logo

News

Select a news topic from the list below, then select a news article to read.

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

Published on .

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 In October 2013, the FWS proposed listing the Bi-State DPS as threatened, but now it has withdrawn the proposal.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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

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

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

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

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

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

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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

Published on .

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.

California survey finds snowpack far below normal, drought likely to continue

Published on .

Cal Snow Survey LogoThe latest survey of snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas showed it is far below normal, prompting concern that California's drought will continue for a fourth year.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, told the Associated Press that the 6.7 inches of snow on the ground at the survey spot about 90 miles east of Sacramento "was very meager" and "flirting with being the lowest on record."

The AP report also noted that state residents again aren't coming close to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown's call for a 20% cut in water use. Read the story.

Snowpack updates from other Western states revealed low numbers as well:

Learn more about drought in California: Read a case study presented at the Western Governors’ Drought Forum workshop in California about how federal agencies, faced with a historic drought, collaborated to allocate scarce water supplies while balancing the needs of a multitude of water users and protecting against devastating economic loss.

Would you prefer to watch the case study? We have videos of all five that have been presented at Drought Forum workshops across the West.

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

Western Governors' News: Hawaii technology upgrade, Idaho military advocacy, Utah sage-grouse protection

Published on .

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 filed a bill to create a marijuana control board to help regulate the state's newest legal industry.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation designed to draw more doctors into rural areas by boosting the state's medical loan repayment program.

B9GuAb9CcAAAP4UTexas Gov. AbbottCALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown announced $50 million in federal funding for drought relief, with $29 million going toward California's Central Valley Water Project.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper celebrated success after Brown's Canyon was declared a national monument.

GUAM Gov. Eddie Calvo traveled to Japan to witness the signing of an MOU with the Sapporo Tourist Association to increase the flow of tourism between the areas.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige launched a major technology upgrade as part of a long-term plan to transform the state government to higher levels of efficiency.

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter established an Idaho Military Advocacy Commission to support the communities of the state's military bases.

KANSAS Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order establishing the Governor's Social Services Policy Council to help decrease the level of poverty in the state.

MONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock announced grant funding for Native American small business owners.

150220 n ac887 002Washington Gov. InsleeNEBRASKA Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke at the Nebraska Agri/Eco-Tourism Workshop about how tourism can help the state grow.

NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval, WGA Chairman, signed the Homeowners Protection Act to discourage frivolous litigation and strengthen the state's rebounding housing market.

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez proposed legislation to protect and support victims of domestic violence.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a bill that fast-tracks $1.1 billion in "surge funding" for highways and communities affected by the state's extensive growth.

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin formed a Governor's Education Advisory Committee to advise on education policy and her new work education initiative.

OREGON Gov. Kate Brown celebrated Oregon's first annual Spud Day to commemorate the donation of 33 tons of potatoes to the 2015 Governor's Food Drive.

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard created a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students to reevaluate the state's current education funding formula.

B 5RvUvUwAA1 N9Wyoming Gov. MeadTEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott highlighted his plan to make Texas number one in the nation for women-owned businesses at the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Day Luncheon.

UTAH Gov. Gary Herbert signed an executive order to protect Utah's greater sage grouse population and its habitat.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee was presented the Distinguished Public Service Award, the Navy’s highest civilian honor, by U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead passed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact to help Wyoming recruit doctors and improve healthcare.

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.

WGA advocates use of state expertise in National Seed Strategy and Implementation Plan

Published on .

plantingsagebrush ND 402x267Planting sagebrush in North DakotaThe Western Governors' Association has provided comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) about a draft National Seed Strategy and Implementation Plan (Strategy). That feedback advocates for state experts to be engaged, a 10-year planning horizon for seed need projections, and accelerated research for invasive species control.

The feedback sent to Peggy Olwell, Plant Conservation Program Lead at BLM, was communicated in a letter signed by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury. The comments, in part, included:

  • Use of Non-Native Species: Western Governors agree with the Strategy’s sentiment that non-native species may be needed to achieve conservation objectives.
  • State Expertise: The Strategy calls for significant analysis. Western Governors recommend that state experts be engaged in conducting these analyses and developing guidelines.
  • Coordination of Federal Initiatives: Western Governors are anxious to learn how federal agencies will coordinate execution of the Strategy with the Secretarial Order 3336 (Rangeland Fire Prevention, Management, and Restoration) and multiple other federal initiatives.
  • Seed Need Planning Horizon: Western Governors recommend a 10-year planning horizon for projecting emergency and planned restoration seed needs.
  • Research on Bio-Based Pesticides and Accelerated Implementation: Western Governors want to see research and implementation of invasive species control measures accelerated.

