logo

News

Select a news topic from the list below, then select a news article to read.

Best of the West: Craft beer and spirits booming, flooding continues, innovative rural hospital thriving in Idaho

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting April 17, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Montana Craft Brewing ClassStudents at the Montana State University Craft Brewing and Fermentation program.Craft beer is booming in Montana, with enthusiasts raising a glass to a recently approved bill allowing breweries to increase production from 10,000 to 60,000 barrels per year. To support an influx of new breweries, Montana State University in Billings now offers a craft brewing and fermentation program.

Travel to craft breweries and distilleries continues to rise, and the top cities in which to imbibe are in western states: Seattle, Portland and Denver. Learn more in the Top 20 Craft Spirits Tourism Destinations report by Travelocity and The American Distilling Institute.

Want more? The upcoming WGA Annual Meeting in Whitefish, Mont., will include a session on the growing impact of microbreweries and craft distillers in the West. (Register)

Innovative Health Care: A rural hospital in Idaho serving an area with more bears than people is not only surviving declining populations and budget cuts, but thriving. In a roundtable discussion at WGA’s Winter Meeting, panelists addressed the challenges faced by rural providers.

High Water: Flooding continues to threaten the West, prompting Gov. Butch Otter of Idaho to warn residents about a “disaster waiting to happen” along the Boise River. In Wyoming, officials are predicting the biggest runoff in decades, and in California repairs will begin soon at the Oroville Dam.

A/V Update: A new J.D. Power study showing consumers are wary about fully autonomous vehicles has not slowed companies pursuing the technology. Apple secured a permit to begin testing self-driving cars in California, while Oregon contemplates opening streets to driverless cars and Texas may be next.  

ATTEND WGA'S ANNUAL MEETING: Influential pollster Frank Luntz will be a keynote speaker at the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. (See Agenda, Register)

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Assoction on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Economic Roundup: Ski industry shakeup out West, Google building Nevada data center

Published on .

States across the West are making economic progress on a variety of fronts. Here are some highlights from our latest Western Economic Roundup:

Mammoth MtnMammoth MountainA Colorado partnership has shaken up the ski industry in the Rocky Mountain State and California with a pair of recent acquisitions. Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners, in separate recent deals, purchased Steamboat and Winter Park resorts in Colorado and Mammoth Resorts, which operates four ski areas in California.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the partnership now will operate 12 resorts that attract about 7 million skiers a year. Mammoth Mountain is the biggest resort, drawing about 2 million visitors.

Aspen Skiing Co. also operates Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass in Colorado. The Colorado acquisition is a $1.5 billion deal; no terms were announced for the Mammoth purchase.

Big Data Bet: Google has plans to build a new data center in Nevada on 1,200 acres of land it purchased for $26.1 million. "Nevada is rapidly becoming a technology and innovation hub by attracting exciting new startups and some of the world’s best names," said Gov. Brian Sandoval.

HQ Relocating to Arizona: Benchmark Electronics will relocate its corporate headquarters to Arizona. The move by the global engineering, design, and integrated electronics manufacturing company is expected to create 500 new jobs over the next five years and build on a partnership with Arizona State University.

Big Deal for Texas: ExxonMobil Chemical Company and SABIC US Projects LLC are partnering to build a petrochemical plant in the Lone Star State. The plant is expected to create more than 600 jobs and generate $50 billion in economic output during the first six years of operations.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Governors seek role in work on Executive Order, "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda"

Published on .

President Trump at Signing of Executive OrderPresident Trump at the signing of the Executive OrderWestern Governors have reached out to leadership of the Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Agriculture in regards to President Trump’s Executive Order, "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda," which requires federal agencies to critically examine their regulatory processes.

In particular, the Governors appreciate the order's explicit requirement that "federal agencies seek input and assistance from states" and that "Western Governors request the opportunity to participate – either by representation on the task force or otherwise," in the reviews.

The Governors also note that WGA Resolution 2017-01, Building a Strong State-Federal Relationship, is a good starting point for that participation. The letter sent on April 19, 2017, was signed by WGA Chair, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Read, download the letters

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Celebrate National Park Week with free days, special events across the West

Published on .

Find Your Park logoNational Park Week, an annual celebration of our country’s most magnificent open spaces, kicks off on April 15 and runs through April 23. Given the spectacular beauty and ecological diversity of the West, it’s no surprise that more than 40 national parks are in western states.

To celebrate “America’s best idea”, the National Park Service is partnering with the National Park Foundation to offer free access days and special events across the country. As part of the #FindYourPark campaign, visitors to the website can search for parks by proximity or favorite activity. Park admission is free during the weekends of April 15-16 and April 22-23.

For more information, visit the National Park Week website.

Western Governors expressed their support for the National Parks System by passing a resolution in 2016, National Parks and the West, that praised the “Find Your Park” and “Every Kid in a Park” initiatives. Read, download resolution.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: Flood threat rises in states, sage-grouse rescue mission, waste shipments return to WIPP

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting April 10, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Video of MudslideThe abundance of rain and snow this winter in the West poses challenges for residents and officials dealing with the runoff. High Country News highlighted the variability of winter weather, including when the big melt might begin. Other highlights of conditions across the region:

  • Idaho: More than 2 million acre-feet of water remains in the Boise watershed in the form of snow, with less than 300,000 acre-feet of capacity left in the Boise River reservoirs. The state's Transportation Department caught a powerful mudslide on video, demonstrating the danger caused by extreme precipitation. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
  • Montana: Snowpack levels exceed 160% of average in the Missoula and Kalispell Valleys. For now, snow at higher elevations remains frozen, and experts are hoping it melts in stages.
  • California: The state has experienced its fair share of flooding, but there is a silver lining for farmers in in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, who are seeing water allocations from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation boosted to 100% for the first time since 2006.

Sage-Grouse Safe Haven? Wyoming officials are airlifting 60 sage-grouse to North Dakota in an attempt to boost that state's sagging population of the bird. The sage grouse program coordinator in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in explaining the airlift, noted that “as a state ... there is a strong commitment to help others succeed in conserving this species."

