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Best of the West: Out-of-control California wildfire forces 82,000 to flee, first Oregon standoff sentencing, mysterious fish kill

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

bluecutCalifornia's Blue Cut FireWild Fires: California's out-of-control Blue Cut Fire has burned nearly 50 square miles and forced more than 82,000 residents to flee their homes. Veteran firefighters "have never seen fire behavior so extreme" and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the fast-moving wildfire, which is only 4% contained (live updates). Learn how California is cracking down on those who ignite blazes. Also: new wildfires in Oregon have prompted evacuation notices; Idaho's 80,000-acre Pioneer fire is causing air quality concerns; and trout escape wildfire threat in Utah on horseback.

Oregon Standoff Sentencing: The first defendant from the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years of prison for federal conspiracy charges.

Lake Mead Drying Up: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has predicted a water shortage in Lake Mead for 2018, resulting in cut water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada.

Evolving Eruption: Lava pouring into ocean off the coast of Hawaii over the past three weeks has created eight new acres of land. Learn how much new land has been formed from lava flows in the area in the last 30 years.

Mass Kill Mystery: Scientists are searching for the cause behind a mysterious fish kill of more than 10,000 in Yellowstone River.

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.

Western Governors unsatisfied with EPA state consultation process for hard rock mining financial assurances rulemaking

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Western Governors are unsatisfied with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) state consultation process for its pending financial assurance rule for the hardrock mining sectors.

The Governors' outreach on Aug. 16, 2016 to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy broadly criticized the agency's federalism assessment for its pending rulemaking under section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) for the hardrock mining industry. The letter was signed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, WGA Chair, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, WGA Vice Chair.

"Though EPA has initiated opportunities for engagement between federal, state and industry partners regarding this proposal, those opportunities have not been transparent, participatory, or collaborative," the Governors wrote. "State engagement opportunities have lacked the substantive depth necessary to alleviate concerns over potential preemption and duplication of state programs."

In order to alleviate concerns over preemption and duplication of state programs, the Governors requested that EPA provide the draft rule, model and formula for calculation of bond amounts for the hardrock mining financial assurance rule before its publication. The Governors also emphasized the importance of substantive state consultation for potential financial assurance regulation of additional industry sectors including chemical and coal manufacturing.

Read, download the comments.

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

Montana Gov. Bullock announces workshops for Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative

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Governor Bullock at Launch EventMontana Governor Steve BullockMEDIA COVERAGE: Read articles about the initiative launch from the Missoulian, the Great Falls Tribune and the Seeley Swan Pathfinder. Then watch coverage from KPAX Missoula News and ABC FOX Montana.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock launched the Western Governors’ National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative on Tuesday with the announcement that the first three workshops will be held in Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.

The workshops, hosted by the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), will play a central role in collecting the information that will position Western Governors to recommend and promote congressional efforts to improve forest management authorities.

The first workshop on Sept. 20-21 in Missoula, Mont., will include an address by Gov. Bullock and roundtable discussions by experts from across the spectrum of the issue. WGA will host five Initiative workshops in all across the West, said Gov. Bullock, who is taking on this initiative in his role as Chair of WGA. The dates for workshops in Idaho and South Dakota, as well as details on the final two workshops, will soon be available on the WGA website.

“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep workers in our forests, put more logs on trucks, and protect the public land and clean air and water that keep our heritage and economies strong,” Gov. Bullock said at the launch event, which took place at Pyramid Mountain Lumber in Seeley Lake, Montana.

Loren Rose at Launch EventLoren RoseThe Governor was introduced by Jim Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director. Additional remarks were offered by: Loren Rose, Chief Operating Officer, Pyramid Mountain Lumber; Jim Stone, Chair of the Blackfoot Challenge; and Dave Schulz, Madison County (Mont.) Commissioner.

