WEBINAR: See a demonstration of our Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool.
The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council, at the direction of the Governors, is developing policies and tools to assist states in identifying and conserving crucial wildlife habitat and corridors across the region. While individual states are compiling information within their borders, they also are working with neighboring states to improve the regional understanding of areas important to wildlife to better inform land use planning efforts.
Western Governors' Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT)
In an effort to map crucial wildlife habitat across the West, the Western Governors' Wildlife Council is creating an online GIS-mapping tool which will help planners in the energy, transportation, and land use arenas. This tool, the Western Governors' Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), will be released in December of 2013.
Several states have released their own state CHATs that will display crucial wildlife and corridor information across the region. The state CHATs and Western Governors' CHAT will be non-regulatory, and will give project planners and the general public access to credible scientific data on a broad scale for use in project analysis, siting and planning. This includes large-scale development projects spanning multiple jurisdictions.
For information on the development and use of the Western Governors' CHAT, see the recently updated Wildlife Council White Paper (July 2013).
The Wildlife Council coordinates with federal land and natural resource management agencies through the State-Federal Implementation Group (SFIG), which was formed to implement a 2009 MOU between the Governors and the Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy and Interior. The MOU calls for coordination among the agencies to support the development of the state CHATs. In June 2011 the Wildlife Council and SFIG signed an agreement to strengthen this coordination.
In 2010, the Council formed a Stakeholder Advisory Group for the purpose of acting as a sounding board for Council activities and products and to provide periodic briefings to the Council on issues of mutual interest. The advisory group’s tasks will evolve over time.
Report on Wildlife Corridors and Habitat
The Wildlife Council coordinates and oversees implementation of the recommendations made in WGA’s (2008) report, Wildlife Corridors Initiative. The Council’s goal and primary tasks are to “identify key wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West, and conserve these lands—and the vast wildlife species that depend upon them—for future generations.”
The report was developed through a multi-state collaborative effort that included six working groups, each of which was charged with developing findings and recommendations on various aspects of wildlife corridors and crucial habitat.
The mission of the Council, consistent with WGA policy, is to identify key wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitats in the West and to develop and coordinate implementation of needed policy options and tools for conserving those landscapes.
Western Renewable Energy Zones:
State-approved Wildlife Maps
The Governors tasked the Council with providing wildlife sensitivity information for the Western Renewable Energy Zones project. Products prepared include a Wildlife data request; criteria for categorizing the sensitivity of wildlife data; and a chart that details the datasets included in the map and how they were categorized. A final report summarizing the data collection and mapping process was prepared by NatureServe, which served as technical consultants for this effort.
A monumental effort is underway in the Western states to develop and implement a range-wide strategy for the conservation and management of the Greater sage-grouse, which has been designated as a “candidate” species for protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The governors have adopted policy urging the U.S. Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to support state and local efforts in implementing their conservation plans at this critical juncture.
The Western Governors produce an annual inventory of state and local conservation measures for sage-grouse. Several successful initiatives are already in place, including an array of local working groups.
See more information on the Greater Sage-Grouse Task Force and inventory work underway of efforts to conserve Sage Grouse habitat.
WGA thanks the following organizations for their support of the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council:
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Forest Service