Learn more about WGA's comments by reading and downloading the complete letter.

 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: Western Governors, Cabinet members work together on tough issues in DC meeting

Published on .

Western Governors with WGA and SecretariesWestern Governors and Cabinet Secretaries, from left in front row, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Back row, from left: WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

By Jim Ogsbury

Nothing says “dedication to a cause” quite like tromping across ice and snow in the dark to attend a pre-dawn meeting on a frigid Sunday.

Nevada Governor Sandoval Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval That is exactly what a dozen Western Governors did last weekend in order to engage members of the President’s cabinet in a meaningful dialogue on critical regional issues.

In conjunction with the annual winter meeting of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), WGA organized a caucus meeting of its membership with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy. A slew of agency directors and other top Obama Administration officials were also in attendance.

The meeting drew the top leadership of NGA, who happen to be former Chairmen of WGA. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the immediate past chair of WGA, currently holds the top position at the national association. His Vice Chair is Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who Hawaii Governor IgeGov. David Igepreceded Gov. Hickenlooper as Chair of WGA.

WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval was particularly pleased to welcome three newly minted Western Governors to the WGA family: Doug Ducey of Arizona, Bill Walker of Alaska and David Ige of Hawaii. The other Western Governors in attendance were Matt Mead of Wyoming, Steve Bullock of Montana, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Eddie Calvo of Guam.

The Administration officials outlined their priorities with respect to a wide range of issues, and the Governors responded with concerns, questions and priorities of their own. The format was conducive to a candid and frank exchange of views. Even when there was sharp disagreement, there was never a moment when the conversation strayed from its collegial and respectful course.

Arizona Governor DuceyGov. Doug DuceyGov. Sandoval promoted the Western Governors’ Drought Forum, his initiative as Chair of WGA, and Gov. Herbert put in a plug for the fourth annual Governor’s Energy Development Summit, scheduled for May 20-21 in Salt Lake City. Gov. Ige discussed his state’s transition to renewable energy sources and Gov. Inslee described efforts in Washington to further develop biofuels energy. Governors Bullock, Mead and Dalrymple all offered constructive suggestions with respect to EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Gov. Calvo emphasized the importance of “Compact Impact” funding to his remote island.

Forest health and management was a key concern for many participants. Gov. Ducey promoted the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, and Gov. Daugaard expressed appreciation for the flexibility that has been exercised to expedite NEPA review for forest restoration projects designated by Governors for priority treatment.

One theme threaded throughout the discussion was the importance of better communication between federal and state officials. Gov. Walker, for example, urged the cooperation of the Department of Interior as his state develops energy infrastructure. Other governors applauded the cabinet for its accessibility and suggested that communications are improving.

Perhaps Gov. Hickenlooper said it best: “I think we’re learning to disagree better.”

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.

Forest Service puts 'Groundwater Directive' on hold to enable increased engagement with Western states

Published on .

USFS Chief Tom Tidwell PortraitChief TidwellThe head of the U.S. Forest Service said Thursday that the agency's Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management has been put on hold to enable more engagement with Western states.

That's positive news for Western Governors, who expressed concern (and later delivered comments) to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the proposed directive shortly after its release last July. The governors noted then in a letter that "Western states are the exclusive authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing groundwater resources, and they are responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries."

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) letter concluded: “This proposed directive was developed without any state consultation of which WGA is aware. True consultation with the states will help the Service identify and avoid conflicts regarding proposed directives and rules. We invite the USFS to work through WGA, the Western States Water Council, and individual states to facilitate dialogue on ways to improve this (and any future) proposed directive."

USFS Chief Tom Tidwell made the announcement during a hearing on the Forest Service's fiscal 2016 budget before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in response to questioning from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)

"Where we are today is we've stopped," Tidwell said, according to a story by Phil Taylor of E&E News. "We're going to go back, and we're going to sit down with -- primarily with the states, the state water engineers -- to really sit down with them and get their ideas about how we can do this, and ideally how we can do it together." (Read story, subscription required)

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury applauded the decision. "We have said from the beginning that the Forest Service should seek an authentic partnership with the states to achieve appropriate policies that reflect both the legal division of power and the on-the-ground realities of the region. Western Governors look forward to working with the agency."

Learn more about the position of Western Governors on the proposed groundwater directive by reading their initial letter and subsequent comments on the directive.

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

Watch Drought Forum case study videos on agriculture, water supply, river restoration, state & federal collaboration

Published on .

