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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.

A WIIN for Western Governors: States to be Primary Regulators of Coal Ash

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surfaceimpoundments 3On Dec. 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) into law. This comprehensive legislation addresses water infrastructure needs critical for America’s economic growth, health and competitiveness.

In addition to providing vital help for the nation’s harbors, dams and flood protection system, the bipartisan WIIN Act contains an amendment that establishes western states as the primary regulatory authority for coal combustion residuals, or “coal ash.”

Western Governors have long advocated for coal ash regulation to be handled at the state level. That position was affirmed via passage of WGA Policy Resolution 2017-07: The Regulation of Coal Combustion Residuals.

The Governors and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have maintained since 1988 that coal ash is best regulated as a solid, non-hazardous waste, and under the purview of states. However, language in the governing Resource Conservation and Recovery Act only allowed for coal ash regulation via citizen lawsuits – at best an inconsistent and unreliable source. That language was fixed by Subtitle C of the WIIN Act, which:

  • Allows both states and EPA to establish permitting programs for coal ash;
  • Provides flexibility for states to (a) use 2015 EPA standards for coal ash regulation, or to (b) develop their own state-specific criteria that is at least as protective as the EPA rule; and
  • Requires EPA to approve state permitting programs within 180 days of a state’s request for program approval.

The term coal ash includes a variety of byproducts left after coal is burned for heat and energy. While coal ash can be environmentally harmful if stored or handled improperly, many western states and utilities have demonstrated beneficial and safe uses, including as additives in road and building products. Coal ash has even been shown useful as a soil amendment.

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by signing up for e-mail updates and following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

First work session of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative delivers recommendations to incentivize voluntary conservation

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Denver Gov Mead Making Point with MediaWyoming Gov. Matt MeadIn 2015 Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, as Chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, launched the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative.

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 (ESA). That regional dialogue was captured in the Year One Report and Appendix in six over-arching themes that included, among others, Incentivizing Voluntary Conservation, Investing in Science and Measurable Outcomes, and Law and Policy Recommendations.

WGA now is conducting a series of targeted work sessions to elicit more detailed input about those key themes and develop an understanding of challenges that may impede implementation of bipartisan policy recommendations.  In Denver on Nov. 16, 2016, WGA hosted the first work session on the theme of "Incentivizing Voluntary Conservation."

One outcome of the work session was a series of recommendations. Although the recommendations don't necessarily reflect consensus agreement from participants, all were informed by a robust bipartisan dialogue. They included:

  • Increase the number of conservation programs that come with regulatory assurances;
  • Find a way to provide assurances on public land so that Candidate Conservation Agreements more closely resemble Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances;
  • Collaboration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with states to provide models and templates to incentivize proactive voluntary conservation.

Read, download report, including all 12 recommendations

For more information on the Initiative work session series, 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.

WGA, leading western policy organizations share ‘Principles to Clarify and Strengthen the State-Federal Relationship’ with president-elect Trump, Congressional leadership

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MEDIA COVERAGE: Reid Wilson reports in The Hill about how "States hope Trump era will reset federal relationship."

Five of the West's leading policy organizations today shared Principles to Clarify and Strengthen the State-Federal Relationship with president-elect Donald J. Trump and Congressional leadership. The principles advocate for state, local and federal government officials to work in a “true partnership.” 

The Western Governors’ Association, 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 collaborated on the formulation of the principles.

WGA Logo“The inauguration of a new Administration and the start of the 115th Congress presents an unusual opportunity to realign the state-federal relationship,” said James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors’ Association. “Western Governors are eager to work in true partnership with the federal government and call upon the Administration to engage them in the development and execution of policy that impacts state authority.”

CWAG logoThe letter explains that the organizations seek to operate as “authentic collaborators” in the development and execution of policy. (Find the letters, principles). Highlights from the principles include:

  • In the absence of Constitutional delegation of authority to the federal government, state authority should be presumed sovereign;
  • Federal executive departments and agencies should not construe, in regulations and otherwise, a federal statute to preempt state or local authority unless the statute contains an express preemption provision;
  • Each federal executive department and/or agency should be required to have a consistent and accountable process to provide states and localities with early and meaningful input in the development of regulatory policies that have federalism implications;
  • WIR logo colorThe head of each federal executive department and agency should be required to designate an official responsible for ensuring that the federalism consultation process is executed appropriately and completely.

PNWER Logo 09 Best Quality"I am pleased to work with the great organizations represented in this joint effort," said Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, Chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General. "I pledge that I will use my time as Chair to provide the new administration with input from the top legal and law enforcement officers of the Western states on the important issues common to the West."

CSGWest solo

“These federalism principles reflect our collective, multibranch western state interests to foster and promote a collaborative relationship with the incoming administration," said Idaho State Representative Jeff Thompson, Council of State Governments West Chair.

"By working with county governments as intergovernmental partners, federal officials can gain important local insights to strengthen public services for our shared constituencies,” said Commissioner Doug Breidenthal, President of the Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties. “Counties possess a wealth of practical, on-the-ground knowledge that should be actively sought out by federal agencies to inform policy.”

"I believe our states are laboratories of innovation and these principles encourage the vibrant and responsive partnership between local, state, and federal government that our citizens deserve from their public institutions," said Matt Morrison, Executive Director of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region.
 
Ultimately, the organizations encourage action on the principles by Congress and president-elect Trump so that “the Administration can create a legacy of renewed federalism, resulting in a nation that is stronger, more resilient and more united."

Read, download the the letters, and 'Principles to Clarify and Strengthen the State-Federal Relationship'

CONTACTS

Western Governors' Association
Joe Rassenfoss, Communications Director
303-803-8008 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Council of Western Attorneys General
Chris Coppin, Legal Director
505-589-5101 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Council of State Governments -- West
Edgar Ruiz, Executive Director
916-553-4423 (x118) orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NACo Western Interstate Region
Chris Marklund, Associate Legislative Director, Public Lands and Western Interstate Region
202-942-4207 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pacific Northwest Economic Region
Matt Morrison, Executive Director
206-443-7723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by signing up for e-mail updates and following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors approve policy resolutions on stronger state-federal relationship, radioactive waste, coal combustion residuals, water quality and more

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Western Governors formally approved seven new policy resolutions on the state-federal relationship, states' share of royalties and leasing revenues, water quality, tax-exempt federal lands, and storage and disposal of radioactive waste at the Western Governors' Association 2016 Winter Meeting at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California.

