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MarketWatch says West home to most business-friendly cities

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MW DL460 biz ci MG 20150507132601MarketWatch just released a list of America's Most Business-Friendly Cities that shows 8 of the 10 most business-friendly metropolitan areas were in Western states.

The top three spots were held by Dallas, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington. Other Western cities in the top 10 included San Jose, California; Houston, Texas; Provo, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Denver, Colorado.

To create this list, MarketWatch looked at the 100 most populous urban centers in the U.S. and ranked them against each other based on business climate, company performance and economic outcome.

See the full rankings here.

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

  • Arizona Gov Doug DuceyArizona Gov. DuceyArizona Gov. Doug Ducey founded a business leadership group called the Zanjeros that will focus on economic development and promoting Arizona.
  • California and Texas are home to the most women-owned businesses in the country.
  • Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and South Dakota had the lowest unemployment rates in the nation in the latest monthly rankings.
  • North Dakota, New Mexico and Texas showed the highest percentage increases in total tax revenues from fiscal year 2013-14, while California showed the highest dollar amount increase.
  • Oregon's tourism industry broke two all-time records with visitor spending at $10.3 billion and more than 101,000 tourism sector jobs.
  • Texas led the nation in Chief Executive’s 2015 Best States to Do Business survey of top CEOs.
  • Utah's energy sector represents $21 billion in economic activity, approximately 15% of the state's total economy.

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

Western Governors urge EPA, BLM to engage states on methane emissions proposal

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EPA LogoWestern Governors have requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) engage in meaningful consultation with state regulators and governors before the agencies release their proposals to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Western Governors’ Association Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, in letters to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, notes:

  • EPA and BLM already work with states as co-regulators;
  • Some western states have already taken substantial steps to reduce atmospheric emissions of methane from oil and natural gas industries;
  • States have statutorily-recognized authority to manage air quality within their borders, and the Act recognizes that states should take a lead role in implementation of various provisions.

Gov. Sandoval concludes by noting that advance engagement with states can help avoid duplicative regulation and protect western air resources.

Read, download the letter to EPA

Read, download letter to BLM

Read, download the WGA Policy Resolution: Methane Emissions Regulation

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

Western News: Hawaii renewables goal, South Dakota presidential visit, Utah homelessness initiative

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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 the May report:

  • 131766 daimler trucks drives first autonomous truck public roads.1Nevada autonomous truckScience funding: The U.S. Department of Energy awarded geothermal research grants to scientists in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
  • Hydropower: Colorado began a $3.4 million experiment to save agricultural water and use it to generate power.
  • Renewable energy: A new bill in Hawaii would require 100% of the state's energy to come from renewable sources by 2045.
  • Wildlife conservation: The new federal wildfire-fighting strategy includes $4 million in projects for sage-grouse habitat protection in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
  • Self-driving trucks: Germany's autonomous Daimler trucks were granted a license to be tested for commercial use in Nevada.
  • Track & field: The International Association of Athletics Federations awarded the 2021 World Championships for track and field to Oregon.
  • ab6955639e4dee14750f6a7067009deeSouth Dakota presidential visitLast but not least: President Obama said he "saved the best for last" as he completed his 50-state circuit with a visit to South Dakota.
  • Housing progress: Chronic homelessness in Utah dropped 91% in the last decade under the state's "Housing First" initiative.
  • Returning natives: The Wyoming Division of Workforce Services created Wyoming Grown, an initiative to bring talented young former residents back to their roots.

Want more state news? You can find the April states' report here

WGA also offers a monthly look at the work of Western Governors. Here's where to find the May update.

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

Western states outline sage-grouse conservation efforts at House Natural Resources Committee hearing

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John Swartout HearingJohn Swartout of Colorado testifying at the hearingThe House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing today (May 19), "Empowering State Management of Greater Sage Grouse," that highlighted state-led efforts to conserve greater sage-grouse.

Witnesses at the hearing included: Kathleen Clarke, Director, Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office; Dustin Miller, Administrator, Idaho Office of Species Conservation; John Swartout, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Gov. John Hickenlooper; Ed Arnett, Senior Scientist, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The Western Governors' Association submitted the written testimony of Executive Director, Jim Ogsbury. It notes the Western Governors' role in creating the Sage-Grouse Task Force in 2011 to foster a dialogue between states and federal land management agencies and concludes: "FWS should fully recognize the voluntary conservation efforts of states together with local governments, federal agencies, conservation districts, private landowners, industry and nonprofits. These efforts ...will provide greater sage-grouse with the necessary habitat to live and thrive." Read, download WGA's testimony.

Highlights from witness testimony at the hearing included:

  • John Swartout: “Western Governors continue to work with each other and Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, within the Sage Grouse Task Force to create robust state and federal plans to protect the greater sage-grouse. It has been a tremendous effort on everyone’s part. We want to thank Secretary Jewell and her team for their efforts.”
  • Dustin Miller: “The State of Idaho holds to the notion that local collaboration, local ideas, and local efforts garner the greatest results.”
  • Kathleen Clarke: “The state of Utah is committed to the long-term conservation of greater sage-grouse. Over $50 million has been invested over the last 10 years on sage-grouse conservation in Utah.”
  • Ed Arnett: “We believe that the best way to maintain state management authority is to enact both federal and state conservation plans with durable protections for sage-grouse habitat, thus enabling the US Fish and Wildlife Service to make a ‘not-warranted’ decision under the Endangered Species Act without delay.”

