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

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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.

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

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

This webinar will examine 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 will discuss 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.

  • Time & Date: 10-11:30 a.m. MT, Thursday, April 6
  • 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.

Register for the Webinar

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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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 Annual Meeting also will feature keynote addresses from federal guests and dynamic speakers such as Montana native and world-class alpinist Conrad Anker.

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

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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

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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"

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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

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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'

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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'

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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

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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

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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

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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)

ENTER: 'Celebrate the West' high school art competition launches second year

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Celebrate the West Art Competition Logo

The Western Governors’ Association is proud to announce the second year of  Celebrate the West, a regional art competition that challenges high school students to create works inspired by their state.

The inaugural year of the competition attracted hundreds of entries from the 19 WGA member states, as well as American Samoa and Guam.The artwork was displayed at the WGA Annual Meeting in Jackson, Wyoming, and several winners subsequently had a chance to meet the governors of their respective states.

Celebrate Winner GraphicClick photo to see 2016 WinnersAnd now it's time for year two of the competition. Entrants will create original two-dimensional artwork inspired by their state or informed by living in the West. Students may draw ideas from a variety of sources, including state history, landmarks, natural resources, National Parks and Monuments, people, communities, and culture.

The visual arts challenge, sponsored by the Western Governors’ Foundation, is open to high school students in the 19 Western states and three U.S.-flag islands served by the nonpartisan policy association. (Complete list of states below.)

Winning artists will receive cash prizes and their works will be displayed at an upcoming WGA Governors’ meeting, as well as on the WGA website. In brief, here’s how “Celebrate the West” will work (Read more):

Best of the West: SRS woes in Oregon, moose invades basement, massive energy storage facility opens

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Jan. 30, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Moose on the looseThis moose made itself at home in an Idaho basement (Idaho Fish and Game Department)Big Cuts in Oregon: The Secure Rural Schools program that supports a wide variety of services in rural communities has expired. That means sharply reduced annual revenue ($7 million as opposed to $86 million) for more than 700 counties and 4,000 school districts in Oregon. The Statesman Journal reports what's next and then learn why Western Governors expect the federal government to make these payments in full.

Giant Energy Storage in California: Tesla Motors Inc. and Southern California Edison just unveiled one of the world’s largest energy storage facilities. The Los Angeles Times reports on the massive deployment of grid-connected batteries. More

Feeling winter's wrath: One brutal winter storm after another and freezing temperatures are endangering wild animals across the West. More

Yellowstone Cellular Plan: Cellphone improvements proposed in Yellowstone National Park should make it easier for vacationers to post photos and videos. But not everyone thinks that's a good idea, the Billings Gazette reports. More

There's a moose WHERE? You know the weather is bad when you find a moose in your basement. That was the case in Idaho recently. Find out how it got there -- and how the Idaho Fish and Game Department got it out. More

See last week's Best of the West

The fourth workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative was held Jan 23-24, 2017, in Bend, Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown spoke at the workshop, the latest in a series for the Chairman's initiative of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Watch video of the entire workshop and find video of all workshops.

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

WATCH: Species Conservation & ESA Initiative Webinar 'Collaborative Species Conservation in the Southeast'

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The Western Governors’ Association hosted the webinar "Collaborative Species Conservation in the Southeast" as part of its series for year two of the Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.

The webinar examined the role of trust and communication in species conservation efforts and the collective work of state, federal and industry partners to ensure the conservation of numerous species endemic to the southeastern U.S.

The moderator for  the webinar was Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The panelists: Jimmy Bullock, Senior Vice President, Forest Sustainability, Resource Management Service, LLC.; Todd Ewing, Supervisor, Aquatic Wildlife Diversity Program, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, & Vice-chair Wildlife Diversity Committee, Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Mike Harris, At-Risk Species Coordinator, Southeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Gordon Myers, Executive Director, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission; Dr. Salem Saloom, Alabama landowner; Nick Wiley, Executive Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Western Governors Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative is a continuation of the 2016 Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. The Initiative enables states to share best practices in species management and expands on the bipartisan dialogue of the Initiative’s first year.