Under the American construct of federalism, powers of the federal government are narrow, enumerated and defined. The powers of the states, on the other hand, are vast and indefinite. Over time, however, the balance of power has shifted from the states toward the federal government.

The inauguration of a new Administration presents an unusual opportunity to realign the state-federal relationship. Western Governors are eager to work in true partnership with the federal government and call upon the Administration to engage them in the development and execution of policy that impacts state authority. Governors and states have knowledge, perspectives and competencies that should be brought to bear in federal decision-making processes.

The resolutions adopted today by Western Governors are informed by their dedication to the protection of their constitutional prerogatives. WGA Policy Resolution 2017-01 (LINK) articulates specific policy on the state-federal relationship and suggests a framework for its realignment.

The seven new policy resolutions formally approved include:

  • Building a Stronger State-Federal Relationship: In the absence of Constitutional delegation of authority to the federal government, state authority should be presumed sovereign. Each executive department and agency should have a clear and accountable process to provide states with early, meaningful and substantive input in the development of regulatory policies. Where authority has been delegated by the federal government to the states, states should be granted the maximum administrative discretion possible and should be treated as co-regulators. It is time for a thoughtful review of the extant Executive Order on Federalism. Governors support the reestablishment of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
  • States’ Share of Royalties and Leasing Revenues from Federal Lands: The federal government has codified in law several historic agreements and programs to compensate western states for costs associated with the presence of tax exempt federal lands within their borders. The federal government must honor its statutory obligations to share royalty and lease payments with states and counties. States, as recipients of revenues from these programs and agreements, should be provided meaningful and substantial opportunities for consultation in the development of federal policy affecting those revenues.
  • Tax-Exempt Federal Lands and Secure Rural Schools: The federal government must honor its historic Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) agreement with states and counties in the West to compensate them for tax-exempt federal lands within their borders. Predictable and adequate payments under PILT and Secure Rural Schools’ programs are vital to providing state and county public goods and services, such as roads, emergency response, and wildlife and natural resources protection. The payments should not be subject to federal sequestration.
  • Water Quality in the West: States have jurisdiction over water resource allocation decisions and are responsible for balancing state water resource needs within the objectives of the federal Clean Water Act. Western Governors recognize the importance of the Safe Drinking Water Act, its standards for drinking water contaminants, and adequate federal support for states’ missions to meet federal drinking water system requirements. Western Governors also urge adequate federal funding and support of states’ efforts to address water quality.
  • Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel: Governors must be consulted about federal activities involving the transportation, storage or disposal of radioactive waste within a state’s borders, and no radioactive waste storage or disposal facility should be located within the geographic boundaries of a western state or U.S. flag island without the written consent of the Governor.
  • Financial Assurance Regulation: Reclamation of western mines and facilities managed by other industries is needed primarily to protect adjacent waters. It is therefore appropriate and consistent with Congressional intent to recognize the states’ primary role in regulating impact of facility reclamation – including associated financial assurance requirements. Western Governors believe that states have financial assurance regulatory programs in place that are working well and they should not be preempted or duplicated by any EPA program.
  • Regulations of Coal Combustion Residuals: Western Governors agree with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) assessment in 2015 that coal combustion residuals (CCRs) should be regulated as non-hazardous waste under subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Western Governors support safe, beneficial use of CCRs and call on EPA to work with states and stakeholders to develop a national framework for advancing beneficial use. Western Governors also support legislative changes to amend subtitle D of RCRA to allow CCR permit programs adopted by states to operate in an efficient, flexible, and protective fashion – in lieu of a federal program.

Western Governors enact new policy resolutions and amend existing resolutions on a bi-annual basis.  All of WGA’s current resolutions can be found on our Policies Page.

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by reviewing our policy outreach and visiting the blog. You can also sign up for e-mail updates and follow the Western Governors' Association on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors address new administration, unveil resolution about state-federal relationship at 2016 Winter Meeting

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The Western Governors, from left, Jerry Brown (California), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Matt Mead (Wyoming), Gary Herbert (Utah), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), WGA Chair Gov. Steve Bullock (Montana), Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho)

Check out a slideshow of images from the meeting at the bottom of this post.

Nine Western Governors gathered Dec. 13-14 to discuss the opportunities and potential challenges of working with the incoming administration, improving the state-federal relationship, the daunting work of improving rural healthcare, and the rollout of  seven new policy resolutions at the Western Governors' Association 2016 Winter Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock hosted a press conference prior to the opening session, at which the Governors fielded questions about the Affordable Care Act and the incoming administration's early indications that there might be an opportunity for increased oil and gas drilling on federal lands. At the opening session of the meeting, Gov. Bullock discussed the initial work of his Chairman's Initiative, the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, and shared a video.

Eight Western Governors joined Gov. Bullock, including WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Edmund G. Brown (California), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Gary Herbert (Utah), and Matt Mead (Wyoming).

Highlights from the sessions at the historic Hotel del Coronado:

Keynote: David Eagles, "Building a Better Presidential Transition"

David EaglesThe Director of the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service, David Eagles (right), explored the world's most significant “takeover.” Eagles noted that despite the fact the federal government has a $4 trillion budget, each transition starts from scratch, a lack of organization his group is working to change. He also noted that, when it came to making Cabinet selections, the Trump transition team is well ahead of the pace of past administrations.

Roundtable: Opportunities to Improve the State-Federal Relationship

Western Governors, led by Gov. Herbert, discussed how the states, operating as authentic collaborators in the development and execution of policy, and the new Administration can Governor MartinezGovernor Martinezcreate a legacy of renewed federalism. They also formally unveiled a new resolution, Building a Stronger State-Federal Relationship. The new policy, in short, asserts that "Where authority has been delegated by the federal government to the states, states should be granted the maximum administrative discretion possible and should be treated as co-regulators." Highlights from the panel included:

  • Gov. Herbert: "As we work together we have an opportunity to have a better partnership and better results, and to see if we can’t find an appropriate balance in that partnership. States are not junior partners, we are just partners."
  • Gov. Hickenlooper: "If you begin a sentence with states’ rights, you also have to acknowledge states’ responsibilities."
  • Gov. Otter : "It is our responsibility as chief executive of our sovereign state to remind (the federal government) that they’re overstepping their boundaries."
  • Gov. Martinez (above): "I like the idea that there must be an agreement that what we see is correct for our state.  We have to be given that opportunity to come up with an idea to fix [problems]. We know what is best for our state."
  • Gov. Mead: "The Farm Bill authority was actually saying 'You are states, you have a seat at the table, and as governors you get to designate lands.' Let’s actually be equal partners and bring our resources and our expertise onto the lands."