Drought Forum Vertical LogoThe Western Governors’ Drought Forum held five workshops across the West in 2014-15 that gathered experts from government and industry to discuss drought impacts and share policy solutions, case studies and best practices. (Learn more about the workshops)

A case study was presented at each workshop, which were presented in Norman, Okla.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Sacramento, Calif.; Las Vegas, Nev., and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Each case study was recorded so that it might serve as permanent resource. Here's a collection of the case study videos:

Adopting Efficient Water Management Strategies to Promote Economic Development in the Oklahoma Panhandle

Summary: The Oklahoma Panhandle is an agriculturally-driven region that receives little annual precipitation, creating a dependence on groundwater drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer. Creation of the Panhandle Regional Water Plan and adoption of efficiency measures to gauge municipal, agricultural and energy sector water use has allowed those in the region to preserve the life of the aquifer upon which its economy relies. This case study was presented at the Drought Forum workshop in Norman, Okla. (Read more)

Gila River Water Shortage: A Productive Partnership between Gila River Indian Community and Salt River Project

The Gila River Indian Community in central Arizona has used irrigation to support agriculture for more than 2,000 years. The tribe’s culture is linked to the Gila and Salt rivers. Large diversions and no policy to conserve water led to declines in agriculture, famine and starvation. Years of litigation led to the Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, which included the Gila River Indian Community Water Settlement Act. This case study was presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum meeting in Tempe, Ariz. (Read more)

Cross-Agency Collaboration in Addressing Record Drought in California

California and federal agencies, faced with a historic drought, were tasked with allocating scare water supplies, balancing the needs of water users and protecting against economic loss. The magnitude of the 2014 drought led federal and state agencies to craft a unified operation plan to balance competing water needs in the state: “The Central Valley Project and State Water Project Drought Operations Plan and Operational Forecast.” This case study on the collaborative work done was presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum meeting in Sacramento, Calif. (Read more)

Community-Based Water Planning in Southern Nevada

Nevada is the country's driest state, averaging 9.5 inches of precipitation annually. Combined with a 1.8% legal entitlement to the Colorado River and a rapidly growing population, the need for conservation becomes essential. The Southern Nevada Water Authority created the Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee to guide water resource planning for Southern Nevada. By involving business owners in the decision process, SNWA encourages conservation and collaboration. This case study was presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum meeting in Las Vegas. (Read more)

New Mexico River Stewardship Program: Red River Restoration Project

The New Mexico River Stewardship Program provides funding to restoration projects that restore hydrology of streams and rivers to reduce flooding downstream, while also enhancing economic benefits of healthy river systems for local communities. The Town of Red River has a tourism-based economy, which relies on fishing, that was damaged by wildfires and historic river mismanagement. Funding from the Stewardship Program allowed Red River to implement river restoration work, improving the environmental and recreational quality of its stream segments. (Read more)

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

Western Governors urge Congress to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act

Published on .

UPDATE: E&E News reported on March 24 that House leaders announced a $500 million, two-year extension to the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) as part of a bipartisan package to overhaul Medicare payments to doctors. The proposed extension would fund SRS at 5% less than previous levels in 2013. 

While WGA is encouraged that leadership is working on ways to fund SRS, as Executive Director Jim Ogsbury noted in recent testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, the goal is "full funding for SRS payments." (Read testimony)

Feb. 15, 2015: Western Governors are urging Congressional leadership to swiftly reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS).

The program, which provides funding to timber‐dependent counties for essential government services, expired on Sept. 30, 2014. As a result, payments to timber‐dependent communities reverts to a previous law, which represents an 83% reduction in funding for these counties.

Western Governors assert that this loss of more than $200 million in funding "will cripple the ability of forest counties and school districts to fund critical education, infrastructure, and other community priorities in jurisdictions adjacent to federal forests."

The Governors request, in a letter signed by Western Governors' Association Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, "that Congress pass and send to the President a one‐year reauthorization of SRS as quickly as possible to ensure continuous operation of vital services."

The letter was sent to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Read, download the letter.

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

West is best in new state rankings of 'American Well-Being'

Published on .

xfvbvodegkugkrekei48xw

The new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index exhibits a distinct regional pattern: Western states are ranked higher in well-being than any other area in the nation.

The Top 10 states in the latest report ("The State of American Well-Being: 2014 State Well-Being Rankings") are all in the West. Alaska secured the top spot in the list, followed by Hawaii, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Utah, New Mexico and Texas.

The report examines the comparative well-being of the 50 states based on "the five essential elements of well-being":

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals;
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life;
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security;
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community;
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

The detailed report shows that Alaska had the highest ranking in purpose while Hawaii (financial and physical) and South Dakota (social and community) each led in two elements of well-being.

