Watch the WGA Western Working Lands Forum

The Western Governors’ Association hosted the inaugural Western Working Lands Forum on March 15-16, 2018. The forum examined challenges of cross-boundary planning among state and federal agencies and tactics that span state, federal and private working lands.

Experts also discussed the definition and application of strategies as they relate to public policy-making for the management of landscape-scale invasive species, wildlife, and forest and rangeland. 

On the opening day of the Forum, WGA unveiled a list of the Top 50 Invasive Species in the West. This first-of-its-kind regional assessment is designed to help land managers prioritize invasive species management actions and coordinate cross-boundary efforts. 

WGA livestreamed the two-day workshop in Denver on YouTube and Facebook to enable the widest possible audience for this discussion. Click on the links below to watch the sessions:

Welcome and Introductory Remarks: WGA Executive Director James D. Ogsbury and Andrus Center for Public Policy Executive Director John Freemuth, who also served as the moderator for the Forum, framed objectives and goals for the two-day gathering The Art Hotel.

Cross-Boundary Conservation and the Endangered Species Act: Regional experts shared strategies to expand species conservation efforts that cut across federal, state, and private lands. Remarks included:

Bob Broscheid, Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife: "We’ve got to sustain these programs over time. How do you create a program that’s just chasing a non-listing? We need to create programs that chase conservation."

Sarah Greenberger, National Audubon Society: “What made the sage grouse effort successful wasn’t just the threat, it was the extraordinary leadership from governors, agencies, county commissioners, and others. Governor Sandoval had a great perspective ‘It’s easier to fight than to work together.’ ”

Jim Magagna, Wyoming Stock Growers Association: "We need to engage private landowners early. Don’t say ‘We have a plan, do you want to join?’ You have to invite them early and help them develop the plan."

Robert Veldman, K-Coe Isom: "My biggest concern is invasive species. You cannot address endangered or special status species without addressing that challenge."

Noreen Walsh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “People support what they build together. We must be inclusive in approach when we talk about collaborative cross-boundary efforts.”

Cross-Boundary Forest and Rangeland Management: Panelists discussed coordinated actions to support healthy forests and rangelands across ownership boundaries. Remarks included:

Bob Boeh, Idaho Forest Group: “Technology is going to drastically change how timber sales are sold. It will make boots on the ground more effective and efficient.” View presentation

Christine Dawe, U.S. Forest Service: “I’ve been thinking about landscapes in terms of ecological, human, and socio-economic. It’s rare that those three don’t intersect, and I think we need to think about it that way when you look at natural resource problems.”

Kristie Maczko, Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable: "With our roundtable, the bottom line rule is respect. Everyone’s voice is valued. We’ve only to have ever ask one person to leave a meeting in 17 years." View presentation

Jeff Whitney, Arizona Department of Fire and Forest Management: "We have a lot of collaboratives in Arizona. I think the longer they are together, their expertise and desire for a positive outcome deepens." View presentation

Cross-Boundary Invasive Species Management: Scientists and land managers highlighted techniques to prevent the migration of invasive species and how to coordinate mitigation efforts across management boundaries. Remarks included:

Elizabeth Brown, Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife: Our state chose to implement cross-jurisdictional prevention efforts to fight quagga and zebra mussels. I am proud to say that 10 years later there are no adult zebra or quagga mussels in Colorado.

Scott Cameron, U.S. Department of the Interior: “National parks have the ability to enforce state law if given permission from states. Let’s sign some MOUs between national parks and states to get some invasive species work done." View presentation 

Mike Ielmini, U.S. Forest Service: “There’s no single concept to define landscape scale. What we’ve learned is to avoid a myopic approach; being unwilling to work with new partners or listen to new ideas.”

Rusty Lloyd, RiversEdge West: “Our vision is to have a network of healthy riparian forests across the West. That requires that we work across all sorts of boundaries.” View presentation 

Implementing Cross-Boundary Planning: Practitioner Perspectives: Panelists shared on-the-ground strategies they have employed to create effective cross-boundary strategies for land management challenges. Remarks included:

Lesli Allison, Western Landowners Alliance: What if we look at planning totally differently? Wildlife chooses a corridor because of intact private lands and refuges from public pressure. Looking through this lens creates a new process of engaging landowners on the front-end.” View presentation

Terry Fankhauser, Colorado Cattleman’s Association: “People and environments are subject to chaotic behavior.  If we want to change outcomes, then we need to change initial conditions."