Keynote: The Transboundary Report

Canada's Ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, highlighted progress on issues of common interest between Canada and Western states.

  • David MacNaughtonAmbassador MacNaughton"I’d like to emphasize that Canada places a great amount of importance on its relationship with the United States and we see an increasing importance with regional and state leaders in supporting strong relations between our two countries."
  • "Among our shared interests is our shared security, both in North America and the world. Together Canadians and Americans are facing threats that do not respect borders and leave no country immune."
  • "I’m not saying that there won’t be difference between our two countries under a new administration, but the US and Canada have a relationship that rests on a deep foundation shared interests and values, so we are starting from a positive note."

Roundtable: Life After the Governors' Mansion

Former Western Governors Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (left) and Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (right) discussed how they pursued their transition out of office into the next phase of their lives.

  • Leavitt: "I’m not an expert on this. We have been through this one time. After 16 years Former WGA GovsFormer Governors Dave Freudenthal, left, and Mike Leavittas a public official I went through what I can only describe as the most profound personal transition in my life."
  • Freudenthal: "Life has a cycle to it and when it is done it is done. And it will hit each of you differently, but you will know it when you have that realization."
  • Leavitt: "It is helpful to make a list of what successes you had and how the state changed while you were in office. Make sure to appreciate what you have accomplished."
  • Freudenthal: "You have a luxury after you leave office. You don’t need to pick up a newspaper to see what they are saying about you. The luxury of being able to discover the richness of being alive."

Roundtable: Rural Healthcare Challenges & Solutions

The second day of the meeting opened with a discussion between the Governors and panelists Valerie Davidson, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; John Jesser, VP of Provider Engagement Strategy for Anthem; and Mike Jernigan, Regional President/AmeriHealth Caritas. Highlights included:

  • Davidson: “Alaska is not just rural, it is ultra-frontier,” the Commissioner noted, so the state needs to bring healthcare to the patients. And given the expense of services such WGA SD Dec14 1594 1200pxCommissioner Davidsonas Medivac, local care “makes sense from a fiscal perspective as well.”
  • Jesser: Anthem's LiveHealth Online “changes the game completely and starts to remove the barriers of distance and time” in healthcare. Jesser noted that in January Anthem introduced mental health services that make that care easier to schedule with complete confidentiality.
  • Jernigan: The founder of Select Health of South Carolina discussed how insurers and states could collaborate to have a greater impact on the explosive growth and extensive damage caused by opioid abuse.

2016 Policy Resolutions

The Governors formally approved seven new policy resolutions on issues such as the state-federal relationship, states' share of royalties and leasing revenues, water quality, tax-exempt federal lands, and storage and disposal of radioactive waste. Read, download the new resolutions. 

Governor Torres for BlogGovernor TorresMy Brilliant Failure

The meeting concluded with an entertaining, enlightening informal discussion among the Governors about personal and political setbacks that provided important lessons for success down the road. Among other topics, Gov. Otter discussed his efforts to improve education in Idaho, Gov. Hickenlooper talked about a holiday lights display that caused a ruckus when he was Denver's mayor, Gov. Mead recalled a losing effort in the courtroom, and Gov. Torres cited a policy decision he made based more on friendship than the best facts.

 

Watch a Winter Meeting slideshow

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Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by reviewing our policy outreach and visiting the blog. You can also sign up for e-mail updates and follow the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

WATCH VIDEO: Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative

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Got 90 seconds? Watch this video to learn about the first months of work on the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative. The Chairman’s Initiative of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock creates a mechanism for states and land managers to share best practices and policy options for forest and rangeland management. The work of the initiative will position Western Governors to recommend congressional efforts to improve forest management and encourage effective collaboration throughout the West. Learn more

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

9 Western Governors attending Winter Meeting in San Diego to discuss Presidential transition, state-federal relationship, rural healthcare

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Winter Meeting Steve Bullock Governor Steve Bullock Read about the 2016 Meeting

The Western Governors' Association 2016 Winter Meeting in California Dec. 13-14 will feature 9 Western Governors discussing topics such as the evolution of the state-federal relationship and rural healthcare. Keynote addresses will examine the inner workings of the Presidential transition and highlight Canada's relationship with western states.

WGA Chair, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, will host the two-day meeting at the historic Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. Western Governors also attending include WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Edmund G. Brown (California), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Gary Herbert (Utah), and Matt Mead (Wyoming). Meeting highlights will include:

Keynotes

  •  Winter Meeting 2016 David MacNaughtonAmbassador David MacNaughton"Building a Better Presidential Transition," featuring David Eagles of the Partnership for Public Service, will open the meeting. The Partnership is supporting President-elect Donald Trump's team as part of the group's ongoing work to improve the transition process.
  • "The Transboundary Report" from Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton, also on opening day, will highlight issues of common interest between Canada and Western states.

Policy Discussions

  •  “Opportunities to Improve the State-Federal Relationship” features the Western Governors in a roundtable discussion about energizing the state-federal relationship and some of the policy issues they will seek to achieve as the new administration moves into office.
  • "Life After the Governor’s Mansion" will feature a conversation with former Western Governors Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming and Mike Leavitt of Utah about their transition out of office and work since.
  • "Rural Healthcare Challenges & Solutions" will find the Governors and a panel of experts examining the challenges and opportunities for healthcare in the West.

Online meeting registration has closed. Those wanting to sign up onsite at the Hotel del Coronado may do so starting at 3 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12, If you're unble to attend, you can follow the hashtag #wga16 on Twitter for WGA's live updates.

See the full agenda

Learn more about the work of the Western Governors by signing up for e-mail updates and following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: Montana's mussel emergency, Arizona lands electric vehicle factory, western Christmas trees

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Dec. 5, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

zebramusZebra MusselsMussels emergency: Gov. Steve Bullock has signed an executive order declaring the "invasion" of Montana waterways by zebra and quagga mussels an environmental emergency.

Electric Vehicles: Tesla competitor Lucid Motors has picked Arizona as the site for its $700 million electric vehicle factory, expected to employ 2000 workers.