Greater sage-grouse conservation efforts have been extensive across the West:

  • SGColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order on May 15 directing state agencies to take additional conservation measures for the greater sage-grouse. See the full Executive Order here.
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order in 2014 establishing the Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program. Learn more here.
  • The Western Governors' 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory highlights the effective conservation work undertaken during the past year across the 11-state range of the greater sage-grouse. Find the report here.

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

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper issues executive order to increase sage-grouse conservation

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Colorado Gov John HickenlooperColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order on Friday (May 15) directing state agencies to take additional conservation measures for the greater sage-grouse.

“Our actions, in conjunction with the efforts of our local governments, landowners and many others to protect the greater sage-grouse, have been extensive,” Hickenlooper said in a press release that accompanied the order. “With this Executive Order we are directing our state agencies and our partners to do even more to protect this treasured species."

Hickenlooper directed state agencies to take a number of actions designed to reduce impacts to the greater sage-grouse and its habitat, including taking inventory of -- and improving habitat within -- state lands with grouse populations.

“We firmly believe that state-led efforts are the most effective way to protect and conserve the greater sage grouse and its habitat," said Gov. Hickenlooper in the release. "Conversely, a decision by the federal government to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act would have a significant and detrimental economic impact to the state, as well as threaten the very state-led partnerships that are working to protect the species.”

See the full Executive Order here.

Drought Update: Washington Gov. Inslee declares statewide drought emergency

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Washington Gov Jay InsleeWashington Gov. InsleeIn the face of record-low snowpack, parched rivers and desperate farmers, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency on Friday, May 15.

Gov. Inslee explained in a press release that impacts from the snowpack drought "are already severe in several areas of the state. Difficult decisions are being made about what crops get priority water and how best to save fish.”

The release also noted that mountain snowpack reached a historically low level of 16% of normal statewide, cause for grave concern as snowmelt during the spring and summer keeps rivers flowing, crops watered and fish alive. 

The Washington Department of Agriculture, according to the release, is projecting a $1.2 billion crop loss this year as a result of the drought. Another major worry is the wide-ranging consequences that the state's low snowpack will have on wildfires.

Gov Inslee said “We have some tough, challenging months ahead of us. We’re ready to bring support and relief to the hardest hit areas of the state. We’re going to do everything we can to get through this."

See more on Gov. Inslee's drought declaration here.

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

  • droughtA recent survey by the U.S. Forest Service found that more than 12 million trees have been killed by the California drought.
  • Two counties in Idaho declared drought emergencies due to low snowpack.
  • Montana is bracing for a dry summer after underwhelming April showers.
  • Lake Mead in Nevada reached a record low as its levels fell to 38% of its capacity.
  • According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, more than 60% of Hawaii is experiencing some level of drought.
  • California regulators approved the first statewide rules for the permitting of seawater desalination projects.
  • Salt Lake City, Utah issued a water-shortage advisory to let agencies and water users know to prepare for a very dry summer.
  • Heavy April rains brought much-needed relief to Oklahoma's extreme drought.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared drought emergencies in seven counties; 63% of the state is experiencing extreme drought.

Read last month's Drought Update

Learn about the Western Governors' Drought Forum

Drought Forum for Home PageThe 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.

Other Drought Forum content to explore:

  • Watch video recordings of our Webinar Series of in-depth discussions featuring water and drought management experts.
  • Our Oklahoma workshop featured a case study on Efficient Water Management in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Video
  • The Arizona workshop case study examined the Productive Partnership between Gila River Indian Community and Salt River Water Project. Video
  • The California workshop's case study highlighted Cross-Agency Collaboration in Addressing Record Drought in California. Video
  • Our New Mexico workshop featured a case study on the New Mexico River Stewardship Program's Red River Restoration Project. Video

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. 

Western Governors promote rangeland health with outreach on seed strategy, horses and burro management, cheatgrass

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Western Governors have again demonstrated their commitment to rangeland health in outreach to federal agencies about a national strategy on seed, management of wild horses and burros, and combatting invasive grasses.

National Seed Strategy: The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) submitted comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on its latest draft of a national strategy on seed supply and application for land rehabilitation and restoration. WGA acknowledges the second draft better defines states as a collaborator, but WGA encourages greater recognition within the strategy of the potential need to use non-invasive, non-native cheatgrassCheatgrassseed to address immediate site-stabilization and restoration needs after fires and other disasters. (Read, download letter)

Wild Horses and Burros Study: WGA has asked BLM to make a more compelling case for the agency's proposed study of knowledge and values regarding the management of wild horses and burros, clarifying how surveying stakeholders will inform its analyses of management options. BLM should also ensure that relevant state agencies are represented in focus groups and interviews. (Read, download comments)

Weed Suppressive Bacteria Registration: The intensity of wildfires is increased by the growing presence of cheatgrass. Given the urgency to deploy new tools to battle this invasive species, WGA has urged the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to submit the registration of the weed suppressive bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens (ACK55) to combat cheatgrass. Independent tests indicate that ACK55 is nontoxic and nonpathogenic, but the ability to begin efficacy trials this fall is jeopardized by the ongoing delay in the submission of the registration package. (Read, download letter)

UPDATE: The Agricultural Research Service submitted registration for the weed suppressive bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens (ACK55) to EPA on Sept. 15, 2015.  Read the submission

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

Western Governors' News: Arizona crowdfunding bill, Montana water compact, Nevada time capsule

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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.