Watch recordings of the previous Species Conservation and ESA Initiative webinars here.

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

Best of the West: Beetles assault Colorado forests, storm emergency in California, watch lava flow timelapse

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Jan. 23, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Lava FlowWatch this Lava Flow TimelapseColorado Forests Under Assault: Tree-killing spruce beetles are spreading northward through Colorado’s forests, infesting another 136,000 acres this past year and worsening damage across 1.7 million acres. Learn more.

State of Emergency: In the wake of two weeks of winter storms, which have dumped a record 20½ feet of snow on Mammoth Mountain in January,  Gov. Jerry Brown this week declared a state of emergency for Sacramento and 49 other Northern California counties, making them eligible for money to fix roads and make other repairs.

And The Center is ... : The town of Rugby, N.D., has called itself the “Geographical Center of North America” since 1931. That claim was recently challenged by the citizens in Robinson, N.D. A geography professor, who has a new method for calculating geographic centers, has just weighed in and you'll never believe the town that he says is in the center.

Elk Rising: State and federal biologists in Montana reported this week that elk numbers in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park and adjacent areas in Montana have stabilized. The 5,349 elk counted are a 9% increase over 2016 and the highest number since 2010. Learn what this means for the population.

Go with the (Lava) Flow: We leave you this week with a view of Hawaii you've never seen before: a time-lapse of the lava flow from the Kilauea volcano by Jack Fusco. The three-minute video is as adazzling as it is mesmerizing. Mahalo!

See last week's Best of the West

The fourth workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative was held Jan 23-24, 2017, in Bend, Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown spoke at the workshop, the latest in a series 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.

Gov. Kate Brown highlights how collaboration drives rural economies, preserves resources at Oregon Forest Management workshop

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Governor Kate Brown for WGAGovernor Kate Brown highlighted collaboration's role in sustaining robust rural economies and preserving natural resources in Oregon at a Chairman's Initiative workshop on Monday of the Western Governors' Association.

"We know we accomplish more working together. We have benefited tremendously from this collaboration in Oregon," Gov. Brown said in remarks that kicked off the Bend workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

"I am focused on creating jobs in our timber and rural communities," said Gov. Brown. "In Oregon we continue to pursue strategies to accelerate the pace, scale, and quality of restoration on our federal forests."

As an example, Gov. Brown noted that in 2006 the timber sale program on the Malheur National Forest was effectively zero, with disagreements over forest management stymying progress with the US Forest Service. Since then the formation of the Blue Mountain Forest Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon for WGADeputy Chief Leslie WeldonPartners collaborative has resulted in the reinstatement of active management. That has led to a 200% increase in home sales in the area, as well as school enrollment increases and a decrease in unemployment.

"Our challenges are great," Gov. Brown concluded, "but I am confident our resolve is greater."

Watch Gov. Brown's speech, as well as a keynote by U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon, and all Day One sessions on the WGA YouTube Channel.

The two-day (Jan. 23-24) workshop is the fourth in a series hosted across the West by the Western Governors' Association for the central policy initiative of WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Learn more and watch the previous workshops in Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.

Oregon Roundup Panel for WGASteve Grasty makes a point during the "Oregon Roundup" panelThe initiative is designed to examine forest management programs and investigate collaborative forest landscape restoration. The workshops play a central role in collecting information that will position Western Governors to recommend and promote congressional efforts to improve forest management authorities

Here's where to find the videos of all workshop sessions

MONDAY, JAN. 23

TUESDAY, JAN. 24

  • Roundtable: Supporting and Diversifying Rural EconomiesDay 2 will begin with remarks by Peter Daugherty, Oregon State Forester. Roundtable Moderator: Tom Insko, Eastern Oregon University; Panelists: Nils Christofferson, Wallowa Resources; Pete Caligiuri, The Nature Conservancy; Sally Russell, Mayor Pro Tem of Bend, Oregon.
  • Case Studies: Implementing an All-Hands, All-Lands Approach: Moderator: Karen Hardigg, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition; Panelists: Ron Alvarado, State Conservationist, NRCS; Peter Daugherty, Oregon State Forester; John O’Keeffe, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
  • Distilling PrioritiesJason Miner, Natural Resource Policy Manager, Oregon Governor's Office. This session will conclude with "Next Steps and Final Thoughts" from Troy Timmons, Western Governors' Association.