WIPP Reopens: The Waste Isolation Pilot Program (WIPP) in New Mexico received its first shipment of transuranic waste after a three-year closure. Learn more about WGA’s involvement in the WIPP program.

Free Parking (Still): North Dakota legislators just said no this week to a bill that would have ended the state's 70-year prohibition on parking meters. Top that, New York!

Snowpack Mystery: NASA is conducting a study to determine how much water is stored in the Earth’s snow cover. Learn how results from the study in western Colorado may guide future decisions, such as when to plant crops or use hydropower. More

Hybrid Police Cruisers: Los Angeles Police Department officers will soon be driving the world’s first “pursuit-rated” hybrids. That's right: The Ford vehicle will offer more than twice the fuel economy of the current car, the Interceptor, but still have plenty of speed.

ATTEND WGA'S ANNUAL MEETING: Influential pollster Frank Luntz has just been added as a keynote speaker at the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. (See Agenda, Register)

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Assoction on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Free Parking (Still): North Dakota legislators just said no this week to a bill that would have ended the state's 70-year prohibition on parking meters. Top that, New York.

Influential pollster Frank Luntz to keynote at WGA Annual Meeting in Montana

Published on .

Frank LuntzFrank Luntz will speak June 27Frank Luntz, the pollster whose “Instant Response” technique has made him one of the country's most influential communication professionals, will deliver a keynote at the WGA Annual Meeting (June 26-28) in Whitefish, Montana.

Luntz, the "Focus Group Czar” for Fox News and a CBS News contributor, will kick off the second day of the meeting on Tuesday, June 27. (See agenda, register)

A recent column by Luntz in TIME (Americans Trust Their Own States But Not Washington) illustrates the insights he can deliver. Luntz's nationwide public opinion research reveals, for example, that a whopping 71% of voters agree that state-level government is better equipped to serve its citizens and deliver results than the federal government. Other highlights in the column include:

  • Nearly half of Americans (45%) regard "America’s governors and state governments" favorably; just 27% hold a favorable view of the federal government.
  • When asked who are “the most dedicated public servants in it for the right reasons,” respondents give states a 30% lead over the federal government.
  • States are more trusted (by 28%) than the federal government in “educating students and helping them achieve.”

Luntz concludes: “Americans are demanding a new relationship with their government that prioritizes local leadership and local solutions rather than an inflexible one-size-fits all national approach to the myriad challenges facing the country.” (Read the column)

ATTEND THE ANNUAL MEETING: Read the agenda and register for the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana.

Get more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What’s next for California now that Gov. Jerry Brown has declared drought over?

Published on .

Governor Brown during snow measurement 2015Current conditions in California are far different than when Gov. Brown took part in a 2015 snowpack measurementGov. Jerry Brown on April 7 lifted the emergency drought declaration in place since January 2014, thanks to record rain and snow storms that replenished water reserves to end six years of historic drought in California.

The Governor, however, signaled that drought awareness remains paramount. “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner," Brown said in a statement. "Conservation must remain a way of life."

Snowpack levels recently measured at 164% of average also mean that California now faces a different challenge, as the state prepares to deal with flooding caused by the melting snow. In addition, Gov. Brown's administration is working on plans to encourage more water conservation and the state water board is developing more specific water budgets for urban areas.

Western Governors have long worked to manage the impact of drought. WGA, under the leadership of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, embarked on the Western Governors’ Drought Forum in 2014. The Drought Forum fostered a regional dialogue in which states shared best practices on drought policy, preparedness and management to create an online resource library. Learn more by reading about regional Initiative meetings, watching webinars, and checking out case studies, best practices, and other resources.

Learn more ...

Read the Western Governors' Drought Forum Report, which is arranged around seven key themes that emerged during the first year of the Forum, and view a video update.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook.

Best of the West: Wyoming wind industry grows again, unraveling wildfires, re-thinking bears' behavior

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting April 3, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

REI Co FounderMary Anderson and her husband Lloyd co-founded REI in 1938Wind energy in Wyoming continues to grow, with the announcement that Rocky Mountain Power plans to invest nearly $3 billion in wind upgrades and expansions by 2020. To take advantage of federal subsidies set to expire, the Casper Star Tribune reports that the company plans to build up to 1,100 megawatts of new wind and transmission, creating up to 1,400 new jobs.

Seeing Through the Smoke: Wildfires are notoriously difficult to predict, but new technology is giving scientists a better understanding of how they could be managed in the future. This article from High Country News dives into the mystifying behavior of wildfires, and the research that could change the way fires are fought in the West.

The Bear Facts: Recent studies in Colorado and Wyoming are shedding light on grizzly and black bear populations. In the greater Yellowstone area, the number of grizzlies continues to climb as their territory expands. The Denver Post reports on how Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducted a six-year study on the behavior of black bears near Durango that has changed assumptions about their encounters with humans.

REI Co-Founder Dies: Mary Anderson recently passed away at age 107. In Seattle, she and her husband in 1938 started the co-op that made outdoor recreation equipment more affordable to the masses. Today, REI has more than 6 million members worldwide. Read about Anderson’s legacy in the Seattle Times

California Cleanup Continues: Significant flooding across California this winter prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to request federal funding assistance for repairs. President Trump this week announced that more than $500 million would be designated to the relief, including $274 million for Oroville Dam repairs.

ATTEND OUR ANNUAL MEETING: Read the agenda and register for the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. More

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

WATCH: National Forest & Rangeland Management Initiative Webinar: Land Management Conflict

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association hosted the webinar, "Land Management Conflict: Current Litigation and the Future of Alternative Dispute Resolution," on April 6, 2017 as part of WGA's series for the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

This webinar examined the causes and effects of litigation over federal natural resource decisions, and the potential to use alternative dispute resolution in concert with (or in lieu of) traditional litigation. Panelists also discussed the role that federal courts play in resolving resource management disagreements and successful strategies for minimizing litigation risk, as well as whether (and how) the current system could be improved.

