WATCH: ‘Working Lands, Working Communities Initiative’ launch webinar

WGA Chair and Idaho Governor Brad Little launched WGA’s new Chair Initiative, Working Lands, Working Communities on Sept. 1.

The Governor offered opening remarks and engaged in  conversation with guests: Sonya Germann, Montana State Forester; Lesli Allison, Executive Director, Western Landowners Alliance; and Tom Schultz, Director of Resources and Government Affairs, Idaho Forest Group.

Here's where to watch the launch event (or see it below). Following are some highlights from the launch:

Governor Brad Little:

  • The goal of (Working Lands, Working Communities) is to develop bipartisan strategies to support western communities seeking to improve cross-boundary management of lands, mitigate wildfire, and restore ecosystems.”
  • We face the growing need for additional capacity, both intellectual capacity and physical infrastructure, to responsibly manage the abundant natural resources we are so blessed with in the West.”
  • “One challenge is to expand market support for active management on western working lands. A good example is examining potential markets for the relatively low-value timber and biomass that needs to be removed to reduce the threat of uncharacteristic wildfires.”

Lesli Allison, Western Landowners Alliance:

  • “There are many great examples across the West of successful public-private partnership and locally-led collaborative conservation from which we can learn. We can build on these models, but scaling up will require political will and investment.”
  • “We need to be working more cooperatively together. There’s been too much war between working lands and the environment. We all have so much in common and I think finding the political will to come together on common ground and find those solutions and deepen mutual understanding is imperative if we’re going to succeed.”

Tom Schultz, Idaho Forest Group:

  • “This year alone we’ve burned through over 300,000 acres in the state, so we know the threat is out there and active management (including shared stewardship agreements and good neighbor authority) is one of the key tools that we have to address and mitigate those threats … If we don’t manage these forests, fire is going to manage them for us, and we don’t want that.”
  • “Governor, you signed a shared stewardship agreement pledging to double the acres treated in Idaho on federal lands by 2025. That’s the kind of leadership we need.”

Sonya Germann, Montana State Forester:

  • “The best and most durable solutions are those that that are locally driven. Ones that galvanize and support local leadership, encourage collaboration, promote local industries and workforce capacity, and provide markets for the goods we derive from achieving our collective management goals.”
  • “From a state foresters’ perspective, we would love nothing more than to see large landscape-scale management occur adjacent to communities that address major forest health and wildfire issues, protects critical infrastructure and sees the return of high-paying wood products jobs that would stimulate local economic growth.”      

Over the next year WGA will convene stakeholders and policymakers through a series of workshops, which will begin Sept. 29-30 in Utah, hosted by Gov. Spencer Cox, and on Oct. 7-8 in Colorado, hosted by Gov. Jared Polis. Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, the workshops will not be open to the general public for in-person attendance. Instead, they will be livestreamed by WGA. You can register to watch the Utah workshop in Salt Lake City here and the Colorado workshop in Denver here.

In addition, there will be webinars, work sessions and podcasts to further examine these subjects. The initiative will culminate in a report highlighting its findings at the WGA 2022 Annual Meeting next summer in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

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