WGA Annual Meeting Day 2: Zinke emphasizes park infrastructure, Anschutz examines birth of the West at Mt. Rushmore

The Western Governors heard Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke discuss the need to maintain National Park Service infrastructure and entrepreneur Philip Anschutz describe the role of innovation in the building of the West during a special Day 2 session of the Western Governors’ Association 2018 Annual Meeting at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Gov. Daugaard welcomed the crowd at the Mount Rushmore Amphitheater, which included WGA attendees and park visitors, and noted it was an appropriate meeting place. “It is a fitting location for this prestigious group of Governors and thought leaders who, like the presidents enshrined, come from different political backgrounds but share a goal to make our nation a better place.”

Governors at Mount Rushmore included, from left in photo, Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Butch Otter (Idaho), Gary Herbert (Utah), Steve Bullock (Montana), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota) John Hickenlooper (Colorado), and Matt Mead (Wyoming).

Highlights from the day:

Keynote: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

“Our regulatory framework needs to promote innovation and embrace technology, also to increase reliability, safety and environmental safeguards. Our regulatory framework should be what puts us on the cutting edge to move forward as a country.”

“Now it is time for a grand pivot. Infrastructure will become a key issue for Interior moving forward. America needs to invest in our parks, and investment is partnering with our vendors and states to make sure that the priority is set in cooperation.”

“The other part of the pivot is a reorganization. DOI is the fourth oldest department in the federal government. It is time for a reorganization to look at how to do things better. There are different bureaus within interior that don’t talk to one another, or to states.”

Gov. Mead asked the Interior Secretary: “Not only are we in a place where the sage grouse is not listed, but the model to get there was really important. When you have everyone working together towards the same goal, do you see that as the model going forward to address other issues with endangered species?”

Secretary Zinke answered: “The Fish and Wildlife professionals within the states do a great job. We need to do a better job of listening to them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to any of these issues but using flexibility and relying on state expertise is pivotal. “

Keynote: Philip Anschutz

Gov. Hickenlooper’s introduction of Philip Anschutz noted that while he is one of America’s best entrepreneurs, “Everything that he does contains the core values of the West, his philanthropic ventures speak for themselves, and there are family values in everything that he does.”

Highlights from the keynote, which in part focused on the rapid expansion of the West that occurred between 1800 and 1920, as outlined in Anschutz’s book, “Out Where the West Begins (Volume 2).”

“One of the early factors of western innovation was seemingly endless land. The second was the opportunity to improve one’s station in life – economically and culturally. The belief and acceptance of the American Dream. What these factors did, was drive large numbers of people West.”

“Starting in 1800, there was not much out West that anyone knew much about, but by 1920, just those lands west of the Mississippi became the fourth largest industrial power in the world. The real question isn’t how the West was settled in this short time, but rather how did this republic survive the many crises and situations that we had to face early on in our history?”

“What were some of the factors that led to this innovation? The country declared its intentions to become independent. It managed to create the framework of how it planned to govern itself. It prevailed in several wars, acquired more land, created a functional court system and operational system for collection of taxes. It created a functional military and declared that this part of the world was off limits to foreign intervention. It created a number of legislative successes leading to settlement out West.”

The day at Mt. Rushmore began with a breakfast keynote by Jerry Lohr. The South Dakota native founded J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in 1974, and it now produces more than 1.5 million cases of wine annually.

The 2018 Annual Meeting will conclude on Wednesday, June 27, with a roundtable discussion about the opioid crisis, the announcement of new WGA policy resolutions, and a panel feature First Spouses, including First Lady Linda Daugaard of South Dakota.

Read the Annual Meeting Day One Recap, Day Three Recap

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