  • Moderator: David Dreher, President, Foresight LLC
  • Panelists: Jim Riley, Principal, Riley and Associates; Laura Ziemer, Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor, Trout Unlimited; Susan Jane Brown, Wildlands Program Director and Staff Attorney, Western Environmental Law Center; Chris French, Director, Ecosystem Management Coordination, U.S. Forest Service.

Watch the Webinar on YouTube

The Chairman's Initiative of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock enables states and land managers to share best practices and policy options for forest and rangeland management. (Learn more)

Watch recordings of the previous Chairman's Initiative webinars:

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Big storms boost resort revenues, growing tech hub in Wyoming, Safelite growing New Mexico economy

Published on .

NCAR in CheyenneNational Center for Atmospheric Research facility in Cheyenne (Photo: NCAR)Unprecedented snow across the West this winter led to a bump in ski tourism in several western states. According to DestiMetrics, which tracks lodging in 19 Western mountain resorts “occupancy in 30,000 rooms across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana is flat compared to last year, but revenue through Feb. 28 is up 7.3%.” In other resort news:

  • Resorts in California -- including Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley and Heavenly -- extended their season after some areas received up to 60 feet of snow this winter.
  • The $1.3 billion tourism industry in Utah is grateful for continued flurries through March. Many resorts still boast more than 100 inches of snow at their base, even as they wrap up their seasons.The snowsports director at Solitude Mountain Resort reported, “We’re close to 20% ahead over last year with all of our programs.”
  • Jackson Hole businesses had to play catch-up after losing an estimated $5 million in revenues due to a major storm that wiped out power for five days in the Wyoming city, although businesses that did stay open saw a boost.

Western states are making economic progress on a variety of fronts. Our latest Western Economic Roundup offers some additional highlights:

Nebraska will soon be home to a new Facebook data center, with a massive 970,000 square foot campus to be built in Papillion. Facebook data centers typically support more than 1,000 local jobs during construction, as well as hundreds of long-term operational jobs. The center is expected to be operational as soon as 2020.

Cheyenne has transformed into a technology hub for super computers, attracting companies to Wyoming with its business-friendly environment. According to a recent article in Wired, organizations such as Microsoft and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in expansions, which bodes well for continued growth and economic development in the state.

Safelite AutoGlass has opened a facility in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, creating more than 800 full and part-time jobs, with plans for more than 200 additional positions in the coming year. Governor Susana Martinez cut the ribbon at the grand opening.

Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland and Seattle made the list of top five cities best poised to become the next tech meccas in the U.S., according to Forbes. Learn which western city saw its tech talent pool grow by almost 30% in just three years.

On-time flights, traffic congestion and hotel prices factored in to On Call International’s list of top cities for "hosting productive business travel experiences." See which 5 Western cities made the top 10.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Governors support expedited review of bipartisan Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act

Published on .

Vegetation ManagementWestern Governors have urged leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee to give an expedited review to the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act on its reintroduction.

In a letter sent on April 3, 2017, to Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop and Ranking Member Rep. Raul Grijalva, WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard urged leadership to expedite their review of the bipartisan legislation.

The Governors noted their previous support of similar legislation, which helps ensure reliable electricity service and reduces the risk of fires and fire hazards that result from inadequate vegetation management on power line rights-of-way. The letter emphasized that “Western Governors recognize the importance of appropriate fire management and proactive wildfire mitigation” and are “committed to safeguarding and enhancing the reliability of the region’s electric transmission grid.”

Read, download letter

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: California's historic snowpack, rare Nevada wolf sighting, Puget Sound pollution

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 27, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

California Spring Snow Measurement 2017Snow was falling in the Sierras during the snowpack measurement on March 30. (Photo: California Department of Water Resources).

The first measurement of spring in California's Sierra Nevada mountains revealed snowpack was 183% of average for the date. The state has been measuring at Phillips Station south of Lake Tahoe since 1941. Across the entire Sierra range, snowpack stands at 164% of average. The tally has been higher just three times since 1970.

Also in California, warm temperatures and that big snowpack are a dangerous combination for the Owens Valley. And the overwhelmed Oroville Spillway is scheduled to be replaced by the next rainy season, but is the timeline too aggressive?

Record-setting snow and rain continues in the rest of the West:

Puget Pollution: Washington state’s largest sewage treatment plant has discharged 30 million gallons of raw sewage and partially treated water into Puget Sound. “It has been a disaster, and we’re not out of it yet,” said a King County councilwoman.

Wolves in the West: For the first time in nearly 100 years, Nevada recorded a wolf sighting. Meanwhile in Montana, the “Jane Goodall of wolves” will wrap her long career working for the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks department.

Standoff Trials: The government called its final witnesses in the trial of six men who took part in the 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada. Find out what’s next in the trial of supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy.

Tops for Business Travel: On-time flights, traffic congestion and hotel prices factored in to On Call International’s list of top cities for "hosting productive business travel experiences." See which 5 Western cities made the top 10.

See last week's Best of the West

ATTEND OUR ANNUAL MEETING: Read the agenda and register for the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. More

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

'Road Show' highlights Waste Isolation Pilot Plant reopening, nuclear waste transportation safety procedures

Published on .

WIPP Road Show Loveland Rescue and Containers for blogMore than 50 attended the Loveland event, including members of the local fire department.UPDATE: On April 10, 2017, WIPP received its first shipment of transuranic waste since reopening in January. “To see shipments arriving again at WIPP is celebrated not only by the WIPP workforce and the Carlsbad community, but also by our DOE host communities that support the critical missions of the Department,” said Todd Shrader, DOE Carlsbad Field Office Manager. 

March 30: The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico reopened in January, three years after its closure in the wake of a minor radioactive leak in 2014. It will begin receiving shipments of waste again in April.
 
To prepare for shipments to the Carlsbad facility, the world’s only operating deep geologic nuclear waste repository, "road shows" were staged along active waste transportation routes in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. WIPP, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the states hosted the events to engage with communities along the route from Idaho National Laboratory to the facility. WGA Policy Associate Lauren DeNinno was along for the ride.
 