Gallup and Healthways have been tracking well-being since 2008. The make-up of the Top 10 is consistently populated by Western states, and Hawaii and Colorado have been featured at the top every year.

The report notes that the implications of high well-being are far-reaching: it is closely connected to health and business outcomes and "is also strongly related to important societal outcomes such as lower rates of teen pregnancy and crime, as well as higher high school graduation rates and more charitable giving."

See the report here

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

Western Governors urge swift resolution of contract talks that have hobbled trade through West Coast ports

Published on .

Longshoremen LogoUPDATE: West Coast ports resumed full operations on Feb. 21, 2015, after a tentative labor deal was reached between dockworkers and shippers. (Story). But the Port of Long Beach's CEO told CNBC that the long standoff has created an "amazing congestion problem" of "epic proportions" that will take months to process (Story)

Feb. 18: Western Governors have reached out to both sides in the contract dispute that has hobbled trade through West Coast ports to urge a swift conclusion to negotiations.

The letter, signed by WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, noted "Western states are especially reliant on West Coast ports for the export of goods and merchandise. Slowdowns and lockouts at these facilities have already damaged many of our states’ industries, and continued ... delay could cripple our regional economy."

The months-long contract dispute between dockworkers and their employers has reached Pacific Maritime Association logoa standoff, according to a CNN report, "crippling 29 major West Coast ports that serve as critical thoroughfares for U.S. imports and exports ... that handle about $1 trillion of trade annually."

The outreach, sent to the President of the International Longshore Warehouse Union and the CEO of the Pacific Maritime Association, concludes: "Good faith conversations, conducted with the same type of cooperation that unites Western Governors on a bipartisan basis, will be necessary to resolve this matter. We urge that course of action in the strongest possible terms."

Read the letter.

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

Kate Brown sworn in as 38th Governor of Oregon

Published on .

Oregon Gov Kate BrownGov. Kate BrownKate Brown was sworn into office on Wednesday, Feb. 18, becoming Oregon’s 38th Governor.

Gov. Brown, who takes over after the resignation of John Kitzhaber, delivered a short inaugural address moments after being sworn in during a ceremony in Salem, Ore.

Gov. Brown, 54, has spent nearly 25 years in public office. Since 2008, she has served as Oregon’s Secretary of State.

Prior to serving as Secretary of State, Brown served for 17 years in the state legislature: five years in the Oregon House of Representatives and 12 years in the Oregon State Senate. In 2004, Brown made history when she became the first woman in Oregon history to serve as Senate Majority Leader, after being elected by her colleagues.

Learn more about Gov. Brown on the official website of the Oregon Governor and follow her on Twitter at @OregonGovBrown

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

Western News: Idaho agriculture record, Montana solar bill, Oregon wolf delisting

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup that showcases policy, progress and news from the Western states. You can find last month's report here. Here is the February report:

  • 54cc18704a425.imageND Gov. Dalrymple signs civics billImpressive numbers: In 2014, Colorado's unemployment rate dipped to 4%, down from 6.2% in 2014, the biggest proportional drop in unemployment in the nation.
  • Alien insects: An invasive beetle is devastating Hawaii's iconic palm trees. See how state officials plan to eradicate the pest from the islands.
  • Agriculture gains: Farmers and ranchers in Idaho posted a record-breaking revenue year for the fourth straight time.
  • New headquarters: Dairy Farmers of America, the nation's largest milk marketing cooperative, announced plans to build its global headquarters in 

Drought Forum Webinar: Once Marginal, Now Crucial: The Growing Demand for Re-used, Produced, and Brackish Water

Published on .

The Western Governors’ Drought Forum Webinar Series kicked off with "Once Marginal, Now Crucial: The Growing Demand for Re-used, Produced, and Brackish Water."

Summary: Drought conditions and increasing demands for water have led state and industry leaders to turn to sources once considered useless as a means for water supply. Speakers discussed the growing interest in reused, brackish, and produced water. The technology exists for treating these water supplies for both potable and non-potable uses, but costs and regulatory (Read, download the slides)

NRCS reports significant progress in sage-grouse conservation since 2010, commitment to future work

Published on .

Sage Grouse Initiative LogoThe Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released a comprehensive update of conservation work accomplished by its Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), as well as a commitment to continue that work through 2018.

NRCS launched SGI in 2010 as a science-based landscape approach to conserve sage-grouse and sustain western ranching economies after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated the bird as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. FWS is scheduled to make its decision in September, 2015.

SGI was developed in cooperation with FWS, in the agency's words, "as a proactive approach to address the threats to the species in a voluntary manner that also