“People often talk about forestry issues and the timber industry in numbers of acres, board feet and stream miles restored. We cannot forget that people do that work – people who know how to work in the woods, how to sustainably harvest trees, and how to restore our watersheds,” said Gov. Bullock.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” said Rose of Pyramid Lumber. “We need to collaborate on these difficult issues and come up with the best compromise.”

“These issues can’t be solved by the Governor’s work alone,” said Stone of the Blackfoot Challenge. “We all need to go to work now.”

Jim Stone at Launch EventJim StoneTo ensure wide involvement, Gov. Bullock noted that WGA will livestream each workshop of the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative on the web. There also will be a series of webinars hosted by WGA, featuring experts on forest and rangeland management, to further broaden the dialogue. Video of the workshop sessions and the webinars will subsequently be available on a website dedicated to the initiative to be launched on the WGA website in the coming weeks.

The National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative will examine forest management programs for their strengths and weaknesses; create a mechanism for states and land managers to share best practices; and investigate collaborative forest landscape restoration. This process will position Western Governors to recommend and promote congressional efforts to improve forest management authorities and encourage more effective collaboration. "We can't wait for Washington, D.C. when it comes to forest health," explained Gov. Bullock.

“One of the major challenges Western states face is the difficult task of coordinating federal, state, and private lands in a responsible and sustainable manner,” said Gov. Bullock. “But I’m confident that when we all roll up our sleeves and begin to put in the hard work, our collective efforts will achieve amazing results all across our western landscape.”

Listen to Gov. Bullock's speech announcing the initiative at WGA's 2016 Annual Meeting.

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

Drought Update: California loses $600 million to drought, Lake Powell in peril

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A new studyucdavis watershed reveals that California's historic drought will cost the state $603 million in 2016 and result in the loss of 4,700 jobs.

The findings from the University of California Davis Center for Watershed Sciences also include:

  • The drought in 2016 will result in a 2.6 million acre-foot reduction in surface water available to agriculture.
  • This surface water loss will be partially replaced by increasing groundwater pumping by 1.9 million acre-feet, at a cost of $303 million.
  • The resulting net water shortage will cause losses of $247 million in crop revenue.
  • Direct costs to agriculture total $550 million.
  • The total statewide economic cost of the 2016 drought is $603 million, with a total loss of 4,700 seasonal and part-time jobs.

Although a staggering blow to the economy, the impact is far less severe than a year ago, which saw a statewide cost of $2.7 billion. The study notes that this year's wetter winter and spring helped California partially recover surface water storage and increased recharge to some aquifers. See the full report

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Part of the Initiative's continuing effort is to share the latest news about drought and its impact on the West.

  • usdm816The latest U.S. Drought Monitor reports exceptional drought in California and extreme drought in MontanaNevadaSouth Dakota and Wyoming.
  • new study finds that another drought similar to the one from 2000-2006 would empty Lake Powell.
  • Learn why experts say summer rainfall is not enough to pull Utah out of drought.
  • Find out what increased drought in South Dakota means for cow elk hunting licenses.
  • See the clever adaptations that giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada use to respond to water stress.
  • Check out the new internet-enabled water monitoring device that will track usage via smartphones.
  • California water regulators have just announced that drought conditions have improved enough to allow restrictions on hundreds of water suppliers to be lifted.

Learn more ...

Droght Forum Cover ImageRead the Western Governors' Drought Forum Report, which is arranged around seven key themes that emerged during the first year of the Forum, and view a video update.

The Western Governors' Drought Forum also includes regional workshops that gather experts to share best practices, case studies and other resources to help states better anticipate and manage drought. Learn more on the Drought Forum website. You can also 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.

Best of the West: GM tests self-driving car in Arizona, California wildfire culprit discovered, Elon Musk's solar vision

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

cruise carAutonomous Vehicles: General Motors has joined Google by expanding the testing of its self-driving car technology to Arizona. Find out why the state has become the hottest new hub for testing and developing autonomous cars.

