The Western U.S. has been deeply impacted by drought. In January, 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in California. Years-long drought also continues for large areas of Nevada and New Mexico, as well as parts of Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Oklahoma. The Western Governors' Association (WGA) has embarked on the Western Governors' Drought Forum, designed to foster a regional dialogue in which states and industry share case studies and best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management. In June of 2014 WGA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to continue working together to improve the development, coordination and dissemination of weather and drought information. WGA and NOAA produce Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook reports (see the most recent Outlook) that highlight trends in precipitation, temperature, and drought impacts across the West.
WGA has a broad-based energy program that over the years has included the Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative, identification of Western Renewable Energy Zones, developing policies and best practices for energy efficient buildings, and deploying near-zero emission technologies for coal. In 2010, the Governors, Western Interstate Energy Board and Western Electricity Coordinating Council launched the Regional Transmission Expansion Project to analyze transmission requirements under a broad range of alternative energy futures and to develop long-term, interconnection-wide transmission expansion plans. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, this project has provided valuable information to state and federal policy/decision makers, citizens, and the private sector. The Governors published a 10-Year Energy Vision for the West in 2013 that has since been adopted as policy. In 2014, Western Governors rolled out the Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID), an online tool that streamlines the challenge of siting and permitting transmission lines in the West.
America’s wildfire environment has changed. Forests are denser and unhealthier and the climate is hotter and dryer. These factors have contributed to the increasing frequency of large fires and increasing costs. Forest fragmentation and the rapid expansion of the wildland-urban interface have also complicated the management of landscapes and wildfires. In 2014 Western Governors approved the policy resolution Regional Wildfire Fighting Resources, which stated that western states should work together to identify options to expand the availability and sharing of wildfire firefighting resources. The governors also are working to end "fire borrowing," the practice of taking funds from non-suppression accounts to pay for firefighting.
Through its Clean, Reliable Water Supplies program, the WGA works closely with the Western States Water Council and stakeholders in advancing water supply and water management strategies. Western Governors approved two policy resolutions in 2014 related to water. Water Resource Management in the West noted that states are the preeminent authority on water management within their boundaries. Water Quality in the West notes that states are responsible for how to balance state water resource needs within Clean Water Act objectives. Other water-related issues WGA and WSWC are jointly addressing are drought management, "Good Samaritan" cleanup of abandoned mines, Indian water rights and agricultural water transfers.
The Western Governors Wildlife Council, at the direction of the Governors, developed the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. Launched in 2013, the tool assists states in identifying and conserving crucial wildlife habitat and corridors across the region. States have compiled information within their borders for the CHAT tool and continue to work with neighboring states to improve the regional understanding of areas important to wildlife to better inform land use planning efforts. In May of 2015, CHAT management transitioned to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. WGA also has worked extensively on Sage Grouse Conservation to avoid a listing for the greater sage-grouse. Learn more by reading the latest Sage-Grouse Inventory and Sage-Grouse Appendix.