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: Western Governors’ Inauguration hopes, Wyoming wind gets green light, Tesla reinvests in Nevada

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Jan. 16, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

trump donald federalismTrump Inauguration: Reid Wilson reports in The Hill about how States hope Trump era will reset the federal relationship. The story includes remarks from WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury about the Western Governors' new resolution, Building a Stronger State-Federal Relationship, and how we have joined other leading Western policy organizations to share Principles to Clarify and Strengthen the State-Federal Relationship with president-elect Donald J. Trump and Congressional leadership.

Wyoming Wind: The biggest onshore wind development in the U.S., a project of the Power Company of Wyoming, just received two critical federal approvals. The first turbines in the massive 1,000-turbine project in Wyoming could go up as soon as next year.

Tesla Gigafactory: Gov. Brian Sandoval has announced that Tesla will make electric motors for the Model 3 at its Nevada gigafactory, bringing an additional 550 jobs to the state.

Aloha from Mars: NASA's fifth 'Mars Mission' simulation in Hawaii launches this week.

Rangeland Management: WGA just hosted a webinar on promoting rangeland resiliency and addressing invasive species. Watch it here.

See last week's Best of the West.

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, Storm Edition: 42% of California drought free, Oregon Gov. Brown declares snow emergency

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are extreme weather western stories for the week starting Jan. 9, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

drought comparisonA storm system dumped precipitation on multiple western states this week, flooding rivers and burying communities in record snowfall. The storms also contributed to major drought improvements across the West.

California: Northern California saw more than 20 inches of rain and 12 feet of snow, which delivered much-needed drought relief. More than 40% of California is now free of drought for the first time since early 2013. The storms also dramatically boosted the statewide Sierra snowpack, the source of one-third of California’s water supply, to 161% of normal. Lake Tahoe has gained approximately 33.6 billion gallons of water since the beginning of the month.

Colorado: Colorado's Crested Butte ski resort closed down because of too much snow, and resorts in California and Nevada experienced similar issues. A series of avalanches also shut down stretches of Interstate-70.

Nevada: Heavy rains prompted evacuations in Nevada and northern California. Lake Tahoe's water level has increased by one foot since the beginning of the month.

Oregon: Snow blanketed much of Oregon, prompting Gov. Kate  Brown to declare a state of emergency as more than 37,000 people in the Portland area lost power. The polar bears at the Oregon Zoo didn't seem to mind the record-nearing snow day.

More extreme weather: A mass of Arctic air is expected to make the temperatures plummet to 50 degrees below zero in parts of Alaska this weekend.

See last week's Best of the West.

Looking for news outside of the weather? We just hosted a webinar on rangeland management tools and strategies. Check it out.

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: Rangeland Management Strategies and Tools

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The Western Governors' Association hosted the webinar, Rangeland Management Strategies and Tools: Promoting Resiliency and Addressing Invasive Species, as part of the series for the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

The webinar examined new developments for increased resilience to the threats posed to western rangelands by invasive species, drought, wildfire and other stressors. Panelists discussed techniques that maintain high-quality rangeland plant communities in areas where they persist, and restore them in areas where they have declined.

The webinar was moderated by Jeremy Maestas, Sagebrush Ecosystem Specialist, USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service.The panelistsChad Boyd, Rangeland Ecologist, Research Leader, Burns, Oregon, USDA - Agricultural Research Service; Brian Mealor, Director, University of Wyoming Sheridan Research and Extension Center; and Jay Kerby, Southeast Oregon Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy.

