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Western Governors offer water resource management solutions to Senate ENR committee leadership

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Western Governors recently conveyed their position on water resources management and offered policy solutions to leadership of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Drought Forum Vertical LogoThe Nov. 24 letter to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, signed by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and WGA Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, commended the Committee for its efforts to craft comprehensive, Western drought legislation and offered WGA as a resource.

The letter also communicated policy solutions for the Committee to consider, pointing to the Western Governors' Drought Forum and the WGA Policy Resolution,Water Resource Management in the West.

The outreach emphasized that Western states are "impacted by water shortages because of extended drought conditions and insufficient infrastructure to assure adequate water supplies." The Governors added that "this challenge has both regional and national aspects, including how best to meet the need for (More)

Western Governors to discuss transportation, healthcare, cybersecurity at Winter Meeting

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Wyoming Gov Matt MeadGov. MeadCybersecurity, healthcare and maintaining the Western transportation infrastructure are just some of the issues Western Governors will tackle Dec. 4-5 at the WGA 2015 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas.

WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will host fellow Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, Vice Chair), Butch Otter (Idaho), and Brian Sandoval (Nevada) at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. (More)

Western News: Hawaii's reef restoration plan, Nevada's newest marketing campaign, West Coast's tallest tower

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The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup that showcases the latest policy, progress and news from Western states. Here is this month's report:

  • coralHawaii coral reefRenewable energy: Learn more about a California company's plan to build one of Montana's first utility-scale solar plants.
  • Rural sprawl: Find out what Colorado is doing to "Jump-Start" its urban-rural economic divide.
  • Reef Restoration: Hawaii is gathering information to create a comprehensive coral reef management plan.
  • Wildlife Cam: Watch the viral video of (More)

Executive Director's Notebook: Hard-working Governors keep an exhausting pace

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Gov Hick 2Gov. John HickenlooperBy Jim Ogsbury

Representing Western Governors as the Executive Director of WGA is an honor. But it’s also exhausting, because the Governors work relentlessly to improve conditions for the West and its residents. The last ten days illustrate the point.

A week ago Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper hosted a WGA Sponsor luncheon at the historic Colorado Governor’s Mansion in Denver. In the course of his remarks, the Governor – a former chair of WGA and the immediate past chair of the National Governors Association – spoke of WGA’s recent success with respect to developing and promoting bipartisan public policy. He compared the Association to his teenage son Teddy, a budding baseball player. When Teddy was younger, he kept hitting pop flies because he didn’t have sufficient arm strength to follow through on his swing. But in the past couple of years, he has acquired a great deal of muscle, and now he’s consistently hitting line drives. In like fashion, WGA has recently gained a good deal of strength and is using it to power policy line drives right up the middle. (More)

Gov. Mead launches Species Conservation and ESA Initiative workshops by urging collaboration, good intentions

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IMG 0711 Matt at podiumGov. MeadWyoming Gov. Matt Mead kicked off the first workshop of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative with a nod to the significance of wildlife in the West and a request to find the best way to employ state expertise to conserve it responsibly.

"Those of us fortunate enough to live in the West recognize that the West wouldn’t be the West without the wildlife that surrounds us. Unquestionably, it's one of the things that enriches our lives," said Gov. Mead, speaking at the start of the first regional workshop of his Chairman's Initiative for the Western Governors' Association at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo. (Read more about the workshop)

Drought Update: Drought Monitor highlights West's ongoing struggle, California prepares to capture El Nino

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monitor1110The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that every state in the West is still experiencing some level of drought. 

The monitor reports that despite recent Pacific moisture and storm systems bringing daily precipitation, 100% of both Oregon and Washington remain in moderate to extreme drought.

Furthermore, practically every part of California and Nevada  faces some level of drought, with nearly 45% of the former and 10% of the latter experiencing exceptional drought. 

The Drought Monitor report noted that in much of the West, (More)

Agenda set, website launched, livestream planned for first WGA Species Conservation and ESA Initiative workshop

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ESA Website Main PageThe Western Governors' Association launched the first of four workshops of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Nov. 12-13 at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyo.