Wildfire Report: Officials have released a 500-page report into the cause of one of California's most destructive wildfires, the 2015 Valley Fire. See the surprising culprit behind the blaze that killed four people, sent firefighters (More)

Western Governors repeat concern over EPA decision tightening national ozone standard, due to uncontrollable factors

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epaWestern Governors have expressed concern regarding final revisions to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Exceptional Events Rule, which is now undergoing White House review.

The governors contend that EPA's decision to lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone will throw areas in the West into non-attainment status owing to factors outside state control. These factors include wildfire, winter ozone, high winds and geographic factors such as high elevation.

The letter signed by the WGA Chair, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and Vice Chair, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, was sent on Aug. 11, 2016 to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy; Howard A. Shelanski, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget; and (More)

Species Spotlight: Conservation Agreement keeps Graham’s and White River beardtongues off ESA threatened list

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GrahamsBeardtongueSmallGraham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue are perennial penstemon plant species endemic to Uintah County in eastern Utah and Rio Blanco County in western Colorado.

Graham’s beardtongue was listed as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1975, while the White River beardtongue was listed as a candidate species in 1983. A candidate species is one that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has sufficient information to propose as threatened or endangered under the ESA, but is precluded by other higher-priority listing activities.

After their original candidate listings both plants went through a cycle of delisting, and subsequent relisting, as candidate species until the FWS in 2013 proposed to list both species as threatened under the ESA. (More)

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury gets grilled in Canadian "Q & Eh"

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cantieJim Ogsbury and Ambassador David MacNaughtonWGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury was recently selected to participate in a fun interview series with the Consulate General of Canada in Denver, the official representatives of the Government of Canada in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

"Q & Eh" is a bi-weekly interview series in which the Consulate General's team chats with individuals shaping Canada’s relationship with the U.S. Rocky Mountain Region.

Ogsbury is keenly aware of the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Canada, as much of WGA's work in policy development, information exchange and collective action has cross-border implications. He has joined Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Consul General Marcy Grossman on a trade mission to Alberta and was recently honored to host Ambassador David MacNaughton at (More)

Best of the West: California city uses mosquitoes to battle Zika, Big Sur's big blaze doubles, Utah braces for drought

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

mosquitozikaCounterintuitive Zika Fix: The California city of Clovis is attempting to fend off Zika by releasing 40,000 mosquitoes every week. Yes, you read that right. Learn more about the experiment here.

Wildfires Update: The massive wildfire near Big Sur doubled in size over the past week and has now consumed more than 51,000 acres. The growing blaze has resulted in one death and destroyed 57 homes. Started by an illegal campfire, the California wildfire is only 30% contained. Learn about the other major wildfires in the West, including: (More)

Executive Director's Notebook: Collaborative, productive Western Governors provide policy model for others to follow

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By Jim Ogsbury

As we head into the home stretch of a sharply partisan presidential campaign, it is comforting to know that Western Governors continue to exercise steady and reasoned leadership, putting results ahead of politics and the interests of their states ahead of partisanship. The influence of Western Governors’ continues to grow, and their bipartisan approach to collaborative problem-solving is a model for the rest of the country.

Celebrate the West JacksonThe 2016 Annual Meeting of WGA, hosted by Governor Matt Mead in Jackson, Wyoming was an unqualified success. From June 12-14, ten Governors were joined by 360 attendees for panel discussions, policy tours, association business and special events. Meeting highlights included keynote addresses by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and historian Dayton Duncan, who spoke poignantly about the National Park System. (Hear Duncan's speech)

Governor Mead shared the results (Listen) of the first year of his signature policy effort as WGA chair, (More)

West boasts impressive array of athletes at 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio

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olympicsThe West will be well represented by athletes in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In addition to cheering for the Red, White and Blue in Brazil, westerners have plenty of their own Olympians to root for:

  • More than 75 Olympians come from the northwestern U.S. Check out this list of the top ten to watch, including Hope Solo, star goalie for the Women's soccer team
  • The most decorated male on the U.S. roster is (More)

Stunning short films explore Grand Teton, Zion, Smoky Mountains and other National Parks

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mtjpzionHaving a stressful day? Unwind with these spectacular visual journeys through America's National Parks. More Than Just Parks is a project by two brothers who set out to document every national park with its own short film.