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.

Western Governors deliver inaugural speeches

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Swearing-in ceremonies have taken place for the five Western Governors elected and re-elected in 2016. Following is a roundup of their inaugural speeches.

Montana

Montana Gov Steve BullockGov. Steve Bullock was sworn in Jan. 2, 2017, for his second term as Governor of Montana. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that the Governor appealed for bipartisan cooperation in the state's best interests. Gov. Bullock asked legislators during his inaugural address: "How will you positively influence Montana?” He also expressed optimism in their ability to "rise above the political discourse."

North Dakota

burgumDoug Burgum was officially sworn in as North Dakota's 33rd Governor on Jan. 3, 2017. The new Western Governor delivered a State of the State address at the ceremony that urged North Dakotans to embrace change. The Bismark Tribune reported that the Governor called on lawmakers to help him reinvent state government and rethink budgeting, education, addiction treatment and tribal relations. 

Oregon

Oregon Gov Kate Brown Official Portrait MugKate Brown was sworn in for her first elected term as Governor on Jan. 9, 2016. The Oregonian reported that Gov. Brown highlighted Oregon's work for equality and said "we can not and will not retreat" in a speech that also served as her State of the State address. The Governor also focused on her policy goals, including legislation aimed at bridging the "economic fault line" between the state's urban and rural communities. Read the full speech.

Utah

Utah Gov Gary HerbertGary Herbert was sworn in on Jan. 4, 2017, for his second full term as Governor of Utah. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Governor's speech praised the work of past and present pioneers. Gov. Herbert explained during his address, "I see the Utah spirit as we set aside differences and work together for the common good." Read the full speech.

Washington

Washington Gov Jay InsleeJay Inslee delivered his second inaugural address on Jan. 11, 2017. The Seattle Times reported that the Governor largely sought to use the speech to motivate lawmakers to finish the job of fully funding the state’s K-12 schools. Gov. Inslee also asked legislators to continue work on issues such as mental health, homelessness and opioid addiction. He closed by reiterating the state's commitment to ensuring equal rights: "No matter what happens in that Washington, here in this Washington, we will not forget who we are." Read the full speech.

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: California's big snow, Nevada gigafactory online, Colorado tests self-driving vehicles

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 2, 2017, that you don't want to miss:

snowsurveyWinter Drought Relief: California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains could get up to 15 feet of snow this week in several winter storms. This is good news for statewide snowpack, which is currently at 70% of normal.

Fueling the Future: Tesla has begun battery production at its Nevada gigafactory less than three years after breaking ground on the $5 billion facility.

Self-driving Forward: Uber has moved its self-driving pilot project to Arizona and Panasonic is working with Colorado to test self-driving vehicles on a stretch of Interstate 70.

Booming Populations: Utah, Nevada and Idaho were the nation's fastest-growing states last year, with Utah's population crossing the 3 million mark.

Good News: Preliminary results of water samples from across Montana indicate invasive mussels are isolated to the Missouri River Basin.

See the previous Best of the West.

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

Western Governors' News: Electric vehicle project in Colorado, Nevada, Utah; carbon capture in Montana, Wyoming

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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:

Colorado Gov John HickenlooperGov. HickenlooperALASKA Gov. Bill Walker released a fiscal year 2018 budget that reduces state spending while supporting vital services.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey announced an agreement with Airbnb to streamline the home-sharing economy.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown celebrated the release of final environmental documents for WaterFix, an effort to modernize the state's water infrastructure.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a joint action with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to build a regional electric vehicle corridor.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige hosted the historic Pearl Harbor visit of President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter pledged to make education his top legislative priority.

Utah Gov Gary HerbertGov. HerbertMONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock, WGA Chair, declared a statewide natural resource emergency due to the detection of invasive aquatic mussel larvae in Montana waters.

NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval announced statewide computer science education initiatives.

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez announced a series of legislative proposals to enact tougher DWI penalties.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Doug Burgum was officially sworn in as North Dakota's 33rd Governor and delivered his State of the State address.

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin announced a goal to increase post-secondary education and training attainment.

OREGON Gov. Kate Brown celebrated a successful first year of the state’s automatic voter registration system.

Wyoming Gov Matt MeadGov. Mead

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard, WGA Vice Chair, received recommendations from his Smart on Crime Workgroup.

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott awarded an $8 million grant to improve emergency and long-term placements for up the state’s neediest foster children.

UTAH Gov. Gary Herbert broke ground on a new aerospace research facility.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee released a plan to fully fund basic education, promote strategies to recruit great teachers and support struggling students.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead joined Montana Gov. Steve Bullock in identifying carbon capture opportunities.

Read last month's Western Governors' News.

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

Executive Director's Notebook: WGA's 2016 Top Ten Hit Parade

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By Jim Ogsbury

WGA SD Dec13 1079 1200pxWGA Chair Steve BullockAs we prepare to step into a new year and work with a new administration, it's a good time to reflect on what was a dynamic and successful 2016 for Western Governors. Although it’s impossible to fully capture the breadth and scope of their accomplishments this year in a brief post, I am proud to share some illustrative highlights in the following (third annual) "Top Ten Hit Parade" list.

1.  Policy Leadership: In 2016, WGA bolstered its claim as the single most effective group of bipartisan elected officials committed to developing and executing commonsense public policy for the region and the nation. The depth and breadth of the Governors’ policy work is astounding. Over the course of the year, the Governors adopted 14 substantive and detailed policy resolutions regarding: federal-state land exchanges, invasive species, wildland fire management and resilient landscapes, abandoned mine cleanup, species conservation and the Endangered Species Act, energy and transmission, national parks, regulation of coal combustion residuals, financial assurance regulation, storage and disposal of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, water quality in the West, tax-exempt federal lands and Secure Rural Schools, royalties and leasing revenues from federal lands, and building a stronger state-federal relationship.

Western Governors in San Diego for Winter Meeting for blogWestern Governors at 2016 Winter Meeting

2. 2016 Winter Meeting: In December, California Governor Edmund G. (“Jerry”) Brown welcomed eight of his fellow governors and hundreds of attendees to the WGA Winter Meeting, hosted by WGA Chairman Steve Bullock of Montana and held at the historic Hotel del Coronado in beautiful San Diego. Among other things, the Governors discussed rural delivery of health care services and the upcoming presidential transition. They were joined by Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable David MacNaughton, for a discussion of transboundary issues, and they shared inspirational stories during a panel entitled, “My Brilliant Failure.”  Governors Brown and Bullock were joined by WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Governors Matt Mead (Wyoming), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Gary Herbert (Utah), C.L. “Butch” Otter (Idaho), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), and Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Marianas Islands). This was the largest contingent of Governors at a WGA Winter Meeting since 2004. 

Gov Bullock at Launch Event WebsiteGov. Bullock at Initiative launch3. Policy Victories: Turning ideas into action, the work of Western Governors resulted in, and contributed to, the adoption of several policy priorities. Congress, for example, passed legislation establishing states as the primary regulatory authority for coal ash, consistent with WGA Policy Resolution 2017-07, Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals. At the Governors’ urging, Congress also passed the National Forest Systems Trails Stewardship Act. The Environmental Protection Agency responded positively to the appeal of Governors when the agency concluded that no additional regulations are required under the Clean Water Act to address storm water discharges from forest roads. The U.S. Forest Service published a final rule on Stewardship End Result Contracting that is consistent with the Governors’ land management imperatives and policy pronouncements. 