ALASKA Gov. Bill Walker was adopted into the Kaagwaantaan clan -- an honor bestowed upon few Alaskan leaders.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed an equity crowdfunding bill aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs.

17009924537 72a97e7cae oAlaska Gov. WalkerCALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown launched the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine to spur public-private collaboration on data-driven medicine.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed May Mental Health Awareness Month and highlighted statewide mental health efforts.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige announced that an agreement was reached regarding the future of conservation lands at Turtle Bay.

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill that addresses the state's transportation infrastructure maintenance backlog.

KANSAS Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that provides additional assistance to disabled veterans.

CD9Pi7iVIAAP7GhNebraska Gov. Ricketts

MONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock signed the CSKT Water Compact into law after more than a decade of negotiation over tribal water rights.

NEBRASKA Gov. Pete Ricketts proclaimed May Beef Month to recognize the industry's impressive growth in the state.

NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA Chairman, buried a time capsule to mark the state's 150th birthday.

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation that supports the state's military members, veterans, and their families.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a statewide fire emergency in response to dry conditions, unseasonably warm temperatures and high winds. 

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin joined bikers on Ride to Remember to raise money for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

CC49SbYUUAAlIhzOklahoma Gov. FallinOREGON Gov. Kate Brown announced a $1.5 million plan to improve air quality in two state counties.

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Standard & Poor's has upgraded the state's issuer credit rating to AAA with a stable outlook.

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott awarded scholarships for students to the 2015 Governor's Science and Technology Champions Academy.

UTAH Gov. Gary Herbert encouraged water conservation and met with water supply experts to plan long-term solutions.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee signed the Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Act into law.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead signed a proclamation recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Read last month's Western Governors' News.

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

Western Governors transition management of Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool to wildlife leaders

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CHAT Map AugustThe Western Governors’ Association (WGA) has transferred hosting and management responsibilities for the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA).

The tool, a cooperative effort of 16 Western states, will now be known as the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. It can be found online at wafwachat.org.

CHAT’s mission to provide a high-level overview of “crucial habitat” across the West has not changed. The tool will remain a public resource for GIS data about wildlife habitat resources across 16 western states. Western state fish and wildlife agencies will continue to develop, update and improve CHAT after the transition.

“The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council is pleased to see the Governors’ vision of a non-regulatory tool providing resource planners vital habitat information continue under the leadership of WAFWA,” said John Harja, Chairman of the Council, which oversaw the creation and rollout of CHAT in 2013.

“State fish and wildlife data are critical to informed land use, land planning and natural resource decisions,” said Jim Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director. “Western Governors strongly advocate continued use of the CHAT by public and private planners.”

“We are excited to carry on the work started by the Western Governors’ Association in providing wildlife species and habitat information to state and federal agencies, local and tribal governments, conservation advocates, business and industry groups, private landowners, and outdoors enthusiasts,” said Larry Kruckenberg, WAFWA Executive Secretary.

The public launch of CHAT in December of 2013 followed years of work by Western Governors and their state wildlife agencies – as well as partners in industry, non-profits and the federal government.

The website was recently updated with new data analysis and mapping display features to enhance usability. Since its debut, nearly 11,000 users have visited the site, generating more than 55,000 page views and more than 400 downloads of the CHAT data-set.

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

Executive Director's Notebook: Collaboration key to positive Interior ruling on Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse

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By Jim Ogsbury

Sandoval at Sage Grouse RulingGov. Brian Sandoval at announcement of ruling on Bi-State population of greater sage-grouseThe Department of Interior announced last week that the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The announcement, lauded in the bird’s home states of Nevada and California, recognized the great collaborative work of the states, private landowners and conservation groups to preserve habitat and create favorable conditions for the species. It is exactly this kind of collaboration that is underway on a much larger scale to preclude an ESA listing of the greater sage-grouse, which occupies portions of 11 Western states.

That collaborative work -- a hallmark of WGA’s policy effort -- was central to the Department’s decision and was reflected in the remarks of key players in the conservation effort:

  • "We can achieve more when we voluntarily work together." Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • "Today’s announcement highlights the critical partnerships that must exist for our conservation strategies to be effective." Brian Sandoval, WGA Chairman and Governor of Nevada
  • "The collaborative, science-based efforts in Nevada and California are proof that we can conserve sagebrush habitat." Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior
  • “This partnership between California and Nevada serves as a model for effective conservation." John Laird, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary

WGA’s 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory documents enormous investments in the conservation of the greater sage-grouse. These investments, reflecting a good faith effort to protect both the environment and economic opportunity, have depended on vibrant partnerships and cooperative work.

I subscribe to the observation of Jason Weller, the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, who in commenting upon last week’s announcement, stated:  "I hope folks take a hard look at this decision, the key ingredients and what we can learn from that, and apply those to the greater sage-grouse, because that's what's up next."