Watch the wonders of Grand Teton and Badlands unfold through time-lapse photography in the videos below. And then click here to virtually explore more parks, including (More)

Best of the West: Big Sur’s big blaze, Tesla opens Nevada Gigafactory, Chinese rocket explosion in western skies

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

bigsurfireCalifornia wildfireCalifornia on Fire: A big blaze near Big Sur has consumed more than 23,000 acres, destroyed at least 20 homes, resulted in one death, and prompted a state of emergency declaration for the area. California also has declared a state of emergency for Los Angeles County, where a massive wildfire has consumed more than 38,000 acres. Major wildfires are also raging in ColoradoIdaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Innovation Factories: Tesla has opened its $5 billion Gigafactory in Nevada. When finished, the Gigafactory will cover 5.8 million square feet and employ 6,500 people. Hyperloop One, another brianchild of Elon Musk, (More)

WGA strengthens policy team with hires, builds on administrative expertise with promotions

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The Western Governors' Association has added two members to its policy team and promoted two longtime administrative team members to elevate the work it does for Western Governors.

Lauren DeNinno MugDeNinno"These moves further enhance WGA’s capacity to serve Western Governors," said Executive Director Jim Ogsbury. "We’re adding significantly more muscle to our policy team and improving our world-class event production and support systems."

The new policy team members are:

Lauren DeNinno: Lauren joins WGA as a Policy Associate, with a portfolio that includes land exchanges, mining and tourism. The Pennsylvania native (More)

Western Governors' News: Alaska criminal justice reforms, Hawaii launches industrial hemp program, Oklahoma hits foster care goal

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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 WalkerGov. WalkerALASKA Gov. Bill Walker signed a historic criminal justice reform bill projected to reduce the state’s prison population by 13% by 2024.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation allowing child victims to have therapy dogs along when testifying.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown signed new laws boosting the humane treatment of animals.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill to allow the sale of full strength liquor and wine in grocery stores.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige established an industrial hemp pilot program that allows cultivation and distribution for agricultural or academic research.

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter led his annual trail ride to (More)

LISTEN: Dayton Duncan explains "America's Best Idea" in moving keynote about National Park System

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Dayton DuncanHistorian Dayton Duncan delivered a moving keynote about the origins of the National Park Service, and his personal connection to “America’s Best Idea,” at WGA's 2016 Annual Meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Duncan's speech, which received a standing ovation from Western Governors and the audience, likened the National Park idea to the founding principle of liberty itself.

"The National Park idea says it doesn’t matter if your parents came over on the Mayflower or your parents just arrived," Duncan told attendees. "Each one of you, is the owner of some of the best seafront property this nation has ...You own awesome views of stunning mountains and breathtaking canyons. They belong to you. And all that is required in return is that you put it in your will for your children so that they can have it, too."

Duncan's poignant speech opened with a journey through the National Park System's history and seamlessly flowed into an anecdotal childhood connection and his future wishes for the parks and the country.

Listen to Dayton Duncan's Keynote

 ANNUAL MEETING RECAPS

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Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by reviewing our policy outreach and visiting the blog. You can also sign up for e-mail updates and follow the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: Oregon standoff guilty plea makes 9; prairie chicken off threatened list; Arizona secures Lake Mead water

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

Oregon Standoff: The youngest Malheur Refuge defendant has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, making him the ninth co-conspirator to plead guilty to federal charges (see all 26 defendants' current status here). Meanwhile, a federal judge has declined to release the Bundy brothers from custody following one's attempted jail escape (or was he just practicing his braiding skills?).

lpcgoneLesser prairie-chickenOff the List: The Fish and Wildlife Service has formally withdrawn the threatened listing for the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act.

