Gov. Sandoval urges collaboration to battle ‘staggering’ invasive species challenge at invasive species Initiative workshop

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval highlighted the enormous impact of invasive species in the West and the need for collaboration to battle its many challenges in opening remarks at the first workshop of the Western Governors’ Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative.

“The impacts of invasive species are staggering,” said Gov. Sandoval. “The Nature Conservancy has estimated that in the United States invasive species cost over $120 billion to manage every year, affect an area of more than 100 million acres – an area the size of California – and have contributed to the decline of 42% of threatened and endangered species.”

Invasive species are an underlying cause of many challenges in the West, the Governor noted, including the record 2018 wildfire in Nevada that swept across 439,000 acres, in many cases fueled by invasive cheatgrass. “And that area will now be an area where invasive species will flourish again,” he said.

The Governor’s remarks kicked off the first of four workshops for the Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative, the central policy effort of WGA Chair and Hawaii Gov. David Ige. The Sept. 17-18 workshop was held at the MontBleu Resort in Stateline, NV. The Initiative is focused on the impacts that nuisance species, pests and pathogens have on ecosystems, forests, rangelands, watersheds and infrastructure in the West.

“We’ve all heard that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery,” the Governor concluded. “Every state can learn something from another state and then take that lesson and use it for the benefit of their constituencies. The initiative is a great opportunity for all states to learn from each other.”

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury opened the session by highlighting the increasing effectiveness of Western Governors in tackling the toughest issues facing the West. Ogsbury also outlined the ongoing work of the invasive species initiative, which will continue with workshops in Wyoming, Montana and Hawaii.

Use the links below to watch videos of the panels on day one and also find links for livestreams of the sessions on day two.

Monday, Sept. 17

Welcome and Opening Remarks: WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Panel: Cross-Boundary Invasive Species Management: Scientists and managers discussed the management of invasive species across geographic and administrative lines. Panelists: Martha Volkoff – Environmental Program Manager, California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Jon C. Sjöberg – Chief of Fisheries, Nevada Department of Wildlife; Julie Regan – External Affairs Chief, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency; Jeff Marsolais – Forest Supervisor, Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Panel: Multi-level Invasive Species Risk Communication: Effective responses to invasive species threats require all levels of an organization to appreciate the risk that species pose. This panel  examined how this risk is communicated from on-the-ground technicians to managers and policy makers. Panelists: Katie Steiger-Meister – Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, view slides; Kacey KC – Nevada State Forester; Dr. Sudeep Chandra – Associate Professor, University of Nevada Reno; John Kabashima - UC Cooperative Extension, Emeritus   University of California Cooperative Extension, view slides.

Panel: Invasive Species, Wildfire and Vegetation Management: Experts presented on the relationship between wildfire and invasive species, and discuss the challenges they pose to land managers, electrical utilities and fire-affected communities. Panelists: Don Neal – Director of Environmental Services, Southern California Edison, view slides; Paul Petersen – Fire Management Officer, Nevada BLM, view slides; Dr. Elizabeth Leger – Associate Professor, University of Nevada Reno, view slides; Ken Meyer – Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, view slides.


Panel: Implementation of New Research and Technology in Invasive Species Management: Invasive species managers at Lake Tahoe, throughout the region, and on our coastal states’ islands are integrating new technologies into their research and programs. This panel highlighted a variety of these exciting technology tools. Panelists: Nicole Cartwright – Executive Director, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, view slides; Dennis Zabaglo – Aquatic Resources Program Manager, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, view slides; Doug Johnson— Executive Director, CA Invasive Plant Council, view slides; Heath Packard - Director, Government & Public Relations, Island Conservation, view slides

Tuesday, Sept. 18

Day 1 Recap: John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources

Panel: Allocating Limited Resources for Management Actions: Researchers and managers face capacity challenges at all stages of invasive species control. Panelists discussed strategies to efficiently allocate limited resources and prioritize management decisions. Panelists: Sheri Smith – Regional Entomologist, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Forest Service, view slides; Jesse Patterson – Chief Strategy Officer, League to Save Lake Tahoe, view slides; Amy Berry – Chief Executive Officer, Tahoe Fund; Meghan Brown –Deputy Administrator – Plant Industry, Nevada Department of Agriculture

Case Study: Cross-Boundary Management at Lake Tahoe: Panelists used boat inspection and decontamination programs at Lake Tahoe and throughout the region as a case study to examine cross-boundary and interagency invasive species management. Panelists: Laura Megill – AIS Coordinator, Nevada Department of Wildlife, view slides; Nicole Cartwright – Executive Director, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, view slides; Dennis Zabaglo – Aquatic Resources Program Manager, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, view slides; Lisa Heki – Project Leader, Lahonton NFH Complex, US Fish and Wildlife Service, view slides.

Panel: The Economics of Invasive Species – Tourism and Coastal Issues: Experts discussed how invasive species affect economic sectors throughout the region, with a focus on recreation and coastal sectors. Panelists: Cindy Gustafson – Chief Executive Officer, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, view slides; Roland Quitugua - Extension Biosecurity Associate, University of Guam Extension and Outreach, view slides; Karen Jetter - Research Economist, University of California Davis, view slides. 

To learn more about the Western Governors Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative and its workshops, contact WGA Policy Advisor Bill Whitacre at 720-897-4538 or [email protected].

To inquire about Initiative sponsorship opportunities, please contact WGA Director of Development Sarah Olsen at 720-897-4540 or [email protected].

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