'Tis The Season: Meet the person who picks out the Capitol Christmas tree from national forests (this year it's from Payette National Forest in Idaho). Did you know that Oregon is the biggest producer and exporter of Christmas trees of any state in the nation?

Avalanche Droids: Wyoming is deploying R2-D2 droids to spark explosions that provoke snow avalanches.

Tech Giants: Amazon has opened a checkout-free convenience store in Seattle -- shoppers just pick up what they need and payment is automated. Google announced that its data centers will run entirely on renewable energy in 2017.

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.

Species Spotlight: Protecting the gopher tortoise and its ecosystem

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gophertortThe gopher tortoise is an upland tortoise species native to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Gopher tortoise habitat consists of extensive burrows dug by the tortoise, primarily in longleaf pine forests, pastures and coastal dunes. Gopher tortoise burrows provide habitat for more than 350 other species, making the tortoise a keystone species for the ecosystems where they live.

In 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) listed the gopher tortoise as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Louisiana, Mississippi and the western portion of Alabama. In 2011, the Service determined that the gopher tortoise was a candidate for listing in the remainder of its range.

This installment of Species Spotlight examines the ongoing voluntary conservation efforts by state, federal and private partners to recover the species where it is currently listed as threatened and preclude the need to list more of its range.

CONSERVATION ACTIONS

The primary threats to the gopher tortoise include habitat loss and habitat alteration from land development. Additionally, certain forestry practices in longleaf pine forests can be harmful to gopher tortoises. Overly crowded forests and fire suppression can limit habitat and forage availability for tortoises, while site preparation for silviculture operations can destroy tortoise burrows and nests. Efforts to relocate tortoises to protected or undeveloped sites can also lead to road mortality, as gopher tortoises frequently migrate from areas where they have been relocated.

More than 80% of gopher tortoise habitat is located on private lands, making voluntary practices pivotal to the success of any conservation strategy. Numerous collaborative conservation programs encompassing federal, state, local and private parties have emerged to meet the challenge of recovering the threatened western portion of tortoise, while preventing the need to list the eastern population of the species.

In 2008, the Service entered a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) for the eastern population of gopher tortoise. The signatories of the CCA include the Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Forest Service, the fish and wildlife agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The 2008 CCA established a cooperative, range-wide approach to tortoise conservation and management in the eastern portion of the tortoise’s range. The CCA is flexible and voluntary, allowing individualized conservation and management actions to be adopted at varying levels by individual partners. This CCA created the foundation of the first-ever collaboratively developed range-wide conservation strategy for the gopher tortoise.

The Service also established several voluntary Safe Harbor Agreements for listed western gopher tortoises and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances in the candidate eastern range. Further, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) added the gopher tortoise as a target species of the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) partnership. NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help producers on private land voluntarily conserve gopher tortoise habitat. Technical assistance is free to producers, and financial assistance allows producers to plan and implement a variety of conservation activities in gopher tortoise habitat such as prescribed fire, prescribed grazing, longleaf pine establishment and vegetation management.

RESULTS

Since 2012, the WLFW program has enabled producers to conserve or create more than 278,000 acres of longleaf pine forests. NRCS and state, federal and NGO partners continue to work to establish and manage longleaf pine stands, increase documentation and monitoring of gopher tortoise populations, and strategically implement landscape-scale habitat improvements for the tortoise.

The NRCS is also working with conservation partners to develop priority areas for conservation (PACs) to increase effectiveness of on-the-ground habitat conservation efforts. Through targeted conservation efforts in PACs, the Service, state wildlife agencies and NRCS are aiming to protect an additional 205,000 acres of gopher tortoise habitat by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Additional research on gopher tortoise population trends and habitat needs is necessary. It is likely that the gopher tortoise may always require some form of active habitat management to maintain a healthy population. Because of the tortoise’s status as a keystone species, work to restore gopher tortoise habitat will benefit a wide array of other species. In total, 28 additional threatened and endangered species are dependent on longleaf pine forests and will benefit from gopher tortoise conservation efforts.

Species Spotlight, a case study series examining the challenges and opportunities in species conservation, is part of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, the past Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

More in the Species Spotlight series: 

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

 

Gov. Dennis Daugaard warns against complacence, urges collaboration at Forest & Rangeland Management workshop in South Dakota

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Gov Daugaard at Deadwood Press Conference Gov. Dennis Daugaard South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard warned against complacency on the opening day of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative workshop in Deadwood.

"I'm so glad to see so much expertise here," Gov. Daugaard told attendees. "But we don’t want to use this workshop to just clap each other on the back. We want to use this to think about how to do things better."

The Governor noted the appropriateness of the two-day workshop being held in Deadwood, which earned its name from a pine beetle infestation back in the 1800s. Gov. Daugaard mentioned that the worst beetle outbreak in South Dakota history has taken place in recent years, but that the state's work with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has successfully battled the problem through active management efforts.

"Proper land management is critical," he said. "It helps control fire danger and supports economic growth and tourism. The Black Hills have been a great success story for active Mary Zimmerman on RoundtableMary Zimmerman took part in a roundtable about prescribed burnsmanagement.  Despite vibrant timbering, it is still a beautiful forest, attractive to recreationalists. And this has worked because of the great relationships developed over time between the the state and USFS."

The workshop is the third 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. (Watch previous workshops in Missoula, Mont., and Boise, Idaho.)

The initiative is designed to examine forest management programs and investigate collaborative forest landscape restoration. The workshops will 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 watch videos from both days of the workshop:

  • Roundtable: The South Dakota ExperienceGreg Josten, State Forester, South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA); Jim Neiman, Neiman Enterprises Inc.; Karl Jensen, South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts; Bob Paulson, The Nature Conservancy.
  • Roundtable: Prescribed Fire As Management ToolJeff Marlette asks a question during meetingJeff Marlette, West River Director for U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, asks a questionJay Esperance, SDDA Wildland Fire Director; David Steffen, Mid Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association; Allen Rowley, USFS; Mary Zimmerman, Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board.
  • Roundtable: Co-mingled LandsRyan Brunner, Commissioner of South Dakota School and Public Lands; Dan Svingen, USFS; Lori “Chip” Kimball, BLM; Chance Davis; Eric Jennings, Hollow Valley Ranch.
  • Roundtable: Agency Culture ChallengesChristine Dawe, USFS; Mike Wood, High Ridge Leadership; Greg Josten, South Dakota State Forester; Mark Van Every, USFS, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor.
  • Case Study: Active Management and Innovative Markets: Kelsey Delaney, Council of Western State Foresters and Western Forestry Leadership Coalition; Dave Ollila, Sheep Field Specialist, South Dakota State University Extension; Jeff Parrett, Wheeler Lumber, LLC; Steve Kozel, USFS, District Ranger, Black Hills National Forest.
  • Roundtable: Strengthening Collaboration and Collaborative ProcessesBill Smith, SDDA; Craig Bobzien, USFS Black Hills National Forest Supervisor - Retired; Dave Thom, Custer Conservation District & Coordinator of the MPB Working Group; Ben Wudtke, Black Hills Forest Resource Association; Nancy Trautman, Pennington County Commissioner.

