Western 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Data Influenced by Exceptional Events (the Exceptional Events Proposal), under the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the related Draft Guidance on the Preparation of Exceptional Events Demonstrations for Wildfire Events that May Influence Ozone Concentrations (the Draft Guidance).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3, 2016, expressed Western Governors' appreciation for state concerns addressed in the Exceptional Events Proposal and Draft Guidance.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)
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:
Oregon 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.
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)
The 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 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)
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:
Oregon Occupation: Ammon Bundy has told the remaining militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to go home and "please stand down." Meanwhile:
- Gov. Kate Brown assured citizens, "I am doing everything in my power to restore normal life to Harney County."
- Here's a detailed account from the Oregonian about how the Tuesday confrontation unfolded that led to one dead and seven arrested.
- Find a timeline back to 2012 of how the standoff started and how it has progressed.
- The Los Angeles Times addresses "Where was the FBI during the armed standoff in Oregon?" and the Oregonian explains, "So, is the Oregon standoff over?" and looks ahead.
Drought milestone: After recent storms, (More)
Western 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)
The Western Governors’ Association hosted a Feb. 4 webinar as part of its series for the Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.
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.
ongoing occupation at the Malheur National Wildfire Refuge "absolutely intolerable" on Wednesday and requested that it be "resolved immediately" by the federal government.Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called the
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."
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:
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.
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."Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter welcomed participants to the Idaho workshop of the
"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)
The Western Governors’ Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative Webinar Series recently presented "Voluntary Species Conservation Incentives and Collaboration," which highlighted the recovery of Black-footed Ferret in Colorado and Wyoming. (Watch and download the presentation's slides)
The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 11, 2016, that you don't want to miss:
Pumping the (autonomous) brakes: California is not quite ready to allow self-driving cars to hit the road after reports of wildly different levels of success in on-road testing.
Moving West: Zillow's Hottest Housing Markets for 2016 list is dominated by western metro areas, with Denver leading the pack. See all nine western cities in the top 10.
Washington tech: Uber's competitor in Asia has opened a development office in downtown Seattle, led by a former Microsoft engineer.
Occupation tactics: The occupation in Oregon is rounding up its second week. The Oregonian breaks down why the feds haven't yet made moves to oust the illegal occupants from the federal compound outside Burns.
Wildfire record: High Country News reports that 2015 wildfires blazed through previous records, burning an astonishing 10.1 million acres. See where the damage occurred.
The Western Governors' Association held the second workshop of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Tuesday, Jan. 19, in Boise, Idaho.
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” -- Andy Grove
By Jim Ogsbury
While I’m not exactly ready to confess to paranoia, I am acutely sensitive to the dangers of complacency.
Western Governors and WGA have registered extraordinary successes over the past few years. The association has been re-engineered, reorganized and re-energized. The reinvented policy team has effectively advanced the Governors’ priorities and the new communications group has helped to elevate the profile of Western Governors in Washington, D.C. and across the country. A look at our Top Ten Policy Achievements for 2015 suggests the extent to which Western Governors are having a profound effect on national policy.
That’s all great, but to be satisfied with past accomplishments would be to trigger the decline of an association that is hitting its stride. Instead, we are committed to providing ever more value to Western Governors, creating new opportunities to promote their bipartisan priorities and enact their commonsense agenda. (More)
Western Governors have delivered their 2016 State of the State addresses. We created a "word cloud" of the most common themes in the speeches, which you can see above.