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Register for Western Governors' Annual Meeting June 24-26 at Lake Tahoe

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Lake Tahoe BeachThe Hyatt Regency is a AAA Four Diamond hotelThe agenda is taking shape and 10 governors have committed to attend the Western Governors' Association Annual Meeting June 24-26 in Incline Village, Nev.

WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval will welcome Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to the meeting at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.

Keynote addresses will be delivered by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Honorable Mike Leavitt, who has served as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Governor of Utah.  Attendees will also hear from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. (Agenda)

Online registration is available for the meeting. Act now to secure your room at the best rate.

Western Governors and invited guests will discuss a variety of significant western issues. Topics on the agenda include: integrating new, utility-scale storage technologies into the electricity grid; strengthening western highway and rail networks; and improving water and drought policy.

The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe is a AAA Four Diamond hotel with a stunning lakeside location. The meeting is scheduled to begin around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, and conclude no later than 11 a.m. on Friday, June 26.

Register to attend

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

West dominates new 2015 state economic competitiveness rankings

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Rich States, Poor States2015 RSPS Cover Final S 248x354, the 2015 state economic competitiveness rankings released by the American Legislative Exchange Council, reveals which states are poised for growth and an impressive regional trend: Western states have very strong economic outlooks for 2015.

For the eighth year in a row, Utah takes the top spot for Best Economic Outlook. North Dakota ranked second in the nation, with Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nevada also placing in the top 10.

The report uses 15 equally-weighted economic policy variables to rank the economic outlook of states. These variables -- including tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies -- have been shown to be among the most influential factors for state growth. See the report.

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

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

Fish and Wildlife rules Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse doesn't need ESA protection

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Sage Grouse Initiative Bird BlogPhoto by Greg Albrechtsen, Sage Grouse InitiativeThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has determined that the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse, found in Nevada and California, does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Western Governors applauded the decision announced today by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Reno, Nev., where she was joined by Western Governors' Association Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird, and other partners.

"Our biologists have determined that this population no longer needs ESA protection,” said Jewell. “What’s more, the collaborative, science-based efforts in Nevada and California are proof that we can conserve sagebrush habitat across the West while we encourage sustainable economic development.”

"I applaud the local area working group, private citizens, Tribes, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and our federal partners for their tremendous efforts to develop conservation actions that preclude the need to list the species while still allowing for sustainable economic development," said Gov. Sandoval.

The Bi-State Distinct Population Segment (DPS) straddles the California-Nevada border, where between 2,500 and 9,000 of the ground-dwelling birds inhabit about 4.5 million acres of high-desert sagebrush. In October 2013, the FWS proposed listing the Bi-State DPS as threatened, but now it has withdrawn the proposal. Read stories by Scott Sonner of the Associated Press  and Phil Taylor of E&E News (subscription required). 

“California is committed to continue working with our public and private partners in implementing this strong, science-based conservation plan into the future,” said Secretary Laird. “This partnership between California and Nevada serves as a model for effective conservation of the Greater sage-grouse in other Western states.”

Sage Grouse Inventory Cover 2014A key factor in the decision not to list the bird was the development of the Bi-State Action Plan, developed by partners in the Bi-State Local Area Working Group over the past 15 years and secured with $45 million in funding. This adds to nearly $30 million worth of conservation work the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) -- much of it through the Sage Grouse Initiative launched by the Natural Resources Conservation Service -- and other partners have completed.

Western Governors are leading a similar collaborative strategy to prevent a listing of the greater sage-grouse across its 11-state western range. The bird was listed as "warranted but precluded" under the ESA in 2010 by FWS, which has said it will make a "warranted' or "not warranted" decision by Sept. 30, 2015.

The governors just released the 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory, highlighting the effective conservation work undertaken by public, private and non-governmental groups during the past year.

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

Western Governors applaud Interior for seeking state input on rangeland fire, offer additional comments

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Rangeland FireWestern Governors have expressed their appreciation to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for seeking state input regarding policies and strategies to prevent and manage rangeland fire, as well as restore rangeland after fires.

The governors' outreach also included comments on Secretarial Order 3336: A Set of Longer Term Actions and Activities, Draft Final Report. The comments were included in a letter sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Highlights of the comments included:

  • Improving Cooperation and Coordination: Western Governors support removal of policy barriers that prevent effective sharing of resources for wildland fire and land management activities. 
  • Enhancing Local Response Capabilities: Western Governors embrace DOI’s plan for increased technical assistance to local communities that enhances their ability to play a critical role in initial response to rangeland fires.
  • Voluntary Conservation Efforts: The governors endorse expanded technical support and incentives for livestock producers to voluntarily implement targeted fuel treatments and grazing methods to improve sagebrush-steppe habitat.
  • State Science and Expertise: The governors urge federal agencies to obtain and use state data and analyses as principal sources to inform design and implementation of land management actions for habitat and fuels management, and restoration projects. 

Read the letter for more on those issues, as well as comments on Fuels Management, Good Neighbor Authority, Use of Non-Native Species and Removing Invasive Grasses.

Download the letter

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

Western Governors laud extension of Secure Rural Schools funding, encourage permanent solution

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SRS Funding Map 2013 Click on this map for estimated payments counties received from SRS in FY 2013, according to USDAThe Senate has approved two more years of funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS), which helps timber‐dependent counties pay for essential government services.