WGA also has rolled out the website for the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. The website offers news about initiative Workshops and a Resources page with a variety of species conservation content. In the weeks to come, look for (More)

Western Governors' News: Arizona's big education funding package, Hawaii coastline conservation agreement, Utah's resident milestone

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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:

hickgreenColorado Gov. HickenlooperALASKA Gov. Bill Walker accepted financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address coastal erosion.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed an education funding package that will inject $3.5 billion into schools over 10 years.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to mobilize additional resources in response to unprecedented tree die-off


Register now: Western Governors' Winter Meeting Dec. 4-5 in Las Vegas

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4 Seasons FountainFour Seasons Hotel Las VegasFive Western Governors have registered for the 2015 Winter Meeting of the Western Governors' Association Dec. 4-5 in Las Vegas to address the region's most important issues.

WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Vice Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter have indicated they will attend. (More)

Western Governors encouraged by PTC deadline extension, still seek long-term solution for transportation funding

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Western Governors support implementation of the safety technology, Positive Train Control (PTC), for freight and passenger railroads.

Multiple reviews – including one completed by the Government Accountability Office – have determined that Congress' original Dec. 31, 2015, deadline for nationwide implementation of PTC technology was not feasible for railroads.

Western Governors recently asked leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to pass an extension of the PTC implementation deadline, in part to avert catastrophic consequences for railroads, as well as commuters and shippers who rely on rail transport.

So the Governors were encouraged when Congress (More)

Executive Director's Notebook: First 'Mission to WDC' a success

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House Hearing Mead and GovsWestern Governors at House Hearing, from left: Gary Herbert, Steve Bullock, Matt Mead, Dennis DaugaardBy Jim Ogsbury

WGA Chairman Matt Mead and Vice Chair Steve Bullock recently led the first-ever Western Governors’ Association “Mission to WDC.” They were joined by fellow Western Governors Jack Dalrymple, Dennis Daugaard and Gary Herbert for two full days of hearings, meetings and special events in the nation’s capital.

The Governors were warmly received on Capitol Hill by federal policy-makers eager to learn more about Western issues and gubernatorial priorities. Media coverage of the mission was extensive, and the Governors enjoyed great success in elevating the profile of their bipartisan policy agenda in Washington, D.C. (More)

Western states top report on overall economic performance; Utah most 'fundamentally sound'

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statesinnoWestern states earned the highest marks for economic performance in Enterprising States: States Innovatea study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Eight western states populated the top 10 for overall economic performance, with North Dakota, Texas, Utah, WashingtonColorado and Wyoming leading the national rankings.

The report notes: "American innovation is flourishing across the country thanks to thoughtful governors who work with the business community to create a strong business climate in their states. The Enterprising States study is about championing the successes of these governors." (More)

Western Governors highlight importance of addressing abandoned mine cleanup liability

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House Transportation and Infrastructure CommitteeWestern Governors have conveyed their position on liability issues associated with abandoned mines to leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Oct. 20 letter to Representatives Bill Shuster and Peter DeFazio from Western Governors requested that WGA Policy Resolution 2013-05Cleaning Up Abandoned Mines in the West be included as part of the record for the Oct. 21 Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing, “Abandoned Mines in the United States and Opportunities for Good Samaritan Cleanups." (More)

Western News: California's devastating mudslide, Idaho's shrinking rural communities, making Colorado's Gold King Mine a 'teachable moment'

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The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup that showcases the latest policy, progress and news from Western states. Here is this month's report:

  • californiamudslideCalifornia mudslideMudslide damage: Learn more about the recent California landslide that trapped 200 vehicles.
  • Outdoor education: See the different ways Colorado schools are using the Gold King Mine spill as a teachable moment.
  • Spill Plan: State officials in New Mexico have released a draft plan to monitor the potential long-term effects of the Gold King Mine spill.
  • Urban sprawl: See why a new study has some concerned about (More)

First workshop of WGA Species Conservation and ESA Initiative will be Nov. 12-13 in Wyoming

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Gov Mead SpeakingGov. Mead

The first workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative was held Nov. 12-13 at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyo.

The Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead creates a mechanism for states that will: share best practices in species management; promote and elevate the role of states in species conservation efforts, and explore ways to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Gov. Mead spoke at the first workshop, which featured a robust and bipartisan conversation regarding species conservation and the ESA. (Watch videos of all sessions)

WGA announces new policy advisor for water and agriculture

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lauraThe Western Governors' Association is pleased to announce the hiring of Laura Chartrand as Policy Advisor for Water and Agriculture.

Laura comes to WGA from the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, where she analyzed water resource issues affecting Tri-State’s 44 member cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. She holds a law degree from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver and has worked as an attorney covering a broad scope of issues, including water, public lands and endangered species. (Learn more about Laura)

EPA tightens national ozone standard, governors concerned about non-attainment due to outside factors

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epaThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Oct. 1 released a new standard for the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone, cutting the 2008 standard of 75 parts-per-billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.

Western Governors recognize EPA’s statutory responsibility to research and propose revisions to the ozone NAAQS to provide requisite protection of public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety, but the Governors are concerned about what the revised ozone NAAQS may mean for their citizens.

Western Governors previously sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing western states' need for the EPA to provide states with timely implementation guidance and sufficient financial and technical assistance.

The revised NAAQS for ozone will mean that areas in the West will be found in non-attainment status, some of them as a result

E&E TV interviews North Dakota Gov. Dalrymple, Wyoming Gov. Mead on Clean Power Plan

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The Western Governors' Association policy mission to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29-30 helped raise the profile of several significant western policy issues.

WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead was joined by Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, WGA Vice Chair), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Gary Herbert (Utah) to engage with Congressional leaders at a briefing on Endangered Species Act reform before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife and a hearing on state authority before the House Natural Resources Committee. See a recap of Day 1 and Day 2 of their visit.

The governors also took time to speak with media, including these two interviews on E&E TV.


E&E TV's OnPoint featured an interview with Gov. Dalrymple, during which he discusses a two-track approach on the Clean Power Plan and the shale oil industry's prospects amid recent price shifts. Watch it here.


E&E TV's OnPoint also highlighted Gov. Mead and the state of Wyoming. The governor discusses how Wyoming, as a major coal producer, plans to both comply with and litigate the Clean Power Plan and the potential role of natural gas, wind energy and emissions trading. Watch it here.

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

Western Governors tell House Natural Resources Committee states are the experts on resource management

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Gov Bullock House HearingGov. Steve Bullock (Courtesy House Natural Resources)

Media: The Salt Lake Tribune wrote about the House hearing, as did the Washington Examiner and KSFY TV in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Sept. 30, 2015: Four Western Governors testified before the House Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on Wednesday (Sept. 30), at which they highlighted the importance of recognizing state expertise in relation to resource management and energy development.

Western Governors' Association Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (WGA Vice Chair), South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert appeared before Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah on the topic, "Respecting State Authority, Responsibilities and Expertise Regarding Resource Management and Energy Development."

Gov Mead at House PanelGov. Matt Mead"We share the belief that solutions developed at the local level -- by the people who live in the state and are impacted the most -- are typically more effective and lasting than those developed by officials who live and work hundreds or thousands of miles away," said Gov. Herbert.

Gov. Bullock also advocated for increased state management over natural resource development. "We’ve aggressively pushed for constructive partnerships and active engagement with the federal government using our authority, expertise and research, and harnessing the incredible capacity of our citizens to work together collaboratively and problem solve.”

"We believe in states' rights," said Gov. Mead, speaking of the respect and collaboration that exists within WGA. "We wish for the federal government to show the same

Western Governors discuss ways to improve the ESA before Senate panel

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MEDIA COVERAGE: The Associated Press reported on the Senate Briefing (Governors: Make species delisting process more predictable) as did the Oil & Gas Journal and Gray TV. USAgnet reported on the Governors' meeting with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Sept. 29, 2015: Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock kicked off two days of Capitol Hill appearances by Western Governors today by discussing ways to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA) before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.