The WIPP program is a collaboration between DOE and western states, which are responsible for establishing and implementing procedures for shipping Transuranic (TRU) waste. In 1989, WGA established a Technical Advisory Group, consisting of representatives  from western states, to ensure the “safe and uneventful” movement of the waste. (Learn more about the Advisory Group) At the events, DOE and WIPP representatives showcased the program’s safety record and the high standards it maintains for drivers and trucks. State representatives of the WIPP program highlighted resources, including training, available to those in their states.

The tour began on Monday (March 27) in Fort Hall, Idaho, with an event for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Experts representing aspects of the WIPP program delivered a presentation to local officials and law enforcement on (among other issues) driver standards, inspection procedures and emergency response training and preparedness. TRUPact II containers used for transporting the TRU waste to WIPP were on display.

WIPP Road Show Cheyenne TRUPac Containers for BlogTRUPact II containers that transport TRU waste are “the world’s most expensive garbage truck”TRU waste is solid waste that has been contaminated with radiation in defense operations, and can include gloves and lab equipment. Tony Anderson, representing the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) that developed the inspection procedure for TRU waste shipments, described the containers as “the world’s most expensive garbage truck.”

The events allowed the public, elected officials, emergency responders, regulators and other stakeholders to learn how TRU waste is transported through their communities and speak directly with WIPP and DOE representatives.

“That’s really why we’re out here," said James Mason, Institutional Affairs Officer at the DOE Carlsbad Field Office. "To engage with you, the stakeholders, and to give you a chance to talk to and ask questions of all of our experts.”

The road show in Loveland, Colorado, highlighted the diverse array of stakeholders impacted by the shipment of TRU waste. Included among the over 50 attendees were members of the local fire department, hospital staff, state patrol, and emergency dispatchers. The tour also included Morgan City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Pueblo, Colorado; and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

WATCH: Lek Cam delivers livestream of the 'Sage-Grouse Strut'

Published on .

Sage Grouse in LekYou've doubtless heard about the greater sage-grouse, most likely in relation to the unprecedented western conservation effort that resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) 2015 determination that the rangeland bird didn't warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act.

But have you ever seen the males 'strut' for a mate in the breeding grounds called "leks?" The elaborate mating dance is well worth seeing, and now you can watch the action in an Oregon lek via a livestream, provided for the third year in a row by FWS and The Nature Conservancy.

The "Lek Cam" will stream coverage 5-9 a.m. PT daily from March 29 to May 15, 2017. Recorded coverage is available to viewers on the website.

View the livestream

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: Flooding bedevils states, Plains fire damage mounts, WiFi for Lake Mead

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 20, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Lake Coure DaleneFlooding at Lake Coeur d'Alene (KREM) Flooding continues to cause considerable challenges across the West. The latest:

  • Idaho: Water levels are dropping in the state, but U.S. Geological Survey officials said the Coeur d’Alene River had been flowing at its fastest rate in more than four decades, sweeping away a car in the area.
  • Montana: Early snowmelt and waterlogged ground has produced landslides, mudslides, erosion and damage to roads and railroad lines.
  • Wyoming: State residents are bracing for flood watches and warnings, given lingering warm temperatures and high levels of snowpack.
  • California: Relief finally appears to be on its way, as storms subside, but cleanup and repairs of the Oroville Dam alone could cost upwards of $200 million. Nearly six weeks after the crisis began, the evacuation advisory notice for residents was lifted, but repair crews are still scrambling to make the necessary fixes before the next rainy season begins this fall.

Western Wildfires: The fires in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma are nearly all contained and the Agriculture Department has designated $6 million to fund relief for farmers and ranchers who have lost of millions of acres of land and livestock. In Colorado, short-lived wildfires near Boulder, Littleton and Indian Hills prompted evacuations, shut down a highway, and charred hundreds of acres.

Meter's ticking: The Daily Beast reports "time is ticking" on the law that prohibits parking meters on North Dakota streets. Now that the legislature is debating a bill to end the ban, learn how the process has divided the family responsible for the ban.

Standoff Trials: In Oregon, a federal judge found four men guilty of various misdemeanors for their roles in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. Testimony from an undercover FBI agent began in Nevada in the trial of six men who took part in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff in that state.

Nautical WiFi? Officials at the popular tourist destination Lake Mead National Recreation Area announced plans to provide Wi-Fi access as early as this summer.

See last week's Best of the West

ATTEND OUR ANNUAL MEETING: Read the agenda and register for the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. More

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors' News: Solid economic growth in Colorado, new veterans services in Nevada, battling invasive species in Hawaii

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup of news showcasing the work of Western Governors in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and other areas. Here is what the Western Governors have been working on recently:

Alaska Gov Bill WalkerGov. WalkerALASKA Gov. Bill Walker declared a public health crisis in order to combat the state’s opioid epidemic, and introduced plans for action.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey launched the statewide “Infant at Work” program, enabling parents to bring newborns to work, following a successful pilot program.  

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown responded to severe storms and flooding across the state by announcing a four-point plan to bolster dam safety and flood protection.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper released the state’s quarterly economic and revenue forecast, which calls for continued economic momentum, especially on the Front Range.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige honored community members and businesses fighting invasive species, a critical component of the administration’s vision for Hawaii. 

Idaho Gov Butch OtterGov. OtterIDAHO Gov. Butch Otter applauded the successful completion of a multiyear project to remove radioactive material from a site 50 miles west of Idaho Falls. 

MONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock, WGA Chair, announced 15 economic development grants to assist Montana businesses with growth and job creation.

NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval signed three bills related to veterans services, which were passed out of both houses unanimously.  

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez announced that Facebook will be building a massive high-tech data center in New Mexico, creating thousands of new jobs in construction.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Doug Burgum unveiled plans for the development of a soybean processing plant – the first of its kind in North Dakota. 

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin announced a new public-private partnership to provide discounted services at YMCAs across the state to all foster parents providing care to children in state custody.

Oregon Gov Kate Brown Official Portrait MugGov. BrownOREGON Gov. Kate Brown announced nominations are open for state elementary and middle schools to apply for the National Foundation of Governors' Fitness Councils 2017 DON'T QUIT! campaign.