E&E's Phil Taylor reported that "The extension was included in H.R. 2, a bill to overhaul Medicare payments to doctors. Senators passed the bill 92-8, sending it to President Obama's desk, where it is expected to be signed." The House had passed the bill in March.(Full story, subscripion required)

Western Governors applauded the reauthorization of SRS, which they had strongly supported in February outreach to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid. (Read, download that letter).

The program, which is particularly critical in the West, had expired on Sept. 30, 2014. (A recent High Country News story documented the impact of nonpayment of the funds.) The current bill provides $500 million, which will be disbursed to counties retroactively for 2014 and 2015, National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase told E&E News.

Althought the current bill would fund SRS at 5% less than previous levels in 2013 (see map above), the Western Governors' Association is encouraged that leadership found a way to fund the program. However, as WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury noted in recent testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, the goal is "full funding for SRS payments." (Read testimony)

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

Western News: Alaska wood bison, North Dakota burn ban, Oregon solar schools

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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 the April report:

  • 1ae193b656e8430e720f6a706700883e t730California bighorn sheep releaseInto the wild: A herd of 100 wood bison was reintroduced into the wild in Alaska, marking the first time the animal has roamed free in the U.S. in 200 years.
  • Next frontier: An infrared camera operated by Arizona State University helped NASA pick out the site for the next Mars lander.
  • Back home: For the first time in a century, endangered bighorn sheep have been returned to California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
  • Pluto pictures: A camera developed by a Colorado aerospace company will take the first close-up photos of Pluto.
  • New digs: Clif Bar broke ground on a $90 million bakery in Idaho that will employ more than 200 workers.
  • Impressive numbers: Kansas, South Dakota and Utah tied for first in America in private monthly job growth in February.
  • Energy innovation: A wind energy company in Montana designed an inexpensive, more efficient alternative to the traditional wind turbine.
  • Unemployment drop: At 2.7%, Nebraska had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation for February.
  • 55021e8010ed6.preview 620Idaho bakery groundbreakingFire precautions: statewide burn ban prohibiting outdoor fires was declared by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
  • Solar schools: New schools in Beaverton, Oregon will include $500 million in solar panels.
  • National tour: President Obama announced that he will complete his 50-state circuit with a commencement address at a South Dakota technical institute.
  • Graduation rates: The latest figures showed the high school graduation rate for Texas African-American and Hispanic students was the highest in the U.S.

You can find the March states' report here. WGA also offers a monthly look at the work of Western Governors. Here's where to find the April update.

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

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury testifies before House Natural Resources Water Subcommittee

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April 14 TestimonyWGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury, far left and below, testified along with others before the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Western Governors' Association Executive Director Jim Ogsbury testified on April 14, 2015, on behalf of the WGA before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans.

The testimony shared the perspective of the Western Governors regarding recent federal water-related regulatory proposals, including the U.S. Forest Service's (USFS) proposed directive on groundwater resource management and the proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Some of WGA's comments:

  • As noted in the resolution Water Resource Management in the West, "states are the primary authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing water resources, and they are primarily responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries."
  • April 15 OgsburyWestern Governors were pleased to hear from the Forest Service that it has suspended work on the proposed directive on groundwater resource management and will work more closely and meaningfully with states in the future. Western Governors applaud this development and commitment.
  • Western Governors differ regarding the substance of the draft “Waters of the United States” rule issued by the EPA and Army Corps. All Western Governors, however, recognize the primacy of state authority over water resources within state boundaries. WGA is concerned that the rulemaking process did not involve meaningful consultation with the states during the draft rule’s development.
  • The EPA Science Advisory Board panel for the review of the agency’s water body connectivity report – purportedly the scientific basis for the rule – included no state representatives.  The report was developed without the regulatory expertise, scientific resources and on-the-ground knowledge possessed by state water professionals.
  • State authority is the cornerstone of effective water management in the West ... states are best situated to understand their own unique legal frameworks, local hydrology and citizen needs.  Federal efforts to assume greater authority over water jeopardize the distinct advantages of having on-the-ground resource management. 

Read, Download Complete Testimony

Watch a video of the hearing

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Story: Western counties bear brunt of non-payment, under-payment of PILT, SRS

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PILTCover

High Country News just published a story that details how the funding "limbo" in recent years for Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) has negatively impacted rural counties, particularly in the West.

The story notes: "In the coming years, lapsed federal funding may also change resource management practices as communities look for new revenue streams." (Read the story)

Western Governors have consistently reached out to House and Senate leadership to request full funding of PILT and SRS, including this letter that asserts the federal government "must fulfill its longstanding obligation to fund these programs for rural counties with tax-exempt federal lands and for timber-dependent counties that rely on this funding."

The Governors also stated support for funding of these programs in the resolution, Federal Agreements with Western States, which asserts: "The federal government should honor its historic agreements with states and counties in the West to compensate them for state and local impacts associated with federal land use and nontaxable lands within their borders that are federally owned.

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

Drought Update: Gov. Sandoval creates Nevada Drought Forum

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Governor Sandoval Nevada Drought Forum Washoe LakeNevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed an Executive Order on Wednesday to establish the Nevada Drought Forum.

Gov. Sandoval said the Nevada Drought Forum will "bring together some of the best minds in the scientific, conservation, government and industry sectors to ensure that Nevada’s path forward is clear. The Forum will provide an opportunity for all Nevadans – urban and rural, north and south – to come together to help address this most critical challenge." 

