Annual Meeting Day 2: Luntz implores Governors to lead, Secretary Zinke looks ahead, Anker praises process

A passionate speech about the transformative power of Western Governors, an examination of the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, and keynotes from the Secretary of the Interior and a world-acclaimed alpinist highlighted the second day of the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting in Whitefish, Montana.

Ten Western Governors have taken part in the three-day meeting hosted by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. They include Governors Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Matt Mead (Wyoming), Butch Otter (Idaho), David Ige (Hawaii), WGA Chair Steve Bullock (Montana), Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands), WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), and Brian Sandoval (Nevada). Not pictured but in attendance, Gary Herbert (Utah).

Highlights from the day’s sessions at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center:

Keynote, Frank Luntz: In "Winning the West & the Rest of America," the influential pollster talked to the governors about his research on infrastructure, education and "What Americans Really Want." Alternately insightful and humorous, Luntz emphasized the effective use of language. He closed with a plea for the Western Governors to take an even greater leadership role, even suggesting a resolution that defined the "New Relationship" between the federal government and states that concluded: "It’s about giving states the responsibilities most people in every region believe they deserve. Americans are looking to the governors to be their voice. Yes, they want to be heard. But more importantly, they want their Governors to lead.” (Listen to the keynote)

Western Governors’ National Forest and Rangeland Management: The session highlighted the past year’s work of the Chairman’s Initiative of Gov. Steve Bullock. Panelists included Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service; Leonard Jordan, Acting Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service; Marc Brinkmeyer, Chairman, Idaho Forest Group; Bill Crapser, State Forester, Wyoming State Forestry Division; and Lynn Scarlett, Global Managing Director for Public Policy, The Nature Conservancy. Watch a video about the first year's work and download the report.

Gov. Bullock: “Responsibly managing our western forests and rangelands is a vexing concern for anyone who loves the West, and it is so important that we get this right.” 

Tidwell: “There is no question that when we work together, it is a force multiplier: We not only get more work done, but we do it in a better way. It is through this work that we can continue to make sure that our forests are productive, that they are healthy, and that we sustain communities, and we earn the public’s trust.”

Jordan: “The strength of the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative is in the commitment and the diversity of the partners that are involved. That's put it on the trajectory to achieve success an improve in the health and the resiliency of the forests and rangelands.”

Brinkmeyer: “Wood is the emerging construction material for the 21st century. Steel was the 19th century, concrete was the 20th, and the emphasis around wood buildings and tall wood buildings is significant. This all started in Europe and is now migrating to the US.”

Scarlett: “The bottom line: just like landscape scale partnering for effective resource management, we need a holistic funding framework to secure healthy lands and waters, thriving communities and healthy economies.”

Crapser: “Given the forest health conditions and expanding wildfire, the lack of industry and mixed ownership, I believe that collaborations, partnerships, and just plain old working together is really the way to move these things forward. I am truly excited about implementing the initiative, working with federal partners, working with other state foresters around the West, and working with all other parties to move things forward.”

Keynote, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: "I have not seen a problem that wasn’t fixable. You have Governors from both sides of the aisle that work together. Public lands are not a partisan issue, but a united issue."

"It is time to look at what Interior should be 100 years from now. When you have 330 million visitors going through our park system annually, it is time to look at the public lands around our park system to make sure the trails connect, the water flows, the wildlife corridors make sense so that we can live up to Teddy Roosevelt's pledge to manage land for the enjoyment of the people."

Roundtable: Brewing up and Economic Force: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval moderated the conversation on the explosive growth of microbreweries and craft distillers in western states with panelists Tim O’Leary, Founder, KettleHouse Brewing in Missoula; John McKee, Owner/Distiller at Headframe Spirits in Butte; and Acacia Coast, State Guilds Manager for the Brewers Association.

Sandoval: I am a big supporter of our distilleries and craft breweries and was was proud to sign a bill that increased production ... we allowed distilleries and breweries to sell their products more directly to local customers. Now we have 37 craft breweries that have a $480 million economic impact. It’s truly a great American story. 

O’Leary: When asked what is driving growth: "The trends that are driving the growth are a fundamental desire for people to connect.  You can’t get the evolutionary cues from a screen like you can when you're sitting across the bar from someone. At the end of the day, a brewer is a glorified dishwasher."

McKee: "We are employers: We have 31 employees with health insurance and 401ks. We’re value-add agricultural manufacturers. We’re tourism. People want to come to see what we’re doing."

Coast: "Craft brewers use 40% of the U.S. Malt supply. Brewers and farms that supply them need clean water, so threats to our shared supplies of clean water are threats to our families and to our country’s jobs."

Keynote, Conrad Anker: The famed mountaineer offered remarks that highlighted the collaboration, communication, trust and honesty inherent in climbing that also applies to a successful life. "After 40 years of climbing, the takeaway is that how we interact with other people is the most important part of it." That aspect is so imporatnt, Anker noted, that reaching the peak isn't always essential. "It's not the summit, but the process of going there that is really meaningful."

Read about day 1

Read about day 3

Read, download new WGA Resolutions

Follow the meeting on Twitter using the hashtag #WGA17

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

sign up for our newsletters