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: A Western Governor is the best choice to be Secretary of the Interior

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By Jim Ogsbury

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The installation of a new Administration naturally presents an opportunity to reset the state-federal relationship, and WGA looks forward to working with the President-elect in that endeavor.

In the meantime, WGA is urging the appointment of a sitting Western Governor to the critical cabinet post of Interior Secretary. Department of the Interior operations have disproportionate impacts on WGA member states. The jurisdictional area of the Bureau of Reclamation, for example, is entirely within our footprint. The Bureau of Land Management administers 264 million acres of public lands, the vast majority of which are located in the West. The policy issues confronted by the department -- from endangered species to water scarcity to tribal matters -- have profound and unique impacts on the West.

No one is in a better position to lead Interior than the Governor of a Western state. Western Governors work closely with departmental bureaus on a daily basis and have a deep appreciation for the challenges faced jointly by Interior and the states. Western Governors acquit themselves with honor, dignity and integrity as the chief executives of their respective states. WGA has no doubt that such an appointment would visit great credit upon the new Administration.

You can learn more about the presidential transition when the Governors convene Dec. 13-14 for their Winter Meeting in San Diego. The meeting opens with a keynote by David Eagles, the Director of the Center for Presidential Transition at the Partnership for Public Service. That address will be followed by a transition roundtable featuring the Governors.

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.

Western Governors applaud passage of National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

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USFS volunteer workThe National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Monday (Nov. 28, 2016).

Western Governors applaud this legislation, which directs the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a strategy to increase the role of volunteers and partners in National Forest System trail maintenance.

Western Governors have expressed support for the bipartisan legislation on several occasions, most recently in a letter on Sept. 21, 2016, to Representatives Cynthia Lummis and Timothy J. Walz. The letter emphasized the "urgent imperative to improve forest health in order to reduce wildfire threat and improve watersheds and habitat."

Read, download the full letter.

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

Register: Western Governors' 2016 Winter Meeting Dec. 13-14 in San Diego

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hoteldelcoro

Read about this Meeting

Western Governors’ Association Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will host his colleagues Dec. 13-14 at the WGA 2016 Winter Meeting in San Diego, Calif. Montana Gov Steve BullockGov. Steve BullocThe meeting will be held at the historic Hotel del Coronado, an architectural masterpiece that has been a must-see destination since its 1888 opening.

The Western Governors joining Gov. Bullock include: WGA Vice Chair Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), John Hickenlooper (Colorado), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Ralph Torres (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Gary Herbert (Utah), and Matt Mead (Wyoming).

Gov. Bullock will lead his fellow Western Governors in public discussions on significant issues facing the West, including rural health care challenges and his Chairman’s Initiative on forest and rangeland management.

David MacNaughton, Canada's Ambassador to the U.S., will give a keynote address on Day 1 of the meeting to highlight progress on issues of common interest between Canada and western states. David Eagles, from the Partnership for Public Service, also will deliver a keynote on the evolution of the Presidential transition. See a draft agenda.

The WGA Winter Meeting is scheduled to begin around noon on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and conclude by noon on Wednesday, Dec. 14. Register now.

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: 100 million trees dead in California; Oregon tests drone air taxis; Colorado wildfire cost now $30 million

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Nov. 21, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

la me dying trees drought pg 002Dead Trees in CaliforniaDying Forests: The number of dead trees in drought-stricken California has risen to an 'unprecedented' 102 million.

Drone Taxis: An Oregon company has landed a contract with Airbus to test its self-piloted flying vehicles.

Wildfire Burns Budgets: The cost of battling the 60-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire in Colorado and Wyoming has reached $30 million. The blaze, which started in June, is still smoldering. See the Western Governors' recent letter urging timely Congressional action to end the destructive wildfire funding practice of “fire borrowing."

Winter Is Coming (and that's good): Winter bookings at mountain resorts in California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming are still up over last year despite the recent lag in snowfall.

Eclipse Chasers: You might have a tough time catching next year's solar eclipse in Oregon. Every one of the 1,200 Oregon state park campsites in the eclipse's Path of Totality booked up within an hour of being made available online.

See last week's Best of the West.

Find out the 2016 Election results for Western Governors in Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

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

Livestream speech by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, all sessions of Forest & Rangeland Management workshop in South Dakota

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South Dakota Gov Dennis DaugaardGovernor Dennis DaugaardSouth Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard will address the next workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative on Dec. 1 in Deadwood, S.D.

The two-day (Dec. 1-2) workshop is the third 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 sessions from the previous workshops in Missoula, Mont., and Boise, Idaho.)

The initiative is designed to examine forest management programs and investigate collaborative forest landscape restoration. The workshops will 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 livestreams for all workshop sessions (all times MT): 

THURSDAY, DEC. 1

FRIDAY, DEC. 2

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

Western Governors' News: Nevada hydropower celebration; New Mexico tourism record; South Dakota teacher pay boost

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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 lately:

Nevada Gov Brian SandovalGov. SandovalALASKA Gov. Bill Walker bolstered the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, a top priority for his administration.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order to help curb opioid addiction.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown announced new precision medicine projects to prevent and better treat diseases through advanced computing.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper promoted cyber safety at the kickoff event for the National Cybersecurity Center.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige directed state efforts to increase opportunities and support for the employment of people with disabilities.

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter led a trade mission to China to expand opportunities for Idaho businesses and industries.

New Mexico Gov Susana MartinezGov. MartinezMONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock, WGA Chair, released a budget proposal designed to grow the state's economy and create more good-paying jobs.

NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval celebrated the 80th anniversary of hydropower from the Hoover Dam serving the state.

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez announced the sixth straight record-breaking year for economic impact of tourism in the state.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Jack Dalrymple celebrated the completion of the new University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences building.