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard, WGA Vice Chair, offered testimony on rural infrastructure at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott hosted a reception for tech entrepreneurs during SXSW to welcome startups and tech industries to the Lone Star State

UTAH Gov. Gary Herbert addressed the Multicultural Youth Leadership Summit, which helps young people earn post-secondary degrees and certificates.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee met with the state's Department of Natural Resources Commissioner to discuss how to boost resiliency against wildfires this summer.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead continued his work on bipartisan reform of the Endangered Species Act at the national level

Read the previous Western Governors' News.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: Plains fires continue, West best for craft brewers, where A/Vs should roll

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 13, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Craft BrewersWestern states dominate top spots in list of craft brewersDevastating wildfires continued to destroy millions of acres in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas this week.

In Kansas, fires are more than 50% contained, but have blackened more than 60% of Clark County. Damage repair is expected to cost more than $21 million in Texas, while in Oklahoma 19 counties are currently under burn bans as drought conditions and high winds continue.

Earlier this week, the governors of those states and New Mexico sought a temporary suspension of grazing restrictions in the wake of the blazes.

A/V Hot Spots: A report from INRIX ranks cities where autonomous vehicles could best be deployed. New Orleans tops the list, but the Top 10 includes western cities such as Albuquerque, Tucson, Portland and Las Vegas. In all, 15 of the top 20 cities are in WGA states. See cities on the list and what makes them best for the vehicles. (Governing)

Foam on the Range: The Brewers Association just released its ranking of the top 50 craft brewing companies, which includes 23 breweries in WGA states. Craft brewers making the list include Sierra Nevada Brewing in California, New Belgium Brewing in Colorado and Deschutes Brewery in Oregon. Find list, map.

Standoff Trial Charges Dropped: A federal judge in Oregon has dismissed all charges pending against Ammon Bundy's lawyer resulting from a scuffle during last fall's trial for the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. That ruling follows two convictions and two acquittals last week in relation to the occupation.

Historic Dearfield: Learn the story of Dearfield, Colorado, which in the 1920s  “was the most successful, best known, African-American farming community in the United States. (KCUR)

See last week's Best of the West

ATTEND OUR ANNUAL MEETING: Learn about the agenda and register for the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. More

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Governors request 'active support' of full funding for PILT, SRS programs

Published on .

Federal Lands Subject to PILTMap shows federal lands subject to PILTWestern Governors have requested that House and Senate Appropriations leadership offer their "active support" of full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017 and throughout Fiscal Year 2018.

The request from WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard was included in letters sent on March 16, 2017, to House and Senate Appropriations leadership, including Senators Lisa Murkowski and Tom Udall, and Representatives Ken Calvert and Betty McCollum.

Western Governors noted in the outreach that they have "long advocated that the federal government must fulfill its obligation to fund these programs for rural counties with tax-exempt federal lands and for timber-dependent counties that rely on this funding to provide necessary government services to their citizens."

That advocacy was reiterated by the Governors through the passage in December, 2016, of the WGA Policy Resolution, Tax-Exempt Federal Lands and Secure Rural Schools.

Read, download the letter

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Drought Update: Historic storms don't end California drought; Kansas conditions worsening

Published on .

California State Snowpack MeasurementMembers of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program check snowpack this winter.California's severe winter led Gov. Jerry Brown in January, 2017, to declare a state of emergency, which remains under effect, to help communities respond and recover from flooding caused by the historic storms. Despite that, the state also remains in a drought state of emergency, declared by Gov. Brown in January of 2014.

That dichotomy illustrates how difficult it can be to define when a drought ends. In the case of California, the state experiences wide swings in precipitation from year to year, so experts hesitate to declare the drought over. Additional factors such as reservoir levels, snowpack and groundwater supplies also must be considered before rescinding the emergency declaration.

To better understand all the issues at play, read this story about California's drought by Adam Nagourney of The New York Times

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the 2015 Chairman's Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. Part of the Initiative's continuing effort is to share the latest news about drought and its impact on the West.

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor report released March 9 shows good snow totals in Montana helped improve "abnormally dry conditions." However, moderate to extreme drought spread in Oklahoma and Texas and abnormally dry conditions expanded over southeast Nebraska. In southwest and south-central Kansas, moderate and severe drought expanded slightly. Also from the report:
  • More than 50% of Colorado is now classified as abnormally dry, and another 37% is considered in moderate drought, despite far above-normal snowpack levels.
  • The news is better in South Dakota, where the latest climate outlook from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration predicts a wetter than average spring, especially in western and central South Dakota. That's good news for farmers and ranchers dealing with dry conditions since last growing season.
  • For the first time since 2011, the state of Oregon has been declared drought-free

Learn more ...

Read the Western Governors' Drought Forum Report, which is arranged around seven key themes that emerged during the first year of the Forum, and view a video update.

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter and Facebook.

REGISTER: Gov. Steve Bullock hosts WGA Annual Meeting June 26-28 in Montana

Published on .

Whitefish Montana Street sceneWestern Governors’ Association Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will host his colleagues June 26-28, 2017, at the WGA Annual Meeting in beautiful Whitefish, Montana.

Register now to hear Gov. Bullock and his fellow Western Governors in public discussions on the most significant issues facing the West, including energy grid security, the future of autonomous vehicles, and the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

Keynotes will be delivered by influential public opinion pollster Frank Luntz and acclaimed alpinist Conrad Anker. Luntz, the "Focus Group Czar” for Fox News and a CBS News contributor, will kick off the second day of the meeting on Tuesday, June 27. Anker, the internationally acclaimed mountaineer who has summited Mt. Everest three times, will speak later that same day.

As Montana is the only state to share a border with three Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan), the meeting will include a session on the Canadian-U.S. relationship that will take place less than a week before Canada's 150th Anniversary celebration.

The meeting will begin around noon on Monday, June 26, and conclude by noon on Wednesday, June 28. All meeting sessions will be held at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

See the Agenda, Register for the 2017 Annual Meeting.

