WGA launches Task Force on Collaborative Conservation in conjunction with DOI and USDA

The Western Governors’ Association signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to enhance collaboration across federal, state and local jurisdictions and focus on the strategic coordination necessary to meet collective natural resource management challenges and improve environmental outcomes through the Task Force on Collaborative Conservation. 

The Task Force will serve as a forum for federal, state, and territorial representatives to collaboratively and effectively respond to the land, water and wildlife challenges facing Western landscapes through shared expertise and dialogue, strategic resource and capacity coordination, information and data sharing, and joint problem-solving. The Task Force will be essential to strengthening this state/territory-federal collaboration as local, state and federal leaders implement the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which contains historic investments in wildlife restoration, drought mitigation, and wildland fire resilience.

“Growing up in the high desert of New Mexico, I am no stranger to water scarcity, threats of wildfire and relying on the land. As climate change intensifies these environmental challenges, we have a unique opportunity to collaborate with our Western partners and advance our shared priorities, including implementing President Biden’s infrastructure investments to bolster communities’ resilience against more extreme weather,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I look forward to further coordinating with states and territories through this Task Force as we endeavor to conserve and protect our natural resources.”

“As Western communities grapple with environmental challenges exacerbated by climate change, such as increasing drought and more frequent and intense wildfires, bolstering effective collaboration between the federal government, states and territories to respond to these issues is imperative,” Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said. “This Task Force will be an important vehicle for enhancing cooperation between the Departments of Agriculture and Interior and our Western partners on the conservation challenges impacting the region, as well as coordinating critical funding like the investments secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will make a real difference for communities across the West.”

Western Governors have a strong history of working with the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture to address conservation challenges, including sensitive species conservation, interagency wildfire and drought disaster response, vegetation management and invasive species control. 

The newly launched Task Force will help strengthen effective coordination and implementation of priority conservation programs and policies, including those affecting wildlife corridors, wildfire and drought resilience and response, and forest and rangeland restoration. It will also provide an opportunity for states and territories to contribute to the Departments’ efforts to develop its conservation atlas to advance the America the Beautiful initiative, while supporting the voluntary stewardship efforts of ranchers, farmers and other private landowners and to keep working lands working.

“This is an important milestone in strengthening collaboration between western states and the federal government, and builds on efforts like the USDA-WGA Shared Stewardship Agreement,” WGA Executive Director, Jim Ogsbury, said.  “Western Governors appreciate the value of cross-boundary coordination between federal, state, local, Tribal and private landowners on issues like wildfire mitigation, invasive species control, and habitat restoration. The Task Force is designed to drive to collective action on some of the biggest challenges we face on our western landscapes.” 

Read, download the agreement.  

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