WGA announces agreement with USDA on collaborative land management projects

The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) today announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to pursue collaborative projects in wildfire response, vegetation management and invasive cheatgrass.

The agreement, announced on the opening day of WGA’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Colorado, is an outgrowth of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2018 by WGA and USDA that established a framework for collaboration in response to the increasing challenges facing western landscapes. The work will be focused in the following areas:

Interagency Wildfire Disaster Response: This project will include development of a “roadmap” of federal assistance available to local governments and states after a disaster. The parties will also pursue greater coordination between federal agencies to ensure response actions are effective and appropriately address needs in disaster-affected communities. 

Vegetation Management: WGA will facilitate a collaborative effort to improve vegetation management in and near transmission and distribution corridors to reduce the likelihood of wildfire. WGA and USDA will also focus on the complexities of vegetation management on and adjacent to transmission corridors that cross different land ownerships.

Cheatgrass: The parties will take actions to meaningfully address the large-scale infestation of cheatgrass and other invasive annual grasses on western forests and rangelands in the West.  WGA will form a working group to identify best practices, new technologies, and innovative management techniques to reduce the spread of invasive annual grasses to western forests and rangelands.

“This is a significant next step in our shared stewardship collaboration with USDA,” said WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury. “Western Governors have built an impressive body of policy work in these areas and look forward to leveraging the resources and expertise of their federal partners to effect positive and enduring changes in the management of our extraordinary landscapes.”

“Shared stewardship is about setting forest management priorities together and combining resources to achieve cross-boundary outcomes,” said Jim Hubbard, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “USDA looks forward to collaborating with the Western Governors’ Association and state and local governments on initiatives that will implement land treatment, generate local economy, and have the greatest impact in addressing critical risks such as catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, drought, and epidemics of forest insects and disease.”

WGA’s Ogsbury said additional details about the projects will be available in the coming months as the two parties meet and further develop plans.

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