4. National Forest and Rangeland Management: Upon assuming the chairmanship of WGA last summer, Montana Governor Bullock announced the creation of the Western Governors’ Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, designed to effect improvements in public lands management regimes. Subsequent to this announcement, Initiative workshops were hosted by Governor Bullock in Missoula, by Idaho Governor Otter in Boise, and by South Dakota Governor Daugaard in Deadwood. Workshops will continue in 2017 with a session hosted by Oregon Governor Kate Brown on January 23-24 in Bend. The effort is expected to inform future gubernatorial policy and yield recommendations for the next iteration of the federal Farm Bill. 

Governor Ige at ESA WorkshopGov. Ige at Hawaii workshop5. Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act: The first year of the Western Governors’ Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, a signature project of WGA immediate past Chairman Mead of Wyoming, resulted in the adoption of WGA Policy Resolution 2016-08, which details the Governors’ policy priorities with respect to species conservation and management. During the year, initiative workshops were hosted by Idaho Governor Otter in Boise, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado, and Hawaii Governor David Ige in Honolulu. The second year of the Initiative is proceeding with a series of intimate work sessions, at which a diverse group of stakeholders is exploring issues in species conservation and the ESA at an ever greater level of detail. 

Western Governors 2016 Annual Meeting for webWestern Governors at 2016 Annual Meeting6. 2016 Annual Meeting: Our immediate past Chairman, Wyoming Governor Mead, presented one of the most sensational WGA meetings in memory when he hosted nine of his fellow Governors for the 2016 Annual Meeting at spectacular Jackson Hole. Joining Governor Mead were current WGA Chairman Bullock of Montana, Vice Chair Daugaard of South Dakota, and Governors Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Hickenlooper of Colorado, Herbert of Utah, Otter of Idaho, Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota and Doug Ducey of Arizona. Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri also participated and delivered a keynote address on state conservation efforts. The Governors discussed western policy priorities with the Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell and the Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. They also participated in panel discussions regarding national parks, biosecurity, innovation in the West and new economic frontiers. 

Celebrate Winner Graphic7. Celebrate the West: In 2016, WGA launched its annual “Celebrate the West” high school art competition. The competition challenges budding artists to create original works inspired by their states or otherwise evocative of the West. The highly successful inaugural contest attracted hundreds of entries from 19 states and 2 territories. The grand prize winner, announced at the WGA summer meeting in Jackson Hole, was Shayla Bowen of Clear Springs High School in League City, Texas. 

8. New Policy Initiatives: During the past year, WGA commenced design of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative, a project of WGA Vice Chair Daugaard of South Dakota. Parties interested in this issue are encouraged to contact WGA with their ideas and recommendations. Also, in order to implement the policies embedded in WGA Policy Resolution 2016-05, Combating Invasive Species, the Association launched an invasive species inventory and data management protocol initiative. 

jimcalvocropJim Ogsbury and Gov. Calvo9. State Engagement and Outreach: When I wasn’t testifying before Congress or taking orders from my staff in Denver, it was my privilege to visit Governors and their western constituencies throughout the past year. Of particular note was my visit to Guam, where my participation in the Festival of the Pacific was hosted by the island’s Governor, the Honorable Eddie Calvo. This represented the first trip by an executive director of WGA to any of the Association’s member islands. I also was honored to bring the regional perspective of Western Governors to Idaho Governor Otter’s annual trail ride, which took place this year in Idaho’s extraordinary Copper Basin.

10. State Authority: Western Governors asserted tremendous leadership in advocating for a realignment of the state-federal relationship. Pursuant to adoption of Policy Resolution 2017-01, Building a Stronger State-Federal Relationship, WGA designed a multi-pronged campaign to pursue a more effective state-federal relationship in the context of the upcoming presidential transition. As part of this effort, WGA organized a number of western policy organizations to develop and adopt Principles to Clarify and Strengthen the State-Federal Relationship. Joining WGA in this effort were the Conference of Western Attorneys General, Council of State Governments – West, Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region.  

Happy New Year! Stay tuned to our blog to see what Western Governors accomplish in 2017.

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.