Bill Walker called for bold action during his State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2016. Nathaniel Herz of the Alaska Dispatch News reported that Gov. Walker urged lawmakers "to plug the hole in Alaska’s sinking financial ship by approving the three major pieces of his budget plan: budget cuts, new taxes, and spending some of the Permanent Fund’s earnings." (Story) The governor acknowledged that his drastic proposals may potentially come at a political cost to him. “I did not run for governor to keep the job,” he said. “I ran for governor to do the job.” Gov. Walker also, however, was optimistic about areas of potential growth, such as agriculture, resource development and tourism. Read the full speech
Doug Ducey delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 11, 2016. Gov. Ducey focused on the positive impacts of his first year in office, touting the state as "on the rise." The Arizona Republic reports that the governor reiterated his campaign promises, "again promising tax cuts, education reform, looser regulations and an effort to reduce the number of people reliant on state government." (Story) His call for education funding reform was met with a standing ovation. He also expressed frustration that Arizona requires too many licenses for too many jobs, including talent agents, noting: "Let’s leave the job of finding new talent to Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani – not state government." Read the full speech
Jerry Brown delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2016. In what Los Angeles Times reporter John Myers called "a short speech with a long view of California," Gov. Brown touched on themes that included the budget, income inequality, deteriorating infrastructure, drought and climate goals. (Story) The governor said Californians will need to "bite the bullet" on new taxes to fund long-term infrastructure maintenance costs. "Ideology and politics stand in the way, but one way or another the roads must be fixed," Gov. Brown said. Read the full speech
John Hickenlooper delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 14, 2016. The governor set the stage for his speech with a pragmatic tone the Denver Post called, "classic Hickenlooper," and called for lawmakers to work together to solve budget and housing issues. (Story) Gov. Hickenlooper urged, "Let's strive, I mean really try, to be more bipartisan this session." He also emphasized that the state would need to continue adapting and innovating to keep its economy on top, joking, "We don’t need a Delorean time machine to know that change is coming." Read the full speech
David Ige delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2016. The Honolulu Civil Beat reports that "the governor identified issues that he said had been neglected but could wait no longer for action," including making classrooms cooler, revitalizing infrastructure, and creating a Hawaii Invasive Species Authority. (Story) Gov. Ige also made a big push for affordable housing projects to address increasing concerns about homelessness, emphasizing, "You cannot talk about homelessness without talking about the major reason why it has become so widespread. And that is the lack of affordable housing." The governor also spoke to the importance of value-based actions for government and citizens, reminding, "When we demean others we betray ourselves." Read the full speech
Gov. Butch Otter focused on school funding in his joint State of the State and Budget address on Jan. 11, 2016. Gov. Otter said: "We are entrusted with the singular constitutional responsibility of providing for a 'general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools throughout Idaho,'" before proposing significant increases in education spending. The Associated Press reported that the governor's speech featured several new higher-education initiatives, including a college tuition freeze program to ensure that incoming freshman would pay the same rate for four academic years. (Story) Read the full speech
Sam Brownback focused on high-profile state issues such as education spending in his State of the State speech on Jan. 12, 2016. Stephen Koranda of Kansas Public Radio reported that Gov. Brownback "laid the groundwork in his speech by referencing what he and lawmakers had done in Kansas in recent years. He touted tax policy, the unemployment rate and job growth." (Story) The governor also touched on the future of the state's water supply, calling the issue "one of the biggest challenges" Kansas faces. Read the full speech
Pete Ricketts established property tax relief as his top priority in his State of the State address on Jan. 14, 2016. His other policy focuses in the coming year include increased transportation infrastructure funding and additional prison reform. Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star reported that the governor proposed state budget adjustments that would fund these initiatives without taking any money from the state's "rainy day" cash reserve fund. (Story) Gov. Ricketts also promised that his administration is working to "ensure a new level of transparency and accountability for taxpayers." Read the full speech
Susana Martinez set forth a sweeping agenda during her State of the State address on Jan. 19, 2016. Gov. Martinez called on lawmakers to get tougher on crime and to implement her education and economic development proposals. Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal reported that the governor's speech "focused heavily on a recent spate of high-profile crimes" and urged stricter anti-DWI laws and expansion of the state’s 'three-strikes' law for repeat offenders. (Story) Her speech also implored lawmakers to "demand more than mediocrity in education." Read the full speech
Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address on Feb. 1, 2016. Curtis Killman of the Tulsa World reported that "there was no mistaking the theme" of Gov. Fallin's speech: the budget. (Story) The governor addressed the urgent need to improve the state’s budgeting process to ensure adequate funding for education, public safety, health and more. Gov. Fallin especially focused on education, calling for a pay raise for teachers and proclaiming, “Oklahoma’s future sits in the classrooms of today. The education of our students remains my biggest priority in my budget." Lowering mandatory drug possession sentences and creating a high consumption tax on cigarettes were also highlighted. Read the full speech