Lake Mead Water Protection: Arizona has received federal assurances that it will retain control of water stored in Lake Mead.

Tesla's Next Move: Elon Musk's "Master Plan, Part Deux" for Tesla includes a vision for autonomous car sharing that enables your car to pay for itself when you aren't using it. See why some critics say Musk's idea is not so original.

Quick Draws: See how many billions of dollars Colorado raked in for its tourism record ... Meet the Utah teen who designed the world's fastest consumer drone ... Learn how millions of gallons of sewage ended up on Los Angeles beaches.

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.

West commands CNBC 'Top States for Business' list, Dakotas great for millennials, Arizona leads way in aerospace manufacturing

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top statesWestern states earned high marks in CNBC's America's Top States for Business 2016. Utah, Texas and Colorado claimed the top three spots in the tenth annual rankings, which rank states on more than 60 measures of competitiveness. 

Those measures are organized into broad categories, including: workforce (Colorado was #1); cost of doing business (South Dakota was #4); infrastructure (Texas was #2); economy (Texas was #1); quality of life (More)

Western Governors: State licensing authority threatened by Hydropower Regulatory Modernization

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EC logoWestern Governors have expressed concern that existing state hydropower licensing authorities are in danger of being replaced or impeded by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The Governors' July 18, 2016 outreach to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is in reference to Subtitle B: Hydropower Regulatory Modernization of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. (More)

Best of the West: Utah bans drones over wildfires, rare moonbow captured, Tesla autopilot crash

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haydenpassspaceColorado's Hayden Pass FireWildfires continue to dominate the news across the West:

  • Utah lawmakers have approved the first bill in the U.S. that authorizes the disabling of drones that fly too close to wildfires and interfere with water-dropping operations. 
  • Meanwhile, the Cold Springs Fire, which two out-of-state campers have been charged with igniting, has destroyed eight homes outside of Boulder, Colo. And an astronaut tweeted photos taken from space of the nearby Hayden Pass Fire.
  • Earlier in the week, two federal firefighters were killed and another injured in a car crash returning from duties in Nevada. 
  • See the latest updates on major fires burning across the West here, and learn more about Western Governors' work on the issue of "fire-borrowing" in our Annual Report.

Here are the other western stories for the week starting July 11, 2016, that you don't want to miss: (More)

LISTEN: Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead discusses first year of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative, next steps

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Gov Mead at Resolution Session AudioWyoming Gov. Matt Mead discussed the first year of his Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative at WGA's 2016 Annual Meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Gov. Mead told attendees: "If we care about species, if we care about conservation, we should also care about the Endangered Species Act, and we should care about it operating at the best level possible."

Gov. Mead also released a Special Report and video on the first year of his central policy initiative, and expressed that work has just begun. "I refuse to accept that something so important as the Endangered Species Act can't be improved upon. I am not going to go forward in a timid fashion."

Listen to Gov. Mead's Keynote

Learn more about the Western Governors' Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.

Listen to new WGA Chairman Montana Gov. Steve Bullock preview his National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

ANNUAL MEETING RECAPS

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Read, download approved Resolutions

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by reviewing our policy outreach and visiting the blog. You can also sign up for e-mail updates and follow the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Drought Update: California sitting on 'hidden water bonanza,' Oregon drought markers dip

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droughtmonitor712A Stanford University study suggests that California may have three times more groundwater located in deep aquifers than previously estimated.

The research says this vast water source, which the Los Angeles Times called a possible "hidden water bonanza," is 1,000 to 3,000 feet underground. This 'bonanza' for the drought-stricken state would come at a high cost. Tapping such a deep aquifer would require a lot of money and expertise and possibly also desalination if the water quality is not acceptable. Learn more

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Part of the Initiative's continuing effort is to share the latest news about drought and its impact on the West.

