Executive Director’s Notebook: 11 new Western Governors accelerate the pace at WGA

Attendees at WGA’s meeting with U.S. Cabinet officials, from left: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Guam Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, Hawai’i Gov. David Ige, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.

By Jim Ogsbury

Beginning with the inauguration of 11 new governors, 2019 got off to a blazing start -- and the Governors have yet to take their foot off the gas. Consider the following, which represents just a sample of the work accomplished by WGA since the year’s start.

Governors-Cabinet Meeting: A record 14 Western Governors participated in WGA’s annual meeting with U.S. Cabinet officials on Feb. 24 in Washington, D.C., pictured above. The Governors engaged in a dynamic roundtable dialogue with Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Participating Governors included: WGA Chair and Hawai’i Gov. David Ige; WGA Vice Chair and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Oregon Gov. Kate Brown; Idaho Gov. Brad Little; Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly; Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak; New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham; Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon; Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres; and Guam Gov. Lourdes Leon Guerrero.

Policy Initiatives: WGA recently hosted webinars regarding Invasive Species Impacts on Fisheries and Conservation Districts and Invasive Species Management in connection with the Western Governors’ Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative, the Chairman’s Initiative of Hawai’i Gov. David Ige. Upcoming webinars will examine innovative approaches to addressing invasive species in the Pacific, as well as the role of state authority in regulating the movement of pests and plants. A report on the first year of the Initiative will be delivered to the Governors in June.

WGA hosted the latest Working Lands Roundtable in Denver earlier this month. The event featured a keynote address by Matt Lohr, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The meeting also included panel discussions on topics such as at-risk species conservation and broad-scale threats to western working landscapes.

Policy Victories: The consolidated omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019, enacted into law in February, reflects multiple priorities of Western Governors. Among other things, the legislation accommodates the Governors’ requests respecting: increased funding for deferred maintenance of national parks and wildfire activities; recognition of state authority over water resources; and the use of state wildlife data, science and analysis in federal land management decisions.

Congressional Outreach: During March I was privileged to present the public lands priorities of Western Governors to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during a Roundtable on Issues Related to Public Lands in the Western United States. Senators participating in the discussion included Chairman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ranking Member Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Martha McSally of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah, and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. WGA also submitted testimony and correspondence to Congress advocating the Governors’ positions on procedural improvements to the state-federal relationship, air quality issues, invasive species control, cybersecurity, broadband data coverage, and cleanup of abandoned mines.

Annual Meeting:  We’re planning a sensational program for the WGA 2019 Annual Meeting in Vail, Colo. The meeting will feature appearances by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, renowned pollster Frank Luntz, Longmire author Craig Johnson, Vail Resorts CEO Robert Katz, and other luminaries. (Register) And it’s not too early to make plans to attend our 2019 Winter Meeting, scheduled for Dec. 13-14 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or send an email. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

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