Bullock Profile with Mead CropGovernors Bullock, right, and Mead The governors appeared before Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Chairman Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska at the briefing, which also included remarks from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Dan Ashe. The topic: "Improving the Endangered Species Act: Perspectives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Governors."

The briefing was the first of two appearances by Western Governors this week in Washington, D.C., organized by the Western Governors’ Association (WGA). Four Governors will appear on Wednesday, Sept. 30, before the House Natural Resources Committee to discuss “Respecting State Authority, Responsibilities and Expertise Regarding Resource Management and Energy Development.”


"We value our wildlife. It's part of our quality of life in the West, in many ways it's why we live there," said Gov. Mead, who as WGA Chairman has made improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the ESA his Chairman's Initiative. "But we also value our economy. It's hard to deal with the constant uncertainty caused by the ESA."

Gov. Bullock noted the importance of encouraging the voluntary work so critical to the recent decision not to list the greater sage-grouse. "The question increasingly is 'What more can be done to incent voluntary conservation to keep a species from being listed in the first place?' "

Gov. Mead echoed that sentiment by saying "The greater sage-grouse ruling

Drought Update: USGS examines low river flows, Oregon Gov. Brown declares drought in 25th county

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2015 droughtPhoto Courtesy of USGSHydrologic technicians from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are currently taking measurements from hundreds of streams and rivers across the West as part of a major low-flow study.

The large-scale study will measure stream flow and water temperatures in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington to document the severity of this year's drought.

"This year's warmer, drier weather provides a preview of how future droughts may impact water resources in the study area," said Chris Konrad, USGS hydrologist and study project chief. "The goal is to provide information to resource managers to help understand differences in how streams respond to drought and plan for future drought impacts throughout the region."

The data will be compiled and analyzed with a summary report of findings planned for publication in late 2016. Learn more

The Western Governors' Drought Forum is the Chairman's Initiative of 

Enhanced oil recovery project launched in Wyoming

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Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is the practice  of injecting carbon dioxide obtained from natural and man-made sources into existing oil fields where production has slowed to free up additional crude trapped in rock formations.

This carbon dioxide “flooding” can result in the recovery of about 20 percent of the original oil in place and provides a way to sequester carbon dioxide.

Western Governors support the EOR extraction method for the economic and environmental benefits it offers the West. The Governors' policy resolution, Enhanced Oil Recovery, supports polices and incentives that advance investment in EOR projects, infrastructure, technology and research.

Western Governors’ Association (WGA) Executive Director Jim Ogsbury joined WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Sept. 23 at a groundbreaking ceremony

Western Governors head to Washington, D.C., for House hearing on state authority, Senate briefing on ESA

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smilesflagGov. Mead and Gov. BullockWestern Governors will visit Washington, D.C., the week of Sept. 28 to engage with Congressional leaders on critical issues and policy affecting the West, including state authority and the Endangered Species Act.

Western Governors' Association Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will be joined by Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, WGA Vice Chair), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Gary Herbert (Utah) at a number of meetings with leadership, as well as these appearances:

Governors' Briefing with Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife: Governors Mead and Bullock will appear at a briefing on the topic "Improving the Endangered Species Act: Perspectives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Governors." In addition to the governors' remarks on ESA, which is the focus

Interior announces it will not list greater sage-grouse under ESA

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jewellcropSecretary JewellInterior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today that the greater sage-grouse will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The finding of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concludes a process that began in 2011, when the service agreed to reach a decision to determine whether the bird was entitled to protections under the ESA by Sept. 30, 2015.

Concerted conservation efforts have been undertaken by Western Governors since 2010 across the western states where the bird lives -- California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In all, its range stretches across 257,000 square miles, including two Canadian provinces.