(Read media coverage in the Nevada Appeal and Las Vegas Review-Journal.)

Standing in a dusty bed at Washoe Lake in Nevada for the announcement, the governor noted that he launched the Western Governors' Drought Forum in 2014 as his Chairman's Inititiative for the Western Governors' Association. The Drought Forum has since fostered a regional dialogue for states and industry to share case studies and best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management.

"This June, we will release the final report from that initiative," said Gov. Sandoval, "which will help identify best practices and next steps that will help guide our collective efforts across the West."

"It is no secret that Nevada is in the midst of a severe drought," the governor said. "This situation demands strong leadership and a united coalition to plan, prepare and act; it demands that communities, industries, scientists, non-governmental organizations, and local, state and federal agencies work together to ensure that our Nevada family is able to thrive." (Visit the Nevada Drought Forum website)

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

Read last month's Drought Update

Western Governors' 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory highlights successful conservation

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Sage Grouse Inventory Cover 2014Media Coverage: Reporter Keith Ridler of the Associated Press spoke with a Boise State professor and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter for the story "Western governors tout sage grouse conservation." Bruce Finley of the Denver Post wrote about the myriad ongoing conservation efforts, including the comments of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Additional coverage appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Craig Daily News, and KREX TV. The Denver Post subsequently reported on greater sage-grouse conservation and profiled NRCS Chief Jason Weller of the NRCS. 

April 2: Western Governors have released the 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory, highlighting the effective conservation work undertaken by public, private and non-governmental groups during the past year across the 11-state range of the greater sage-grouse.

The greater sage-grouse was listed as "warranted but precluded" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2010 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which has said it will make a "warranted' or "not warranted" decision by Sept. 30, 2015.

Western Governors assert that the magnitude of voluntary conservation efforts across the region, if allowed to run their course, will provide the bird with the necessary habitat to thrive.

Gov HickenlooperGov. Hickenlooper"The Sage-Grouse Inventory highlights the fact that Western states are doing an enormous amount of work to preserve the greater sage-grouse, as well as the Gunnison sage-grouse here in Colorado," said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, co-chair of the Sage Grouse Task Force (SGTF), which includes designees from western states and federal agencies.

Gov. Hickenlooper added: "Governors believe that a listing of the greater sage-grouse by the Fish and Wildlife Service would diminish the amount of conservation work undertaken and have a significant, negative economic impact across the West."

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, co-chair of the SGTF, concurred. "Western Governors are committed to conserving greater sage-grouse," Gov. Mead said. "What we’re trying to do Matt Mead Portrait MugGov. Meadis prevent the sage-grouse from being listed. Private landowners, industry and conservationists are working with state and federal agencies with the goal of ensuring a healthy grouse population."

The fourth annual inventory produced by the Governors, through the Western Governors' Association (WGA), has expanded its focus from previous years. In addition to state and local government conservation initiatives, it includes reports from federal agencies, conservation districts, industry and nonprofits. Some Inventory highlights:

  • Colorado, Idaho and Montana have collectively protected nearly 350,000 acres of greater sage-grouse habitat through purchase or conservation easements.
  • Nevada Mining Association members have developed Habitat Conservation Plans on 1.2 million acres.
  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service's Sage Grouse Initiative, working with landowners, has reclaimed over 400,000 acres of sage-grouse habitat through conifer removal.

Sage Grouse Appendix Cover 2014The governors also published the 2014 Sage-Grouse Appendix, which identifies all sage-grouse conservation initiatives reported by states and counties since 2011.

"The 2014 Sage-Grouse Inventory, a compendium of successful voluntary sage-grouse conservation initiatives, helps demonstrate that a listing of the bird as threatened or endangered under ESA would be both unnecessary and counterproductive," said Jim Ogsbury, Executive Director of the WGA.

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

California Gov. Brown orders state's first-ever mandatory water reductions in wake of record low snowpack

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image12015 snow survey California officials on Wednesday announced the state's lowest snowpack ever recorded, with levels across the entire Sierra Nevada range at a historic low of 6 percent of the long-term average. 

The news about snowpack is only marginally better across the West. 

Mountain snowpack is the primary supplier of water for agricultural, industrial and domestic uses throughout the region. Without this frozen insurance to get the state through the projected dry heat of the coming summer, California Gov. Jerry Brown has announced the first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions.

Gov. Brown declared03 28 13 Snow Survey2013 snow survey (Photos courtesy California Natural Resources Agency) "This historic drought demands unprecedented action... As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible."

California officials have already been making difficult decisions about allocating scarce water supplies. Read more and find a video on a case study of the cross-agency collaboration in addressing record drought in California.

Reid Wilson of the Washington Post, reporting on the latest development in California, noted: "The drought spreads across every western state. Oregon and Washington have both recorded record-low snowpacks this year."

Here is a look at current snowpack conditions in other western mountain states:

  • Colorado snowpack is 69 percent of normal, after a hot, dry March melted away snowpack from 87 percent at the end of February.
  • Montana's snowpack measurements are far better off than much of the West, though still lower than normal at 91 percent.
  • Oregon's record-low snowpack spurred a drought declaration, with many regions at 25 percent of normal or less.
  • Utah snowpack is lower than half of its normal amount at 43 percent.
  • Washington snowpack is at a record-low 21 percent, and three regions have declared drought.
  • Wyoming snowpack is holding steady at 94 percent of normal, though that reflects a 42 percent drop from one year ago.