Never been to a WGA meeting? Learn more about past meetings.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: Plains wildfires set grim records, Alaskan eruption, wind's growing power

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 6, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Kansas WildfireWildfire north of Hutchinson, Kan. (Associated Press)UPDATE (March 13): The governors of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico are seeking temporary suspension of grazing restrictions for farmers and ranchers because of wildfires. (Associated Press) Meanwhile, ranchers are assessing the impact on their cattle herds. (High Plains Public Radio)

March 10: Six people have died in this week's plains wildfires: 4 in Texas, 1 each in Oklahoma and Kansas. At least 1,500 cattle were killed in the Panhandle,

  • Kansas officials say total acreage burned has topped 650,000 and is still climbing in the largest single fire in state history. More than 500,000 acres have burned in Clark and Comanche counties alone. (Wichita Eagle).
  • Oklahoma: More than 830,000 acres have been scorched since Monday in the northwest part of the state and none of the fires are contained. (Oklahoman). The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association has established a fund to provide relief for ranchers.
  • Texas: Even as Panhandle wildfires were being extinguished or determined to be under control, state officials were saying the Perryton fire, which scorched 318,056 acres, is the third largest fire in Texas history. In all, more than 478,000 acreas had burned and 5,000 cattle have been displaced. (Amarillo Globe-News)

Storms from Space: The continued improvement of California's drought-ravaged landscape, thanks to the storms battering the Sierras, are on display in NASA satellite photographs comparing 2014 conditions to this year. (Slideshow)

Big Wind: The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that installed wind electric generating capacity in the U.S. has surpassed conventional hydroelectric generating capacity, long the nation’s largest source of renewable electricity. Find out how this year's huge West Coast storms may change that. (EIA story)

Alaskan Eruption: Bogoslof Volcano, an Aleutian Islands volcano 850 miles southwest of Anchorage, erupted again and sent a cloud of ash 35,000 feet high. Learn more about the volcano's "heightened state of unrest." (Associated Press)

Standoff Trials: Jurors began deliberation this week in the trial of four defendants accused in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon while legal maneuvering continued. (The Oregonian) Testimony continued this week in the trial of six of rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters who took part in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff in Nevada. On Wednesday, a media cameraman who tried to mediate the standoff gave hours of testimony. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Flying Squirrel Season: Late winter in the Montana wilderness "heralds the arrival of mating season for the flying squirrel — and one of nature’s most spectacular air shows." Read The Missoulian story, don't miss the amazing photos.

See last week's Best of the West

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury wote about the close relationship between western states and western Canadian provinces in his latest Executive Director's Notebook. Learn more.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition states support for ESA Initiative process

Published on .

Coalition Logos for ESA Initiative BlogMembers of the Western Agriculture and Conservation CoalitionA central goal of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative launched in 2015 by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead was to enable a transparent conversation among a diverse array of stakeholders.

WGA achieved that by holding regional workshops in the West that were livestreamed and welcomed media coverage, so that the work of the Initiative could be widely shared. Webinars on the issues further broadened the audience.

So the Western Governors were heartened by a March 3, 2017, letter sent by the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition that states their "support for the process employed by Governor Mead and WGA to find ways to make the ESA work better for the environment and landowners."

The Coalition represents a dozen organizations -- incuding the likes of the Environmental Defense Fund, Family Farm Alliance, and The Nature Conservancy -- active in the Western United States seeking collaborative solutions to natural resource issues.

The letter from Coalition Director Jeff Eisenberg to current WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock additionally notes: "The Initiative is still in process ... (and) our Coalition will need to consider any policy recommendations that may be advanced by the Initiative before taking any positions on them. That said, we appreciate the transparent, inclusive process employed by Governor Mead and WGA so far and look forward to reviewing any proposals that result from it."

Read, download the letter

Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition membership includes: Arizona Cattlemen's Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, Family Farm Alliance, Irrigation Association, The Nature Conservancy, Public Lands Council, Trout Unlimited, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, California Agricultural Irrigation Association, Montana Stockgrowers Association, and K-Coe Isom, LLC.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Second work session of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative focuses on "Listing, Recovery and Delisting"

Published on .

Governor Otter at Boise ESA Workshop for Year 2 WorkshopIdaho Gov. Butch Otter hosted a year-one workshop of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act InitiativeWGA recently hosted "Listing, Recovery and Delisting," a year-two work session designed to elicit detailed input about themes that arose during the first year of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative.

The session held in Denver on Jan. 31, 2017, gathered a diverse array of stakeholders who focused on actions taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 4 of the ESA. Additional discussion touched on incentivizing voluntary conservation and improving coordination on proactive conservation efforts for at-risk species.

A series of recommendations came out of the work session. Although they don’t reflect consensus agreement from participants, they were informed by a robust bipartisan dialogue. A sample of the recommendations include:

  • Establish mechanisms to protect confidential data from becoming publicly available through the Freedom of Information Act;
  • Pair economic incentives with critical habitat designations on private land;
  • Expand the FWS seven-year listing workplan to be ongoing and dynamic, and ensure statutory deadlines for actions as a backstop under the workplan model;
  • Develop a national policy for the implementation of 4(d) rules that details best practices and incentivizes strong local input.

Read, download work session report

The Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative was launched in 2015 by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead in his role as Chairman of the Western Governors’ Association. Workshops, webinars and questionnaires during the Initiative's first year enabled thousands of stakeholders representing diverse interests to explore options for improving species conservation efforts and the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act. Read the Year-One Report and Appendix.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: California's $50 billion winter, housing crunch in Colorado, the leading cause of wildfires

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Feb. 27, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Ancient FossilArtist's rendering of Early Triassic marine life represented by fossils discovered in Idaho (Billings Gazette)Record Snow (and Cost): Snowpack in California is nearing a record. However, state officials say that precipitation adds up to a $50 billion price tag for roads, dams and other infrastructure threatened by floods such as the recent one at Oroville Dam.

Hot Housing: Five Western states (Colorado California, Hawaii, Texas, Oregon) are among the top 10 most difficult places for first-time buyers in the housing market. On the other hand, Bankrate.com lists Utah, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska among the 10 easiest for first-time buyers. (Story)

Standoff Trials: The prosecution wrapped up its case on Feb. 27 against the four remaining defendants in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The defense launched its case on Tuesday by calling Ammon Bundy as a witness and then a series of character witnesses. The Nevada trial on the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville included testimony from a BLM ranger, who testified that he turned off his "body cam" as the standoff escalated.