Kate Brown delivered her State of the State address on April 8, 2016. She touted the state's economic progress, including the recently increased minimum wage, and urged lawmakers to pass her comprehensive transportation package. Gordon Friedman of the Statesman Journal reported that Gov. Brown announced Oregon has hit a record low unemployment rate, but "added that state government must continue to seek economic opportunities for Oregonians, especially those in rural counties." (Story) Gov. Brown proclaimed, "The sun has definitely come out from behind the clouds of a protracted economic downturn." Read the full speech
Dennis Daugaard delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 12, 2016. He asked lawmakers to approve a half-cent sales tax to help make teacher pay more competitive. Dana Ferguson of the Argus Leader reported that Gov. Daugaard also "spotlighted the state's successes — and the work yet to be done — on issues including criminal justice, workforce development and state parks." (Story) On workforce development, the governor said, "We all understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It needs constant attention." Read the full speech
Gary Herbert delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 27, 2016. Gov. Herbert touted Utah's economy and encouraged even more progress. "The state of our state is strong," he said, "and I think most of us would say the state of our state is outstanding. That being said, I believe we can do even better." Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the governor called on lawmakers "to do more to address health care for low-income residents, to improve air quality and to help provide opportunities in rural Utah." (Story) Gov. Herbert also focused on education, challenging school employees to work to raise the state's graduation rate to 90%. Read the full speech
Jay Inslee addressed a number of pressing issues in his State of the State address on Jan. 12, 2016, including education, mental health, wildfires and minimum wage. Gov. Inslee said that it’s “absolutely necessary” for lawmakers to develop a framework to pay for the state’s basic education system during the legislative session. On the necessity of recruiting and training more teachers, Gov. Inslee said, "If nobody is standing in front of the classroom, we have zip." Joseph O’Sullivan of the Seattle Times reported that the governor urged lawmakers returning for the legislative session to "approach the problems 'with recognition of the depths of our challenges, and with confidence that together we can solve them.'" (Story) Read the full speech
Matt Mead focused on the budget, Medicaid and infrastructure during his State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2016. Gov. Mead especially highlighted the need to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, a move that would offer health insurance coverage to 20,000 low-income adults in the state. Laura Hancock of the Casper Star-Tribune reported these are "people who typically delay health care until it warrants a visit to the emergency room. That can result in higher costs for hospitals and worse outcomes for patients." (Story) The governor also spoke about the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, his Chairman's Initiative for WGA. Read the full speech
Voluntary Species Conservation Incentives and Collaboration will highlight the recovery of Black-footed Ferret in Colorado and Wyoming. Panelists representing a diverse range of interest will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. Register here
WEBINAR DETAILS (More)
Western Governors have urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reconsider the system for evaluating and providing access to disaster programs and to make Individual Assistance more readily accessible to homeowners impacted by wildfires and other major disasters that are increasingly affecting Western states. (More)
The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 4, 2016, that you don't want to miss:
Oregon occupation: See Gov. Kate Brown's statement telling the illegal occupiers to "decamp immediately." Read the Oregonian story on steps being taken to end militants’ occupation of the federal compound in Burns, Ore. The Washington Post reports media and gawkers may outnumber occupiers and this New York Times primer explains why the federal government owns so much western land.
El Niño: The Los Angeles Times is providing live updates on the El Niño storms hammering the West Coast.
Hawaii smoking ban: The Aloha State rang in the new year with a new law that makes it the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21.
Nevada investment: Gov. Brian Sandoval is dedicating state resources to the autonomous car industry in a bid to become the nation's leader in development of driverless vehicles.
California snowpack: State surveyors in California's Sierra Nevada report that water held in the snowpack amounted to about 136% of the historical average.
The Western Governors' Association hosted a series of webinars as part of its Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative. During each webinar panelists representing a diverse range of interest will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. The webinars:
Voluntary Species Conservation Incentives and Collaboration highlighted the recovery of Black-footed Ferret in Colorado and Wyoming.
Critical Habitat and Invasive Species examined how critical habitat designations are influenced by invasive species.
The Role of Conflict and Litigation in the ESA illustrated how litigation shapes the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and affects species conservation efforts.
Watch all webinars of the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, which enables states to share best practices in species management and explore how to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act.
State surveyors in the Sierra Nevada offered encouraging news amid California's worst drought in more than a century: The snowpack is well above average for this time of year.
