WGA Annual Meeting: Drought, sage-grouse conservation dominate Day 1

Drought, wildfires and sage-grouse conservation were just some of the topics addressed on day one of the Western Governors' Association 2015 Annual Meeting in Incline Village, Nev.

WGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval opened the day by formally releasing the first-year report on his Chairman's Initiative, the Western Governors' Drought Forum, welcomed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to the stage for a keynote address, then led a spirited session with media by the shores of Lake Tahoe at day's end.

Ten Western Governors, led by Gov. Sandoval, took part in the day's sessions, including Bill Walker (Alaska), Doug Ducey (Arizona), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Eddie Calvo (Guam), Butch Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota), Gary Herbert (Utah) and Matt Mead (Wyoming).

Some highlights from the day's sessions at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe:

Managing Drought: Findings of the Western Governors' Drought Forum
  • Manson BrownAssistant. Secretary of Commerce, Environmental Observation and Prediction: "We call the products and services we produce 'environmental intelligence' – timely, accurate information that helps respond to events including drought."
  • William SarniDirector and Practice Leader, Water Strategy Social Impact at Deloitte Consulting: “I believe we absolutely need better data, more data, but there’s a great deal you can do with existing data sources."
  • Michael TeagueSecretary of Energy and the Environment, State of Oklahoma: While discussing the produced water from hydraulic fracturing. "Why not treat and use that produced water beneficially? We are working with EPA to determine what we need to do at the federal level and in our states."
  • Gov. Gary Herbert: "I am concerned about modeling – if we make assumptions based on the wrong thing, we can make the wrong decisions. How accurate can we be?"
Keynote: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

Interior Secretary Jewell discussed a variety of issues, including the importance of moving away from the current "fire borrowing" model for funding wildfire suppression that transfers funds from other programs, such as hazardous fuel reduction and restoration projects, to pay for wildfire suppression.

Secretary Jewell also lauded the Governors' greater sage-grouse conservation work and said she "remained optimistic that Fish and Wildlife Service will have the necessary certainty to reach a 'not warranted' decision on the greater sage-grouse."

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