Executive Director's Notebook: Gov. Otter's trail ride turns Idaho high country into breathtaking classroom

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By Jim Ogsbury

ED Notebook JimOgsbury Governor Butch OtterGov. Otter insisted on sharing a shirt with me to ensure a comfortable trail rideSince his days in Congress, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has assembled federal agency officials, ranchers, other public and private stakeholders, and opinion leaders for an annual trail ride deep into the heart of the Gem State. A principal purpose of this yearly horseback excursion is to conduct an on-the-ground examination of public land and resource management issues. Governor Otter presented a video documenting the ride at WGA’s 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas. Captivated by the imagery of cowboys saddling up and riding off into the wilderness, I wanted to be part of it.

My artless efforts to secure an invitation paid off when I was asked to join the governor and his posse for the recent 2016 ride in the Copper Basin, (More)

Best of the West: Alberta wildfire's historic cost, earthquake 'Holy Grail' destroyed, Bundy trial advances

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting July 4, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

ftmcmurrayalbertaFort McMurray FireAlberta's Record Fire: Two months later, Alberta's massive Fort McMurray wildfire is officially 'under control,' but the damage left behind is staggering. The total costs are estimated at nearly $3.6 billion, making the wildfire the costliest insured disaster in Canadian history.

Western Blazes: A series of wildfires in California have burned through more than 50,000 acres, though crews are making substantial containment gains. Meanwhile, Colorado's 13,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire is still raging, pushing containment estimates back to mid-October. See the latest updates on other major fires burning across the West here.

Bundy Trial Stays on Schedule: A federal judge has denied (More)

WGA's Jim Ogsbury delivers Western Governors' concerns about BLM Planning 2.0 at House Natural Resources hearing

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Jim O answerJim OgsburyMEDIA COVERAGE: The Capital Press reported on WGA’s testimony, including the fact that the rule fails to honor the legally protected role of governors in planning. More

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury shared the perspective of Western Governors that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Planning 2.0 Initiative proposal creates "confusion rather than clarity, less transparency rather than more" at a hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Ogsbury's July 7 testimony asserted that the proposal will have "opposite effects from what it intended"  and "presents serious challenges and contains significant shortcomings," including (More)

WGA concerned with changes to proposed rule on petition process for endangered and threatened species

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The Western Governors' Association shared comments on June 30, 2016, with Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Eileen Sobeck, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, in regard to the rulemaking, "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions."

The comments expressed the Western Governors' concern with the withdrawal of several important provisions in the initial version of the proposed rule, and recommended the Services reinsert portions of the initial proposed rule that invites greater engagement with states when implementing the Endangered Species Act. WGA emphasized, "States should be full partners with the Services in listing, recovery and delisting decisions. This includes using state fish and wildlife data and analyses as principal sources in ESA decisions." 

The outreach explained that the Services calling for state data early in the petition process and then making its consideration discretionary offers "no meaningful change to the process."

Read, download the comments. 

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: Wildfire death toll grows, guilty plea in Oregon refuge standoff, Western population boom

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Wildfire map for bowClick on the map for western wildfire updates from the U.S. Forest ServiceThe discovery of two bodies makes the California death toll four in the wake of wildfires that have burned more than 60,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 homes. Find out where some 4,000 firefighters are battling 12 wildfires in the state. Also: San Diego County officials are caring for animals left behind by owners forced to evacuate. (More) Updates on other western wildfires:

  • Colorado: The Beaver Creek fire near the Wyoming border has moved from Routt National Forest into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness, where it could burn until August.
  • Idaho: The Boise Foothills wildfire, which by mid-morning Thursday had grown to 2,500 acres and destroyed a home, was caused by fireworks.
  • Montana: The Ravalli County Commission has declared a state of emergency as the Observation fire in the Bitterroot Valley doubled in size and moved closer to homes.
  • Utah: The Saddle Fire in the southwestern part of the state, which had reached 1,540 acres, is now 21% contained.

