Western Governors' Association on improving how the Act works." (More)