The decision does not conclude conservation efforts. States now must work with the BLM and FWS on the federal agencies’ greater sage-grouse management plans. Western Governors have submitted Consistency Reviews to BLM and U.S. Forest Service on the federal agencies’ greater sage-grouse proposed management plans.

In their comments the governors identify inconsistencies between federal plans and state and local government plans, policies or programs. They also recommend

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issues Executive Order for sage-grouse conservation, Colorado Habitat Exchange also launched

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Oregon Gov Kate BrownWestern Governors today continued their unprecedented conservation work to protect the greater sage-grouse with two major announcements. 

  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has issued an executive order that adopts the Oregon Sage Grouse Action Plan and directs all state agencies to carry out the conservation actions in the plan to protect the bird and its habitat in a manner that promotes economic prosperity and a healthy environment.
  • Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in partnership with conservation groups, industry representatives, and agriculture leaders, requested recognition by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management to establish the Colorado Habitat Exchange – initially focused on the greater sage-grouse.

"At a critical time in federal decision-making under the Endangered Species Act, our Plan and my Executive Order advance increased coordination, commitment, and investment in a strong state-based approach to the threats and opportunities facing sage-grouse as well as rural community health," wrote Gov. Brown in a letter to the Oregon Sage Grouse Conservation Partnership. "There has never before been anything

New Mexico Gov. Martinez unveils "all-of-the-above" state energy plan

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nmenergyNew Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has created a sweeping new state energy policy, Seizing our Energy Potential: Creating a More Diverse Economy in New Mexico. The plan calls for an “all of the above” approach to energy that promotes the production of all sources of energy as a means of creating jobs, diversifying a key sector of the economy, and supporting the nation's efforts to achieve energy independence.

“Improving our energy infrastructure, responsibly developing and producing energy of all types, and better preparing our workforce for the needs of our energy sector are all critical components not only of a strong economic future, but of helping lead America to energy independence,” said Gov. Martinez in a press release. (Read a story about the new energy plan in the Albuquerque Journal.)

New Mexico’s 2015 Energy Policy and Implementation Plan is the first comprehensive energy policy

Western Governors highlighted for pragmatism, bipartisan collaboration by Governing magazine

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bill walker alaskaAlaska Gov. Walker Governing magazine has recognized the collaborative, bipartisan policy work of Western Governors by including five of them in its list of 6 Governors Who Choose Pragmatism Over Ideology.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert were featured as prime examples of political leaders who focus on bipartisan collaboration. The story spotlights initiatives by each governor that illustrate their commitment to pragmatism and doing what's best for the citizens they represent. See the full article here.

Gov. Sandoval was also highlighted in the prestigious Politico 50 List, Politico magazine's guide to the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics. Politico praised Gov. Sandoval's "New Nevada" push which has included courting big job creators like Tesla, drastically improving

California drought report reveals statewide cost of $2.7 billion, loss of 21,000 agricultural jobs

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A new study revealsucdavis watershed that California's historic drought will cost the state $2.74 billion in 2015 and result in the loss of more than 21,000 jobs. 

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

  • The drought in 2015 will result in a 8.7 million acre-foot reduction in surface water available to agriculture.
  • This surface water loss will be partially replaced by increasing groundwater pumping by 6 million acre-feet, at a cost of $590 million.
  • The resulting net water shortage of 2.7 million acre-feet will cause losses of $900 million in crop revenue and $350 million in dairy and other livestock value.
  • Direct costs to agriculture total $1.84 billion.
  • The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.74 billion, with a total loss of 21,000 seasonal and part-time jobs.

The study notes the state's heavy reliance on groundwater comes at ever-increasing energy costs and

Report highlights how to grow use of state, regional digital wildlife data in transportation planning

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FHWA Report Cover Image September 2015WEBINAR: Learn more by taking part in the Eco-Logical Webinar "Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools and Wildlife Data" at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 12. Register.

Digital wildlife information plays an increasingly important role in transportation planning and project implementation. One example is the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) developed by the Western Governors’ Association (WGA). The online tool provides a high-level overview of crucial habitat for project preplanning across 16 Western states.

