Executive Director’s Notebook: Governors lead with policy network, land forum

By James D. Ogsbury

Just as surely as summer has turned to fall, Congress has returned to Washington, D.C. to engage in political gridlock, partisan sniping, and rhetorical excess. Meanwhile, Western Governors continue to work together – across both state and party lines – to move the region and the country forward. Here's a look at just some of their recent collaborative work.

Federal issues: In recent outreach to Capitol Hill and in meetings with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Western Governors have amplified their collective demand that wildfires be treated like other natural disasters with respect to budgeting for federal firefighting costs. The governors have also: engaged the Bureau of Land Management on the agency’s prospective efforts to reform its resource planning processes; voiced their support to Congress for the conservation programs authorized by the current Farm Bill; and worked to protect state authority in the context of legislative proposals to streamline hydropower licensing processes.

Strengthening the State-Federal Relationship: WGA has strongly advocated for improvement of the state-federal relationship during meetings with the White House and Congressional committees. WGA plans to additionally engage federal agencies on the Governors’ policy recommendations concerning this topic during a federalism summit in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2018.

Workforce Development Initiative: Washington Governor Jay Inslee hosted the final of four Initiative workshops in Seattle, November 1-2. Previously, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin hosted workshops, which were attended by WGA Chair and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, who created the Initiative and hosted the first workshop.

Western Policy Network: WGA has organized the Western Policy Network (WPN) to coordinate efforts on policy matters of mutual interest. Participants in the first WPN teleconference included the Conference of Western Attorneys General, Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties, Council of State Governments – West, Western Air Resources Council, Western States Land Commissioners, Western Interstate Energy Board, Western States Water Council, and the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.

Western Working Lands Forum: WGA is planning a Western Working Lands Forum to be held in Denver in March 2018. The forum will examine linkages between species conservation efforts, land management practices, and invasive species concerns. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss how Governors, federal agencies and others can most constructively approach large-scale, cross-boundary restoration and management projects.

Finally, the WGA Winter Meeting, scheduled for December 1-2 at the historic Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, promises to be a tremendous opportunity for Governors to engage with sponsors, attendees and each other on a Western issues. Participating Governors include WGA Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, WGA Vice Chair and Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, and Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres.

They will be joined by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. Keynoters include John Ratzenberger (Cheers star and outspoken advocate for skilled labor) and Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill. (Register now)

Speaking of meetings, it's not too early to make plans to attend the WGA 2018 Annual Meeting, scheduled for June 24-27 in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Governors and I hope to see you there.

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 Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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