The Western Governors' Drought Forum, the WGA Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, is examining drought impacts and solutions in the West. Learn how the Drought Forum is fostering a regional dialogue in which states and industry can share case studies and best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management on our Drought Forum website.

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

Western Governors' News: Oregon sage-grouse conservation, South Dakota justice reform, Washington drought declaration

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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.

ALASKA Gov. Bill Walker celebrated the second highest year ever for Alaskan exports, with more than $5.1 billion of goods exported during 2014.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed bipartisan legislation to assist companies planning large-scale investment and expansion in Arizona.

duceyArizona Gov. DuceyCALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown fast-tracked more than $1 billion in emergency funding for drought relief and critical water infrastructure projects.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper announced more than $34 million in grants, awarded to 40 projects throughout Colorado, to address key public improvements.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige assessed his administration's first 100 days in office. Watch here.

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter praised the dramatic drop in the state's veteran unemployment rate and reaffirmed a commitment to bring it lower.

KANSAS Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill to replace the state's education funding formula and provide more than $4 billion to support K12 education.

MONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock announced more than $200,000 in Growth through Agriculture Grants to help local food and agriculture businesses.

brownback2 e1427401842200 750x400Kansas Gov. BrownbackNEBRASKA Gov. Pete Ricketts lauded the state for achieving the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA Chairman, announced the start of the Multi-State Poker Network with Delaware, which allows poker players from the states to compete against one another at the same "virtual" tables.

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez announced support for the Rio Grande Trail, a proposed 500-mile statewide recreation trail.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Jack Dalrymple met with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to discuss ongoing work to improve rail and pipeline safety.

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin formed an inter-agency panel to improve developmental disability services.

CBI3L7kU0AAcQ2HOregon Gov. BrownOREGON Gov. Kate Brown announced, with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the conservation of sage-grouse habitat on 4 million acres of Oregon land.

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill to reform the state's juvenile justice system.

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to implement new child safety measures.

UTAH Gov. Gary Herbert raised the stakes for the 2015 Epic Ski Challenge, with his own friendly challenge to Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper. Watch here.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee declared drought for three state regions in the face of near record-low snowpack.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead released his 10-year homelessness plan, "A Home for Everyone."

Read last month's Western Governors' News here.

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

Executive Director's Notebook: Delivering Governors' message keeps me up in the air

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By Jim Ogsbury

Clooney for ED Notebook PostParamount PicturesA friend recently observed that, because of my travel schedule of late, I remind him of the character George Clooney played in the movie Up in the Air. Except for the protagonist’s charm and good looks (and tawdry affairs), I suppose the comparison is apt. But while Clooney was flying around the country firing people and downsizing businesses, I am honored to travel the country to promote the Western Governors’ common-sense policy proposals.

Last week, for example, I was privileged to join members of the WGA sponsor community for a luncheon at the historic and spectacular Utah Governor’s Mansion in Salt Lake City. Reflecting his commitment to WGA, Gov. Gary Herbert generously opened his home to association supporters for a robust discussion of Western policy issues.

Immediately following the luncheon, I flew to Washington, D.C., to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior. I was pleased to have the opportunity to present the Governors’ policy priorities on a host of issues, including the Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs, the budgetary treatment of federal firefighting activities, species conservation and Western drought.

Within hours of my testimony, I was in Nashville for the National Summit of the State Government Affairs Council, a national association for multi-state government affairs professionals from industry, trade groups and service providers. The Summit was an extraordinary forum for the exchange of ideas and information among dedicated public policy professionals.

It was a full and busy week, and it is rewarding to learn how broadly the messages of Western Governors are resonating. Still, it’s good to be back home in Denver, where I can recharge and prepare for my next excursion on behalf of the Governors.

Eat your heart out, George.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Western Governors ask EPA to take 'balanced, holistic approach' to adjusting National Ambient Air Quality Standard

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EPA LogoWestern Governors have urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take a "balanced, holistic approach" in determining whether to adjust the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

The Governors' comments, shared on March 17, 2015, were in response to EPA's proposed rule, National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone (79 FR 75233, December 17, 2014). In 2008, EPA strengthened the NAAQS for ground-level ozone from 0.084 parts-per-million (ppm) to 0.075 ppm. In some western states, implementation of the 2008 standard is still ongoing. Now EPA is under a court-imposed deadline to retain or revise the 2008 standard by Oct. 1, 2015.

The comments note that "Western Governors recognize the critical importance of maintaining good air quality ...and appreciate the opportunity to work with EPA to achieve this objective." As stated in WGA Policy Resolution 2014-13: State Clean Air Act Authority and Air Quality Regulation, the Governors believe EPA "should engage the states as co-regulators ... in the development of any EPA rule promulgated under the Clean Air Act (CAA)."

The Governors conclude that EPA must "take a balanced, holistic approach, in determining whether or not to adjust the NAAQS." Should EPA seek to establish a stricter NAAQS for ground-level ozone, "implementation in the West would require a better understanding of the role contributory factors – including factors unique to the region – play in this process."