WGA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in recognition of the growing importance of this information, entered into an agreement in 2013 to identify opportunities to increase the transportation sector’s use of state and regional digital wildlife data.

The result of that collaboration is the report, “Development of Sustainable Strategies Supporting Transportation Planning and Conservation Priorities across the West.” Two highlights of the report:

  • More than 90% of respondents indicated that their agencies consider fish and wildlife in transportation planning and projects, but many were unaware of CHATs.
  • Only 4 of 16 state Departments of Transportation questioned now use the regional CHAT, but 10 identified opportunities to increase its use.

Learn more by reading the Executive Summary and the complete report.

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

Colorado, California, Texas, Washington home to top cities for economic success

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leadingA study by Area Development to determine which cities are best at creating jobs and nurturing sustainable economic development reports that 8 of the top 10 are in the West — three in Colorado, two each in California and Texas, and one in Washington.

The key categories used in determining city rankings for the Leading Locations 2015 report were prime work force, economic strength, year-over-year growth, and “recession-busting” attributes. 

Denver and Houston were ranked as the best cities for economic success. See the other six western cities to make the top 10 here.

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

  • UtahNebraskaOregon and California were ranked among the 10 fastest-growing states for tech jobs.
  • Denver, Colorado, led Forbes' 2015 Best Places for Business and Careers list. Also in the top 10: Portland, Oregon; Provo, Utah; Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Utah and Washington led the country in the latest monthly rankings for total job growth.
  • NebraskaNorth Dakota and Utah again had the lowest unemployment rates in the nation in the latest monthly rankings.
  • Dubbed "Silicon Slopes," Salt Lake City, Utah, was named the number one startup city in the nation by Entrepreneur Magazine.
  • California experienced the highest private-sector gains over the past 12 months; Utah and Nevada had the largest percentage gains in private-sector employment during this period.

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

Forest Service begins "fire borrowing" to fund dwindling firefighting budget

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IMG 3942Photo: National Interagency Fire CenterThe U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has begun transferring funds to supplement its shrinking firefighting budget through a practice known as “fire borrowing." 

USFS fire suppression activities were funded at $1.01 billion for the 2015 fiscal year; only $174 million remains and the service anticipates funds will be exhausted before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

On Aug. 25, USFS announced that it would shift $250 million from regular service operations to fire suppression activities. That amount includes $30 million from the State and Private Forestry account, which will have a significant impact on its activities with states. 

Western Governors have worked in recent years to fix the problem of "fire borrowing," which occurs when the Forest Service takes funds away from forest health and fire prevention activities to help pay the costs to fight current wildfires.

Ryan Maye Handy of the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that for the first time in the Forest Service's 110-year history, firefighting makes up more than 50 percent of the agency's overall budget.

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

Western Governors' outreach on Clean Air Act, Surface Transportation Board, Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act

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Western Governors demonstrated their commitment to state-federal collaboration in recent outreach to federal agencies on air quality, transportation infrastructure and responsible land management.

Clean Air Act Exceptional Events Ruleepa: Western Governors sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to request that the agency engage in substantive consultation with states in the pre-proposal stages of revisions to the Clean Air Act Exceptional Events Rule. The governors are concerned that the Rule does not adequately address factors over which states have little or no control, such as wildfire, high winds and volcanic activity. (Read, download letter)

Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015: Western Governors sent a letter to leadership in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to request expedited consideration of the Act. The letter cited previous outreach by the Governors that noted the actions of the Surface Transportation Board have significant impact on the economies of all states and called attention to WGA Policy Resolution 2015-05: Transportation Infrastructure in the Western United States. (Read, download letter)

Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act: Western Governors sent a letter to co-sponsors of the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act (H.R. 2358). The letter expressed support for the bipartisan legislation, intended to ensure reliable electricity service and reduce the risk of fires and fire hazards caused by inadequate vegetation management in power line rights-of-way on federally managed public lands. (Read, download letter)

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