Wildfire Culprit: When it comes to the main cause of wildfires, we need only look in the mirror. A new study shows that humans triggered five out of six wildfires in the U.S. since 1992. (Story)

Ancient Sponge: Fossils found years ago in Idaho have scientists questioning old ideas about how long it took for ocean life to rebound from Eath's largest mass extinction. (Story)

See last week's Best of the West

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury wote about the close relationship between western states and western Canadian provinces in his latest Executive Director's Notebook. Learn more.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

West ranks high again in U.S. News and World Report 'Best States Ranking'

Published on .

US News Best States 2017The high quality of life in the West was confirmed again with the release of the U.S. News and World Report "Best States Rankings," which includes 7 western states in the top 20.

North Dakota earned the highest "overall" ranking among western states, landing at No. 4, while Washington (5), Utah (7) and Colorado (9) also made the top 10. Nebraska (13), South Dakota (15) and Oregon (19) rounded out western states in the top 20.

The report noted that even though the oil boom that fueled North Dakota's rise has slowed, "overall oil production has held up" and "unemployment in North Dakota – about 3% – stood among the lowest jobless rates in the nation last year."

Western states also ranked highly in other aspects of the annual ranking, which seeks to highlight states performing best for their citizens. For example, the top four states for "Infrastructure" are western: Oregon, Washington, Utah and Nevada.

U.S. News and World Report employs more than 60 metrics to measure outcomes on issues such as health care, economy, infrastructure, education, state government and more. (Read the full report)

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: San Jose flood evacuations, Wyoming land ruling, revival of Idaho ski area

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Feb. 20, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Oroville GraphicGraphic details Lake Oroville spillway repairsThe good news in California is that increased precipitation keeps improving the state's drought outlook. But flooding in San Jose delivered bad news. While the water is receding, about 3,800 residents remained under mandatory evacuation late last week, and the roughly 10,000 allowed to return home face a scary scenario: What's left of their house and possessions? (Here's an update). At Lake Oroville, the Department of Water Resources continues to discharge water from the damaged flood control spillway without event. Check out this graphic for an overview of repairs.

Wyoming Land Ruling: Historic reservation land north of the Wind River, including the town of Riverton,  belongs to the state and not Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes. The Casper Star Tribune reports on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Standoff Trials: Opening arguments in the trial of four men who took part in an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge began this week in Oregon. In Nevada, the trial against six men accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff with federal agents was put on hold and will resume Feb. 27.

Dakota Access Camp Closed: Officials in Morton County reported the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp was officially closed, although 33 protesters had been arrested on Thursday.

Big Lift: Learn about the husband and wife who bought a failed Idaho ski hill that's now teeming with schoolkids and a growing number of powder-seekers. Story

See last week's Best of the West

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury wote about the close relationship between western states and western Canadian provinces in his latest Executive Director's Notebook. Learn more.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Executive Director's Notebook: Canada's importance to U.S. will be highlighted at WGA Annual Meeting

Published on .

By Jim Ogsbury

Shortly after I began my job at the Western Governors’ Association, I was privileged to join Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on a trade mission to Alberta, Canada. We toured energy production sites near Fort McMurray, visited business and government officials in Edmonton and even attended a hockey game in Calgary.

WGA SD Dec13 1466 1200pxAmbassador David MacNaughton addressed the 2016 WGA Winter MeetingI had always harbored a warm place in my heart for our neighbors to the north, but the trade mission sensitized me to the profound importance of our trade relationship and strategic alliance. Canada and the United States exchange more than $2 billion in goods and services every day. Nearly 9 million U.S. jobs rely on trade with Canada, and approximately 380,000 people cross the U.S.-Canada border daily.

The special relationship between our countries is reflected in the bonds between western states and provinces. The Canadian and American West are remarkably aligned with respect to their economic interests, environmental ethos, sensational natural landscapes and quality of life.

During the past year, the Canadian consulate in Denver and the WGA have partnered to strengthen the ties between our western regions. We were honored beyond measure when Ambassador David MacNaughton, Canada's chief emissary to the United States, visited the WGA headquarters last May for a comprehensive briefing on the policy priorities and bipartisan work of Western Governors.

In October, the Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, granted me a warm audience at the provincial capital in Regina. In November, WGA was pleased to welcome Consul General Stephane Lessard to his new posting in Denver.  And in December, Ambassador MacNaughton addressed Western Governors at the WGA Winter Meeting in San Diego.

In recognition of the important and growing ties between the American and Canadian West, WGA Chair and Montana Governor Steve Bullock has decided to spotlight transboundary issues during the 2017 Annual Meeting of WGA, scheduled for June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. This is particularly appropriate, as Montana is the only state in the Union to border three different Canadian provinces.

We are expecting a powerful cohort of Canadian officials and thought leaders to attend. We hope you will be there too.  Who knows?  We might even be able to scare up some poutine and BeaverTails, eh?

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Governors repeat concerns to EPA, request comment extension on Financial Responsibility Requirements under CERCLA

Published on .

EPA LogoUPDATE (Feb. 27, 2017): The EPA has extended the comment period, as requested by Western Governors, for its proposed rule. (More)

Western Governors repeated their concerns about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rule, Financial Responsibility Requirements under CERCLA § 108(b) for Classes of Facilities in the Hardrock Mining Industry, and requested a comment period extension in outreach on Feb. 21, 2017.

The Governors enumerated several concerns, among them "a lack of substantive state engagement during rule development and potential preemption of existing state regulations," and requested a 120-day comment period extension.

Noting that "many western states rely on the hardrock mining industry for economic development and employment," the Governors asserted that EPA's proposed rule to "establish financial assurance regulations for the hardrock mining industry will negatively affect state economies. It may also hamper existing, effective state financial assurance programs."

The letter to EPA's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery was signed by WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Download this letter

Get more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Long journey home ends for ancient 'Kennewick Man' found in Washington

Published on .