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin touted the state's progress in recruiting and retaining quality foster parents.

South Dakota Gov Dennis DaugaardGov. DaugaardOREGON Gov. Kate Brown highlighted workforce development partnerships and transportation priorities in Southern Oregon.

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard, WGA Vice Chair, announced that his Blue Ribbon education funding package is increasing teacher salaries by nearly 12%.

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott helped unveil the Texas African American History Memorial at the State Capitol.

UTAH Gov. Gary Herbert formed an exploratory committee to drive the development of an inland port in the state.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee doubled the number of cost-saving electric vehicles in the state motor pool.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead created the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) Initiative to expand the state economy.

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.

Best of the West: Montana wildfire drones; Colorado's unique jet fuel; grizzlies closer to delisting

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Nov. 14, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

roaringlionfireRoaring Lion Fire damageWildfire Tech: The Roaring Lion fire in Montana marked the first time that drones were employed in wildfire monitoring. Also: See the Western Governors' recent letter urging timely Congressional action to end the practice of “fire borrowing” used by the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior.

Forest-Powered Flight: Alaska Airlines flew a commercial jet from Seattle, Washington, to our Nation's Capital using fuel that a Colorado company made from wood scraps.

Powering the Cloud: Microsoft has signed its largest wind-power purchase to date, with Wyoming and Kansas, to power one of its data centers.

Grizzly Delisting Developing: Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem are a step closer to being removed from the federal endangered species list following conservation strategy approval.

Environmental Watchdogs: Find out how Montana is using dogs to sniff out invasive mussel species.

See last week's Best of the West.

Find out the 2016 Election results for Western Governors in Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

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

Drought Update: One third of U.S. living with drought; Great Salt Lake turns pink

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fulldroughtmonThe U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought is impacting one in three Americans this fall.

This season has seen drought scorch crops, fuel wildfires and force strict water conservation across the country as the West, South and Northeast all grapple with extreme conditions. In total, about 130 million Americans are currently living in drought-stricken areas. More

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the 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.

  • There IS some good drought news: For the first time since spring of 2013, a quarter of California is drought-free.
  • Montana is revising its drought management plan and taking public comment on draft proposals.
  • Learn how Oregon's record drought has taken a toll on the state’s conifer trees.
  • State officials are studying the success rate of California’s $350 million campaign to turn residents' tastes away from water-slurping lawns.
  • Find out how drought has beached boats and turned the water pink in Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
  • New research warns that the southwestern U.S. could face a 'mega-drought' by the end of the century that would dwarf the historic California drought.

Learn more ...

Droght Forum Cover ImageRead 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.

The Western Governors' Drought Forum also included regional workshops that gathered experts to share best practices, case studies and other resources to help states better anticipate and manage drought. Learn more on the Drought Forum website.

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

Western Governors urge Congress: Make end to 'fire borrowing' top priority

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wildfirehcWestern Governors have urged timely action by Congress to end the practice of “fire borrowing” used by the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to fund wildfire suppression activities.

"We strongly urge Congress to resolve this enduring issue as among its highest priorities when it returns to complete the business of the 114th Congress," the Governors stated in a letter sent Nov. 15, 2016, to Representatives Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi and Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid.

Fire borrowing is a budgetary practice that occurs when federal agencies divert funds from forest health and fire prevention programs to fight wildfires. 

The Governors go on to highlight how the current funding situation has allowed wildfires to burn through crippling amounts of the very funds that should instead be used to prevent fires. The result is "an unacceptable set of outcomes for taxpayers and at-risk communities."

The outreach also references the Governors' policy resolution, National Forest and Rangeland Management, and the current WGA Chairman’s Initiative, the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

Read, download the letter.

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: Old Faithful investigation, Hawaiian Mars experiment, Snake River dam debate reopened

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Nov. 7, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

oldfaithsciYellowstone National ParkOld Faithful Science: Scientists are mapping the plumbing in Yellowstone National Park to find out why it’s so explosive.

Mission to Mars: Find out why NASA's search for life on Mars begins in Hawaii.

Dam Debate: A federal judge's order has revived the Snake River dam debate, and now agencies must take a new look at managing the Washington dams to save wild salmon runs.

Drought Nation: Large parts of the southeastern U.S. are struggling with drought, while 11 western states are still experiencing severe drought.

World Series Impacts: Find out why Gov. Doug Ducey says that the Cubs' World Series win is a great boost for Arizona's economy.

See last week's Best of the West.

Find out the 2016 Election results for Western Governors in Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

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: The Future of Wild Horse & Burro Management

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The Western Governors' Association hosted a webinar on Nov. 10 as part of its series for the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative

The Future of Wild Horse and Burro Management: Challenges and Opportunities examined the economic and environmental impacts of wild horses and burros on western rangelands and rangeland dependent communities. Panelists also discussed the challenges associated with responsible and humane management of horses and burros on public lands and possible solutions to ballooning wild horse and burro populations.

The moderator wasU.S. Representative Chris Stewart (UT-2). The panelistsKathleen Clarke, Director, Utah Public Lands Coordinating Office; JJ Goicoechea, Eureka County Commission Chair, Eureka County, NV; Callie Hendrickson, Executive Director, White River & Douglas Creek Conservation Districts in Rio Blanco County, CO; Tammy Pearson, Commissioner, Beaver County, UT; Dr. Eric Thacker, Professor of Wildland Resources, Utah State University.

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 a recording of other 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.

2016 Election results for Western Governors in Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington

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Montana Gov Steve BullockGov. Bullock

Elections were held for five Western Governors on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The results:

Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock was re-elected, defeating Greg Gianforte. "It may be a challenging time in this experiment called representative democracy, what with the toxicity," said Gov. Bullock. "But I'm optimistic that our leaders, Democrats and Republicans, still rise above that toxicity to demonstrate to those that we represent that we're individually and we're collectively better than that." Story

North Dakota: Doug Burgum defeated Marvin Nelson to earn the governorship, which came open when Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided not to run for re-election. “It’s imperative as a state and as a nation we come together and look forward," Burgum said after his victory.” Story

Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown defeated Bud Pierce. "I believe that the times call upon us to take action, and I believe that if we work together we can shape both the place and the times in which we live," Gov. Brown said. Story

Oregon Gov Kate Brown Official PortraitGov. BrownUtah: Gov. Gary Herbert was re-elected, defeating Mike Weinholtz. "It's going to take focus and coming together to raise the bar on education, and I believe that's something we can do over these next four years," said Gov. Herbert. Story

Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee was re-elected, defeating Bill Bryant. “We are a confident and optimistic state, and we will remain so while I am governor," said Gov. Inslee. Story

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

Colorado, Utah cities top Forbes 'Best Places For Business And Careers' list; Gov. Ducey predicts economic boost from Cubs win

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dtdenverskyDenver, ColoradoDenver and Provo topped the 18th annual Forbes Best Places for Business and Careers rankings. 