More western stories for the week starting June 27, 2016: (More)

Department of Energy, Western Governors' Association renew agreement to ensure safe transportation of transuranic waste

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DOE Photo of WIPP with drums of wasteDrums of transuranic waste bring prepared at WIPP for loading into transportation containers (Photo: Department of Energy)The Western Governors' Association and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week renewed their cooperative agreement to coordinate and oversee shipments, and provide training to safety officials for transportation of transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M.

The WIPP Transportation Technical Advisory Group includes Governor-appointed state officials from 12 western states.

WGA serves as the primary point of contact to DOE on the shipment of TRU to WIPP, as well as on inter-site transfers between DOE facilities. TRU is low-level, defense-generated radioactive waste.

The five-year renewal extends the agreement to June 30, 2021.

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

Western Governors applaud EPA decision to not add regulations for stormwater discharges from forest roads

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EPA LogoWestern Governors strongly support this week's decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that no additional regulations are needed to address stormwater discharges from forest roads under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Western Governors sent comments on Feb. 12, 2016, to EPA in response to the agency's request for Information on Existing Programs That Protect Water Quality From Forest Road Discharges. The comments, which highlighted the federally-recognized authority of states to manage and allocate water within their boundaries, asserted that “EPA should leave the management of stormwater discharges from forest roads to the states, unless otherwise determined by a specific state." (More)

LISTEN: New WGA Chairman Gov. Steve Bullock announces National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative

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Governor Bullock KeynoteWestern Governors' Association Chairman, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, announced the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative at WGA's 2016 Annual Meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Gov. Bullock told attendees the initiative will, among other things, examine the existing forest and rangeland management framework for strengths and weaknesses and provide a venue to share western experiences and experimentation.

Additional information about the Chairman's Initiative of Gov. Bullock, including the dates and locations of regional workshops, will be announced in the coming weeks and available on the WGA website.

Listen to Gov. Bullock's Keynote

ANNUAL MEETING RECAPS

Day 1Day 2
Species Conservation and ESA Initiative session
Read, download approved Resolutions

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by reviewing our policy outreach and visiting the blog. You can also sign up for e-mail updates and follow the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

DOWNLOAD: Western Governors' Association 2016 Annual Report

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2016annualreportcoverThe Western Governors' Association 2016 Annual Report illuminates the varety of regional policy issues that the Western Governors have worked on during the past year, including:

  • Species Management: The Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, Greater sage-grouse, wild horse and burro management;
  • Water: Year two of the Western Governors' Drought Forum, the U.S. Forest Service's proposed groundwater directive, protecting water quality from forest road discharges;
  • Transportation: Infrastructure funding, Positive Train Control, reauthorization of the Surface Trasportation Board;
  • State-Federal Relationship: BLM Planning 2.0, public involvement in Forest Service Directives, National Seed Policy;
  • Energy & Air: Enhanced oil recovery, methane emissions, renewable energy leasing revenues, Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard;
  • Mining: Cleaning up abandoned mines, National Minerals Policy, duplicative financial assurance requirements for hard rock mining;
  • Forest & Rangeland Health, Wildfires: Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, "fire-borrowing."

The report also offers insight into how WGA operates, including our fiscal year financial report, and features essays by the 2016 WGA Chairman, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, as well as WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury.

Read, download the 2016 Annual Report

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

Best of the West: Raging wildfires burn fast-growing acreage; California snowmelt comes up short; National Parks vandal sentenced

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cedar fire RepublicCedar Fire I Arizona Republic
Wildfire season is beginning to rage across the West, with the three largest blazes in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has declared a state of emergency to free up funds to help fight the Cedar Fire, which has consumed more than 42,000 acres. The fire is currently 24% contained and expected to grow by about 2,500 acres daily in the near future. Meanwhile, the Brown Fire outside of Tuscon has burned more than 15,000 acres and is 65% contained. In New Mexico, some evacuees of the Dog Head Fire are beginning to return home as the almost 18,000-acre fire is now 68% contained.

Major wildfires also are raging in (More)