The annual snow survey at Echo Summit found the water held in the snowpack amounted to about 136% of the historical average for the site.
The Sierra snowpack is crucial for getting California through long, dry summers as melting snow fills reservoirs to supply about a third of California's water.
Water officials emphasize (More)
By Jim Ogsbury
As the curtains close on 2015, it’s a good time to reflect on what was a dynamic and successful year for Western Governors. Although it’s impossible to capture the breadth and scope of their accomplishments in a brief year-end blog post, I am pleased to share some illustrative highlights in the following (second annual) list of "Top Ten Bipartisan Policy Efforts."
1. Fire Borrowing: “Fire borrowing” refers to the raid by federal agencies of accounts for forest health and fire prevention activities to fund firefighting efforts when fire suppression accounts run dry. The Governors' persistent work on this issue resulted in a significant "win" in the FY 2016 omnibus spending bill. (More)
Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Eloy Inos died Dec. 28, 2015, at the age of 66.
Inos became the eighth Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands in 2013, after previously serving as Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Finance.
The governor’s Press Secretary Ivan Blanco told the Pacific Daily News that Inos had been battling diabetes; the governor had been under care in Seattle since November. Blanco did not know the exact cause of the Governor’s death.
Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres, who served as Lieutenant Governor under Gov. Inos, has assumed the office.
In nearby Guam, Gov. Eddie Calvo ordered flags (More)
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:
liquefied natural gas agreement with a Japanese energy company.ALASKA Gov. Bill Walker renewed the state's
ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey directed additional funding to domestic violence shelters throughout the state.
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to bolster the state's drought and wildfire response.
COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper announced (More)
Western states earned high marks in the 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index. The ranking compiled by the Tax Foundation enables business leaders, government policymakers and taxpayers to compare states’ tax systems. Seven western states populated the top 10 of the research organization's list, with Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska claiming the top three spots.
The Index shows how well states structure their tax systems to enhance the competitiveness of a state’s business environment. "The modern market is characterized by mobile capital and labor, with all types of businesses, small and large, tending to locate where they have the greatest competitive advantage," the study notes. "The evidence shows (More)
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter hosted the second workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Jan. 19 in Boise, Idaho.
Species conservation and Endangered Species Act (ESA) topics discussed at the workshop included the role of state and local governments in coordination and consultation; best available science; critical habitat designations; policy for evaluation of conservation efforts, and landscape-level conservation and incentivizing private landowners. (More)
Western Governors applaud today's (Dec. 10) passage by the House of legislation overhauling the Surface Transportation Board (STB). When added to last week's approval of a comprehensive 5-year transportation bill, the future looks brighter for the maintenance and expansion of western transportation infrastructure.
The Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 808), passed previously by the Senate and expected to be signed by President Obama, reauthorizes appropriations for the STB through 2020, expands the board from three members to five and makes it an independent agency, outside the purview of the Department of Transportation. (More)
Western Governors Butch Otter (Idaho), Brian Sandoval (Nevada) and Matt Mead (Wyoming) took part in My West, a special session on the second day of the Western Governors' Association 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. The Governors each shared their affection for, and personal connection to, the region. Or, as Gov. Mead said: "What it means to us to be of the West, part of the West, to be a Western Governor." (See the Governors' stories)
Got 90 seconds? Watch this video to learn about upcoming workshops and other outreach for the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative. The Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead enables states to share best practices in species management and explore how to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act. Learn more on the initiative website.
Cybersecurity, wildfires and transportation topped the first day of the Western Governors' Association 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev.
Western Governors, led by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, took part in the day's sessions, including Butch Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana) and Brian Sandoval (Nevada). (Learn more about the meeting)
Western Governors have requested that the Department of the Interior (DOI) establish a preference for state-based mitigation programs where they meet or exceed core DOI mitigation requirements.
"Existing state programs ensure that regional and state resources are consistently and strategically implemented at the landscape scale," the Governors wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
- Western Governors offer water resource management solutions to Senate ENR committee leadership
- Western Governors to discuss transportation, healthcare, cybersecurity at Winter Meeting
- Western News: Hawaii's reef restoration plan, Nevada's newest marketing campaign, West Coast's tallest tower
- Executive Director's Notebook: Hard-working Governors keep an exhausting pace