The Colorado capital nabbed the number one spot for the second consecutive year due to its 'diverse economy, growth outlook and educated workforce,' according to the rankings. The Utah city was lauded for the "fastest job growth last year among the 200 largest metro areas."

In all, seven western cities made the Top 10 and three of the coveted spots were in Utah. (See full rankings). Not into big city living? Check out the Forbes Best Small Places for Business and Careers list. It's led by Bend, Oregon.

States across the West are making economic progress on a variety of fronts. Here are some highlights:

  • Find out why Gov. Doug Ducey says that the Cubs' World Series win is a great boost for Arizona's economy.
  • The Brookings Institution named cities in California, Colorado, Oregon, Texas and Washington as international 'Knowledge Capitals' for their innovative and productive workforces.
  • Montana led the nation for percentage increase in median household income from 2014 to 2015.
  • Texas is home to the three best real-estate markets in a recent WalletHub list. See all nine western cities in the Top 10.
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a memorandum of understanding with British Columbia to create regional economic opportunities for innovation in the technology sector.
  • Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska have the best business tax climates in the nation, according to The Tax Foundation's annual index.
  • California had to largest year-over-year job gains, while Oregon showed the largest year-over-year percentage gains.
  • Colorado ranked second in the U.S. for turning science and technology capabilities into high-paying jobs.

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: Bundy brothers 'continue to stand' in Nevada; rare grizzly sighting; sage-grouse fire plan

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Oct. 31, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

bundybrosmugacqRyan and Ammon BundyBundy Brothers: "We will continue to stand," Ammon Bundy vowed before he and his brother Ryan were moved this week to a Nevada jail to await trial for their roles in a 2014 armed standoff near the family ranch. The Bundy family has warned of another standoff following the acquittal for their roles in this year's Oregon standoff.

Wind Energy: See the seven western states that generated at least 10% of their electricity from wind in the last year and are leading the nation in wind energy production.

Montana Wildlife: See photos of a rare gathering of 13 grizzly bears in Montana. Also: A disease outbreak has killed at least 37 bighorn sheep on the National Bison Range.

Book Tour: Check out this '50 States of Literature' infographic to see which book represents your state. How many of them have you read?

Rangeland Fires: The U.S. Department of the Interior has released a new rangeland fire science plan that addresses sage-grouse and sagebrush conservation and restoration. Western Governors are also addressing rangeland management issues through the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

See last week's Best of the West.

WGA will host a webinar on Nov. 10 as part of its series for the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, the central policy effort of WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. The webinar, The Future of Wild Horse & Burro Management, will examine the economic and environmental impacts of wild horses and burros on western rangelands and rangeland dependent communities. Register now.

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

Western Governors call for state involvement in establishing nuclear waste management system

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DOE logo nukeWestern Governors emphasized the importance of state involvement in the siting of any radioactive waste storage or disposal facility in outreach to Office of Nuclear Energy Acting Assistant Secretary John Kotek.

The comments sent Oct. 31, 2016, address input received by the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding design of a consent-based process to establish an integrated waste management system to transport, store and dispose of commercial spent nuclear fuel and high-level defense radioactive waste.

In the comments, which included the Governors' policy resolution Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel, the Governors "strongly encourage" DOE to work cooperatively with the states to implement a policy that ensures the safe transportation, storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste.

Read, download the comments.

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: Western Governors are tops in meaningful policy work

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By Jim Ogsbury

It’s official: through WGA, Western Governors are now developing and pursuing the most meaningful, detailed and substantive policy agenda of any bipartisan association of elected officials in the country. Well, maybe it isn’t official, but it is true. Consider, for example, this small sample of WGA policy efforts in recent months.

Jeremy Maestas NRCS with cheatgrassJeremy Maestas of NRCS discussed the threat posed by cheatgrass at the Idaho workshop of the Chairman's InitiativeNational Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative: The Chairman’s Initiative of WGA Chair and Montana Governor Steve Bullock is off to an outstanding start. Two regional workshops already have been held, hosted by Gov. Bullock in Missoula and Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in Boise. The next workshop, to be hosted by Vice Chair and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, is scheduled for Dec. 1-2 in Deadwood.

Environmental Protection: WGA provided comments to the Environmental Protection Agency and met with the Office of Management and Budget to convey the concerns of Western Governors regarding the agency’s concentrated air quality standards for ozone and proposed revisions to the agency’s exceptional events rule. WGA also submitted formal comments to EPA on its prospective establishment of hard rock mining financial assurance requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

Land Management: I appeared before subcommittees of both the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to testify as to Western Governors’ concerns surrounding the proposed Planning 2.0 rule of the Bureau of Land Management. WGA also submitted testimony regarding the wild horse and burro problem on public lands to the House Natural Resources Committee and communicated the need for Congressional action to "simplify and expedite" federal-state land exchange, sale and conveyance processes.

Western Governors are pursuing a raft of other projects. Those include Year Two of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative of WGA’s immediate past chairman, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, and the launch of a West-wide Invasive Species Inventory and Data Management Protocols Project.

It is because of the Governors’ collaborative work, personal engagement and measured leadership that WGA has acquired a reputation as a singularly effective bipartisan association of elected officials. It remains a privilege of the highest order to serve them, and I thank them for their leadership.

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.

Best of the West: All Oregon standoff defendants not guilty, millions of western homes in fire risk

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Oct. 24, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

judgebrownjurorFederal Judge Anna BrownA federal jury on Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the Oregonian reported. (Story)

The Los Angeles Times reported that "the defeat for the prosecution was especially unexpected because three of the seven defendants had chosen to represent themselves during the trial. Critics of the occupation said the verdict might embolden similar actions by right-wing anti-government groups in the future." (Story)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement that she respected the jury's verdict, even if she didn't agree. The Governor also expressed support for Burns, a town near the refuge that acted as ground zero as hundreds of people descended on the area earlier this year, as well as the communities of Harney County.