KENNEWICK MAN Kennewick Man Reconstruction by the Smithsonian Institution Kennewick Man, also known as “the Ancient One,”  was discovered in 1996 when two men stumbled across a human skull along the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington.

Subsequent lab tests on the nearly complete skeleton recovered at the site determined the remains were roughly 9,000 years old — among the oldest ever discovered in North America. Those results led to a dispute between scientists and Pacific Northwest tribes over what to do with the remains.

More than two decades, many lab tests and court cases later, on Feb 17, 2017, Kennewick Man officially came into possession of the tribes, thanks to federal legislation and the urging of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Read the fascinating story of Kennewick Man's journey on Gov. Inslee's website.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: 'Emergency' continues at Lake Oroville, Nevada standoff testimony, San Francisco 'healthiest' city

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Feb. 13, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Wind TurbinesWind energy production continues to expand in the WestLake Oroville Updates: Workers have labored around the clock to repair the damaged spillway at Lake Oroville, which forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 in Northern California this week. Residents since have returned home, but remain in an "emergency situation." The latest updates from The Los Angeles Times, SFGate and the Sacramento Bee.

Nevada Standoff Trial: Testimony this week included Ryan Bundy's conversation with a Bureau of Land Management agent before the 2014 confrontation in Nevada. (More) In Oregon, jury selection is complete in the trial of the four remaining defendants in the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, with opening statements next week.

Energy alternatives: A 480-acre solar farm proposed near Billings would be Montana’s largest solar project. Elsewhere, approval has been granted in Colorado to Xcel Energy’s proposed $1 billion Rush Creek Wind Project and wind generation is surging in North Dakota, which ranks sixth in wind energy potential.

Healthy West: It's good news that a WalletHub ranking tabbed San Francisco as the healthiest city in the country. But it's GREAT news that 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 healthiest cities are in the West. See the list.

Bison Struggling: In another example of how hard this winter has been on wildlife, park officials at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming have taken action to keep bison (and park visitors) safe. More from Mead Gruver of the Associated Press.

See last week's Best of the West

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury submitted testimony this week for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, "Modernization of the Endangered Species Act." Read, download the testimony.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

https://www.studyfinds.org/study-finds-detroit-san-francisco-healthiest-unhealthiest-cities/

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury offers testimony on 'Modernization of the Endangered Species Act'

Published on .

Governor Freudenthal at Senate ESA HearingGovernor Freudenthal testifies at Senate hearingWGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury offered testimony for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, "Modernization of the Endangered Species Act," that called for "authentic partnership between the states and Services with respect to species listing."

The testimony submitted on Feb. 15, 2017, noted: "the ESA is premised on a strong state-federal partnership. Western Governors submit that such cooperation should involve full and authentic partnership between the states and Services with respect to species listing, critical habitat designations, establishment of recovery goals and delisting decisions."

In addition: "Having worked diligently for many years on species conservation on a bipartisan basis ...Western Governors recognize that much can be accomplished by collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to enact administrative changes to the Act."

Panelists at the hearing included: David D. Freudenthal, former Governor of Wyoming; Gordon S. Myers, Executive Director and President, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; James Holte, President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife; Daniel M. Ashe, President and CEO, Association of Zoos and Aquariums. (Watch the hearing, download panelists' testimony.)

Read, download complete WGA testimony

et even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Governors reiterate concerns about final BLM Planning 2.0 Rule

Published on .

Western Governors have reiterated their concerns to Congressional leadership concerning the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) final rule, Resource Management Planning (Planning 2.0).

Western Governors are disappointed by BLM’s failure to adequately involve western states in the Rule’s development, and they oppose several provisions of the final rule issued on Dec. 12, 2016.

The Governors, in outreach sent on on Feb. 10, 2017, are concerned by BLM’s changes to provisions regarding Governors’ consistency reviews for new and revised resource management plans, and an emphasis on landscape-scale planning that could lead to an emphasis on national objectives over state and local objective.

The Governors sent the letter, signed by WGA Chair Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: California water conservation continues, seasonal firefighter hiring OK'd, Nevada standoff trials begin

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Feb. 6, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Idaho Snowpack measurementHydrologists measure Idaho's enormous  snowpack (KTVB)Hiring Freeze Exempts Firefighters: Federal land management agencies got the go-ahead to hire seasonal firefighters and park rangers to protect national forests, parks, tribal lands and wildlife refuges after the Trump administration issued an exemption. Story

Conservation Stays in Place: State water officials in California voted unanimously this week to keep water conservation measures in place at least until May, despite snowpack levels at 154% of normal in the Sierra Nevadas. The snowpack in Idaho is so big it has water managers pleased (and worried).

Nevada Standoff Trial Begins: Opening statements were made Thursday in the conspiracy trial of six men accused of participating in an armed standoff against federal law enforcement agents who tried to impound rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle. The trial in Las Vegas is the first of thee related to the 2014 standoff in Nevada. Story

Intel Restarts Expansion: Intel Corp. announced this week that it will bring 3,000 more workers to Arizona as part of a $7 billion investment to finish a factory in Chandler it launched in 2011 to make its most advanced computer chips. Story

Hunters Thinking Pink? Lawmakers in Montana are considering whether to let big game hunters wear pink. Find out why.

See last week's Best of the West

Gov. Kate Brown spoke at the latest workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, held Jan 23-24, 2017, in Bend, Oregon. Watch video of the event for the Chairman's Initiative of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tourism booms in Montana, economy sunny in Arizona, universities help fuel South Dakota

Published on .

Montana Tourism Spending 2016Outdoor recreation means big business in the Big Sky state. How big? The 12.3 million tourists who visited Montana in 2016 spent $3.49 billion, helping create 52,630 jobs along the way. All that in a state with a population of just over 1 million.

“The outdoors is our business,” said Norma Nickerson, the director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana during a recent webinar.

Read more and find a graphic snapshot of the study.

States across the West are making economic progress on a variety of fronts. Here are some highlights from our latest Western Economic Roundup:

  • Home values have been increasing in many cities, but they increased the most last year in Portland, Ore. See how much they grew (Read more)