Best of the West: Wildfires create severe health hazard, solar strategy in the Path of Totality

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting August 7, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Wildfires continued in the Pacific Northwest and Canada this week, blanketing the region in smoke. Air quality in Montana, Washington and Oregon has become a health hazard and some residents have been advised to evacuate.  

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock visited Seely Lake, where the Rice Ridge Fire has grown to 9,300 acres. "Going into the season I had a briefing that this should be one of our lighter seasons because of the moisture on the west side” Bullock said. “That's not proven to be true.” Learn about the economic impacts of Montana’s destructive wildfire season.

In Washington, smoke is beginning to recede from fires burning in British Columbia, but an air quality alert remains in place until midday Friday.

Lightning sparked several fires in Oregon, prompting officials to tighten restrictions on campfires and activity. Rain in the southwest part of the state helped tame the Flounce Fire, allowing Gov. Kate Brown to cancel a request for additional firefighting resources. Photo above: Jim Ryan | The Oregonian/OregonLive  

To see a real-time wildfires map of the region, click here. 

Increasing Energy: Energy production, especially in wind, is up in the West. Colorado ranks in the top 10 states for wind energy, while Kansas and North Dakota commissioned the most wind projects in the country last quarter. In overall energy production, Wyoming, Texas and North Dakota rank in the top five net producers, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Opening Doors to Jobs: Western states are taking a leading role in tackling the issue of workforce development. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called on rural leaders to take an “all hands on deck” approach, and in Colorado a new law requires that high school students be told about skilled labor jobs in addition to college options. To meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard launched the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative in Sioux Falls last week.   

Solar Strategy: The first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in nearly 100 years is just over a week away. Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska are bracing for an influx of viewers and preparing as they would for a natural disaster. For a western roundup of eclipse information, visit our updated guide.  

Income Going Up: Personal income is on the rise in western states, with the fastest growth in Idaho, Utah, Washington, California and Nevada. Read more about the Pew Charitable Trusts study.

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


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