Jim Neiman, Neiman Enterprises Inc.: “STEM programs are an outstanding way to get into the minds of kids and influence them and get them excited about these sorts of issues. We have to get science out there and educate the public.” View presentation

Nick Owens, Anadarko: “The Pecos Watershed Conservation Partnership takes an ecosystem approach; we’re not going species by species … This creates a proactive approach to keep species from needing ESA protection." View presentation 

John Ruhs, Bureau of Land Management:The most impressive part of ROGER, Results-Oriented Grazing for Ecosystem Resilience, is the fact that it’s permittee-led.” View presentation 

Balancing Multiple Policy Objectives with Cross-Boundary Management: This panel examined the policy opportunities and challenges when planning cross-boundary projects. Remarks included:

Tim Griffiths, Natural Resources Conservation Service: "When the goal is to conserve working landscapes -- which includes people, economies and wildlife -- when you get everyone bought in on those shared goals, the opportunity to sustain your efforts is very large." View presentation 

Brent Keith, The Nature Conservancy: "It’s important that we engage more diverse voices around the table at the front end ... people value what they build together."

Dustin Miller, Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation: "It’s vitally important that we engage private landowners and give them a seat at the table with state and federal decision-makers when looking at things at a landscape scale." View presentation 
Tyson Bertone-Riggs, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition: "Collaboration in forest management often happens on the planning side. But, we’re in an era where I think we have to focus on implementation, and there’s potential for collaboration in that as well. Good Neighbor Authority is a great example of that."

Doug Wheeler, Hogan Lovells: "Through the Riverside County Collaborative, we were able to project the infrastructure needs for the next 75 years of Riverside County within the Habitat Conservation Plan ... this plan has promoted the development of transportation infrastructure, and there has not been a single environmental lawsuit."

Applications for Technology in Cross-Boundary Planning: Panelists discussed modern technologies that make it possible to plan and monitor land management actions at a landscape scale. Remarks included:

Brady Allred, University of Montana: "Any rangeland that we can see, we’re trying to map that. This information is what our rangeland managers need to plan ahead. They need to be able to back in time and see the effects of previous management actions. This creates better decision-making." View presentation

Mike Bialousz, ESRI: "As data is being collected in the field, it can be immediately updated into the overall GIS system ... this can support efforts such as Early Detection and Rapid Response for invasive species and other efforts." View presentation 

Cindy Bruyere, National Center for Atmospheric Research: "There is immense potential for using large scale weather and climate data on western landscapes. This has applications for water security, wildfire, and many other challenges." View presentation

Tyler Erickson, Google Earth Engine: "We are focused on building knowledge, raising awareness, and improving decision-making." View presentation 

Jeff T. Morrisette, Department of the Interior: "The best way to get at moisture data with plant cover is to use thermal sensors. WGA was instrumental in pushing to include a thermal sensor on LandSat 8. This data is instrumental for tracking water use." View presentation 

Jeff Sloan, U.S. Geological Survey: "Our goal has been to get unmanned aircraft systems into the hands of the land managers to use. We’ve gotten to the point where they can throw it in the back of the truck and use it every day." View presentation 

Case Study – Cross-Boundary Cooperation: Successes and Challenges: Representatives from the Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership and the Upper South Platte Partnership discussed how they created effective programs that address resource challenges across ownership boundaries. Remarks included:

Christina Burri, Denver Water: "After feeling the effects of being reactive after the Hayman Fire, Denver Water formed a host of partnerships to improve forest health on both public and private lands."

Mike Elson, U.S. Forest Service: "We worked with the city (of Flagstaff) and talked about what it would take to get ahead of the risk of the wildfire impacts in the city. We agreed that a $10 million upfront cost was a heck of a bargain in comparison to the potential costs of $500 million to $1 billion in citywide impacts." View presentation 

Jonas Feinstein, Natural Resources Conservation Service: "I want to be able to walk onto a piece of land and say ‘this provides the necessary ecosystem services in perpetuity.’ That requires fire and thinning, and you need to get public and landowner buy-in for that to happen." View presentation 

Jeff Whitney, Arizona State Forester: It was obvious needs-based action, and there wasn’t much time to act. The city got the bond passed with a 73% affirmative vote on a crunched timeline.

Progress and Considerations: Panelists reflected on lessons learned during the forum and discussed promising strategies for implementing effective cross-boundary projects. Remarks included:

Lesli Allison, Western Landowners Alliance: "I’ve certainly been inspired by the amount of landscape scale partnerships that are taking place. I was also inspired by the technology folks about what ‘landscape scale’ might mean moving into the future."

Elizabeth Brown, Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife: "The definition of ‘landscape scale’ for me hasn’t changed, but what this event has shown me is that it is happening across the West and probably across the country. It has also shown me that it’s not only preferable, it’s necessary for positive outcomes."

Christine Dawe, U.S. Forest Service: "I think it’s clear the collaborative problem-solving approach works. It works in a variety of settings and issues. It really makes me optimistic that this will become the preferred way to solve problems around these sorts of issues."

Bob Boeh, Idaho Forest Group: "It’s all about collaboration, communication, and cooperation ... I’ve had a 48-year career and I’ve seen it all. I used to be one of the table-pounders and not believe in collaboration, but I saw the light one day and I’ve been able to get a lot more done by working with the Forest Service and working collaboratively in general."

View the agenda 

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