"The occupation of the Malheur refuge by outsiders did not reflect the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolve differences," she said. (Story)

Wildfire Risk: A new report shows that nearly 2 million homes across 13 western states are at “extreme or high risk” of damage from wildfires, with a total cost to repair approaching $500 billion. See Western Governors' policies to help keep the region safe from wildfires here.

Milestone Beer Run: Uber’s self-driving truck has made its first delivery -- 50,000 beers in Colorado.

Deadly Parasite Spreads: The parasite that killed tens of thousands of fish and caused closures in the Yellowstone River this summer has been found in seven more Montana rivers.

Yellowstone Bison Genes: Researchers are transplanting embryos from Yellowstone National Park’s wild bison to help restore Minnesota herds.

See the previous Best of the West.

WGA just hosted the first webinar for the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, the central policy effort of WGA Chair and Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Watch the webinar: Managing Electricity Reliability Risks on Forests and Rangeland.

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

Western Governors call for expedited state-federal land exchange process

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Western Governors have re-emphasized the need for Congressional action to "simplify and expedite" the federal-state land exchange, sale and conveyance processes.

In letters sent on Oct. 26, 2016, to Senators Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Jared Polis, the Governors express appreciation for efforts to advance the Advancing Conservation and Education Act, which would facilitate state-federal land exchanges.

The Governors praise the land exchange process developed in the Act as "an important step" toward the goal of "consolidating federal and state land holdings so that western states can realize value for the lands granted to them in trust."

Read, download the letters. 

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

Ward Scott joins WGA as policy advisor for water and agriculture

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wsj headshot try 2Ward ScottThe Western Governors' Association is pleased to announce the hiring of Ward Scott as Policy Advisor for Water and Agriculture.

Ward will manage a portfolio of regulatory, legislative and in-region water management and quality issues, as well as the ongoing work of the Western Governors' Drought Forum.

The Illinois native earned his J.D. and LL.M. in Natural Resources and Environmental Law and Policy from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He has worked in the private energy sector and on natural resource and land use issues for private law firms. When he's not working on policy, Ward manages the Fiddler Creek Ranch in Fishtail, Mont.

Find out how to connect with Ward and meet the rest of the WGA staff, on our Contact page.

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

Western Governors request 'substantive' consultation on ESA compensatory mitigation

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2000px US FishAndWildlifeService Logo.svgWestern Governors have requested that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) engage in "substantive and ongoing consultation" with Governors and state regulators in regard to the draft Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy.

The comments delivered on Oct. 17, 2016, to FWS Director Dan Ashe specifically seek clarity around landscape-scale compensatory mitigation in the West and the definition of “net conservation gain.”

The Governors remind that they have management responsibility for all fish and wildlife within their states’ borders and that "moreover, because of their close working relationships with local governments and landowners, they are in a unique position to assist the Service in implementing the ESA."

Read, download the comments. 

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

Work continues in year two of Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative

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Gov Mead Speaking Hi ResGov. Matt Mead at the launch of his Chairman's InitiativeThe Western Governors’ Association has launched the second year of the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, the 2016 Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

During the coming year WGA will organize a series of work sessions and webinars that expand on the bipartisan dialogue of the Initiative’s first year. In addition, WGA encourages stakeholders from across the spectrum of this issue to offer recommendations to further refine key themes from year one.

WGA welcomes that input by use of this questionnaire, which covers topics presented in year-one workshop breakout sessions, panel discussions and questionnaire responses. You're encouraged to respond to questions in detail, adding supplemental attachments as necessary. Once complete, send the completed questionnaire to Zach Bodhane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (Note: Questionnaires will be used for WGA internal purposes only.)

Those with additional questions about year two of the Initiative may also 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.

Gov. Otter pushes for high-value solutions to forest, rangeland issues at Idaho workshop of Chairman's Initiative

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Gov Otter at WGA Boise WorkshopGovernor OtterCollaboration was the centerpiece of Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's message to attendees at the second workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

The Governor cited the creation of Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs) in Idaho as an example. Before 2012 it was illegal for ranchers to fight fires. The Governor, legislature, and federal and state fire agencies subsequently created the RFPAs, which have now grown to eight districts with nearly 300 voluntreers overseeing more than 7 milion acres.

Gov. Otter also emphasized finding projects of value on which to collaborate. "People talk to me all the time about the cost of doing things and I understand cost. But when someone comes to me and explains the value of something, that really gets my interest. So I want you all to discuss all of your ideas for improving land management and let's find those with the greatest value."

Jim Lyons, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management, also Jim Lyons WGAJim Lyonsdiscussed collaboration's role in blunting the impact of wildfires and invasive species, noting "these are not public land issues or private land issues; they are resource issues that know no political or administrative boundaries."

And Lyons reminded the audience of the reason why this work is so important: "Research has shown that healthy landscapes are more resilient to the impacts of climate, drought and fire. Healthy landscapes improve habitat and connectivity, reducing the risks that species become threatened or endangered."

Jeremy Maestas at WGA Jeremy Maestas of NRCSThe speeches opened the two-day (Oct. 20-21) workshop, the second of five hosted by the Western Governors' Association across the West for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's central policy initiative as Chair of WGA. (Read, download Boise agenda) WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury announced that the next workshop will be hosted by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Dec. 1-2 in Deadwood, S.D.

Look below to find links to watch videos of all workshop sessions:

Read, download the agenda

Register now for WGA's 2016 Winter Meeting Dec 13-14 in San Diego, Calif. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Livestream speeches by Idaho Gov. Otter, Interior’s Jim Lyons at Forest & Rangeland Management workshop in Boise

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Idaho Gov Butch OtterGov. C.L. "butch" OtterIdaho Gov. C.L. "Butch Otter and Jim Lyons, Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management, addressed the second workshop of the Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative on Oct. 20 in Boise, Idaho.

The two-day (Oct. 20-21) workshop was the second of five hosted across the West by the Western Governors' Association for the central policy initiative of WGA Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. (Learn about the previous workshop in Missoula, Mont.)

The initiative is designed to examine forest management programs and investigate collaborative forest landscape restoration. The workshops will play a central role in collecting information that will position Western Governors to recommend and promote congressional efforts to improve forest management authorities.

Watch videos of all workshop sessions by using the links below. 

Register now for WGA's 2016 Winter Meeting Dec 13-14 in San Diego, Calif. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.