Read the full comments

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Western Governors support Congressional efforts to end 'fire borrowing' practice

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Prescribed FireWestern Governors have reaffirmed their support for Congressional efforts to end the so-called “fire borrowing” practice used by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) to fund their wildfire suppression activities.

"Fire borrowing" occurs because federal wildfire budgets have not increased to meet the escalating trend of wildfires in the West. As a result, the USFS and DOI must "borrow" funds from non-suppression accounts to pay for firefighting, reinforcing the damaging wildfire cycle.

The Governors' letter, signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, notes: "The current funding situation has allowed severe wildfires to burn through crippling amounts of the very funds that should instead be used to prevent and reduce wildfire impacts and costs. This represents an unacceptable set of outcomes for taxpayers, at-risk communities, and responsible stewardship of federal land."

The letter continues: "We are encouraged that bipartisan legislation, including the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (S. 235, H.R. 167), has been proposed to address this important issue. This legislation would solve the budgetary issue by creating a funding structure similar to that used by other federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when responding to natural disasters."

The outreach was directed to leadership of the Committee on the Budget in the Senate and House. It follows similar efforts in 2014 by Western Governors to end the practice.  

Read, download the current "fire-borrowing" letter.

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

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury testifies before House Appropriations Subcommittee

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Jim Ogsbury Testimony March 2015Western Governors' Association Executive Director Jim Ogsbury testified March 18, 2015, on behalf of the WGA before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. 

The testimony touched on a variety of Western policy issues impacted by the appropriations and activities of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some of the topics included:

  • Full funding of a permanent and stable funding mechanism for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, as these appropriations represent important compensation for the disproportionate acreage of non-taxable federal lands in the West. Ogsbury noted that reauthorization of the payments under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act are also critical.
  • The problem of “fire borrowing,” by which the funding for routine Forest Service management activities is transferred to emergency firefighting activities. WGA would prefer that the federal government use a funding structure similar to that used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in its response to natural disasters.
  • Request that funding be appropriated to allow Governors, under the 2014 Farm Bill, to treat National Forest System lands within their states for insects and disease.
  • The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is premised on a strong state-federal partnership, so that should include partnership with states in the establishment of quantifiable species recovery goals, as well as in the design and implementation of recovery plans.

Testimony topics also included the number of wild horses and burros on BLM lands and a proposed rule for the Clean Water Act. Read, Download Complete Testimony

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Western News: Colorado housing aid, Montana rail investment, Washington salmon recovery efforts

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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 the March report:

You can find the February states' report here. WGA also offers a monthly look at the work of Western Governors. Here's where to find the March update.

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

Western Governors support bipartisan bill expanding trail maintenance in the West

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National Trails SystemWestern Governors strongly back the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (H.R. 845), which would expand National Forest trail maintenance efforts in the West and enable the use of volunteers to maintain trails on Forest Service lands.

The bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Timothy Walz in the House and Sen. Michael Bennet  and Sen. Mike Enzi in the Senate, represents a common-sense approach in a budget-constrained environment. The need for a creative strategy to maintain trails is clear, Western Governors assert in a letter signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

At present, only a quarter of National Forest trails are maintained to Forest Service standards, and the agency currently faces a $314 million backlog in trail maintenance.

Well maintained Forest Service trails are vital to western states’ recreation industry. They are used by hikers, horseback riders, campers, hunters, fisher-folk, and for other outdoor recreation.

Read and download the letter

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

Western Governors ask FCC to ensure spectrum auction does not disenfranchise any American

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FCC LogoWestern Governors urged members of the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that a planned spectrum auction does not disenfranchise any American by leaving them without access to free over-the air broadcast signals.

The Governors, in a letter signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, told the FCC they "support the concept of free over-the-air reception of television broadcasts for all Americans, as envisioned in the Communications Act of 1934."

Western Governors went on to say that the FCC must "ensure that a planned spectrum auction does not disenfranchise any American by leaving them without access to news ... through free over-the air broadcast signals."

Read and download the letter.

Read a blog about the issue on the AT&T Public Policy Blog

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

Drought Update: Oklahoma drought grants and Oregon wildfire concerns

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

Read last month's Drought Update.

Western states well positioned to respond to upcoming federal proposals to regulate methane emissions

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DrillingWestern states are well positioned to respond to upcoming federal proposals to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

In fact, a recent story by Bloomberg BNA points out that federal regulators could look to states such as Colorado -- which in 2014 launched the nation's first statewide limit on methane emissions from natural gas operations -- for best practices to cut methane emissions.

It would be helpful if the Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management “reach out to states,” said Will Allison, director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. “EPA can learn some valuable lessons from Colorado.”

That advice in the story by reporter Tripp Baltz echoes Western Governors' Association Policy Resolution 2015-02: Methane Emissions Regulation, which says in part "federal agencies should consult with states early in the rulemaking process, and should take into account state views, opinions, and economic needs."

Several federal agencies are expected to be involved in the forthcoming regulations, which seek to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40%, from 2012 levels, by 2025. (See a fact sheet on the goals).

BLM’s methane emissions reduction proposal is expected this spring. EPA regulations are likely to be proposed this summer, for finalization in 2016. Related steps are expected from the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration..

Read the Bloomberg BNA story. Read and download WGA's policy resolution Methane Emissions Regulation.

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