WGA Winter Meeting Day 1: A stirring voyage, the challenge of invasive species, booming outdoor recreation highlight opening day in Hawaii

The Western Governors, from left: Doug Burgum (North Dakota); Mary Fallin (Oklahoma); C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho); Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota); Kate Brown (Oregon); Steve Bullock (Montana); David Ige (Hawai'i); Brian Sandoval (Nevada); Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands); Matt Mead (Wyoming).

A stirring keynote by a world navigator, a closer look at the increasing challenges posed by invasive species and an examination of the booming industry of outdoor recreation in Western states highlighted the first day of the WGA 2018 Winter Meeting on the Big Island of Hawai'i.

Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, opened the day with a keynote about the historic voyages of Hokule'a and their significance beyond just sailing. Roundtable sessions followed on the Western Governors’ Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative and a conversation among four leaders of state outdoor recreation offices.

WGA Chair and Hawaii Gov. David Ige hosted 10 Western Governors at the meeting, including: WGA Vice Chair Doug Burgum (North Dakota), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho), Steve Bullock (Montana), Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Mary Fallin (Oklahoma), Kate Brown (Oregon), Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Gary Herbert (Utah), Matt Mead (Wyoming), and Ralph Torres (Northern Mariana Islands).

Here's a look at Day 1 highlights.

Keynote: Nainoa Thompson has been a leader in the revival of the ancient Polynesian art of navigation, and spoke about lessons learned from the challenge of piloting double-hulled canoes from Hawaii to Polynesia, and around the globe, without the aid of modern western instruments -- and its greater significance to Hawai'i. Some highlights included:

"We need to remember how 500 years ago the native Hawaiians learned how to live on the island sustainably. We need to learn how to navigate and do so with good value."

"The world needs navigators – we need to teach young people to love to explore."

"The reason why Hawaii is so important is because its culture is still kind. Diversity and respect matters. Taking care of each other matters."

"Hawaii needs to become the laboratory and the school for sustainability. If we can achieve that – then Hawaii has the greatest gift for the earth."

Roundtable: Western Governors’ Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative: Hawaii Gov. David Ige moderated a wide ranging discussion about his Initiative as WGA Chair, which included a video. The conversation focused on the role that biosecurity plays in addressing the risks of invasive species. Some highlights included:

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, Hawaii Department of Agriculture: "We have a scope of huge problems before us. We import 80-90% of our food, and the number of visitors to Hawaii is higher than ever before, and the purchase and shipping of online goods only complicates matters further."

Ulalia Woodside, Nature Conservancy: “When the first human migrants came to Hawai’i they found a world, an island, where about 90% of the flowering plants in Hawaii are found no where else in the world; 80% of birds are found no where else. And there are over 5,000 species of insects endemic to Hawaii."

Osama El-Lissy, USDA-APHIS: "One of the things that make it challenging to increase food production is invasive species. Estimates come in at $220 billion every year in direct costs. When you include indirect costs, it goes up to $1.9 trillion. That’s 5% of the global GDP."

Roundtable: Harnessing the Power of Outdoor Recreation: Leaders of state offices of outdoor recreation discussed the fast-growing industry spurring economic growth across the region. Some highlights included:

The ceremonial blowing of the conch shellTom Adams, Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation: "We’re one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and outdoor recreation is one of, if not the, number one recruiting factor. Companies come to, stay, and grow in Utah because of the access to the outdoors."

Luis Benitez, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office: "About a year and a half and& stewardship, education and workforce training, economic development, and public health & wellness. We agreed to those collectively, with the blessing of our governors."

Domenic Bravo, Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office and State Parks: "We’re working on collaboratives across the state. We’re helping communities look at and define their assets. We go in and say 'What can we do to help you be successful in the outdoor recreation space?' ”

Rachel VandeVoort, Montana Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation: "This is an incredibly important part of our economy at 2.2% of the total. Outdoor recreation touches 67 of the 71 core sectors of our economy."

Read about Day Two of the Winter Meeting

Read about Day Three of the Winter Meeting

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