logo

News 2017

WGA, leading policy groups urge Congress to collaborate with states on budget development

Published on .

Six leading policy organizations, led by the Western Governors' Association, have urged Congressional leadership to collaborate with states and local governments in the formulation of the fiscal year 2018 budget.

"States and local governments are eager to work with the federal government as authentic partners," asserts the letter sent on May 22, 2017, and "we hope to engage with federal agencies at the earliest stages of federal decision-making and program development."

The letter concludes: "As we proceed with our efforts to realign the state-federal relationship, we would appreciate the opportunity to consult with Congress on funding imperatives and the efficient allocation of scarce resources."

Previous outreach, Principles to Clarify and Strengthen the State-Federal Relationship, was included with the letter, which was sent to leadership of the House (Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) and Senate (Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Charles Schumer).

Signatories to the letter were: James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director, Western Governors’ Association; Chris Coppin, Legal Director, Conference of Western Attorneys General; Edgar Ruiz, Executive Director, The Council of State Governments West; Matthew D. Chase, Executive Director, National Association of CountiesMatt Morrison, Executive Director, Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, and Scott Pattison, Executive Director, the National Governors Association.

Read, download the letter

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: Index shows startup leaders out West; fatal winter for deer; kayak adventure in Idaho

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 15, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Kauffman Index LogoWestern states lead the nation in entrepreneurship, according to the 2017 Kauffman Startup Activity Index. The Startup Index released on May 18 shows that 9 of the top 10 states, and 4 of the top 5 metropolitan areas, are in the West. Specifically:

  • California, Texas, Arizona and Colorado were in the top 5 for highest startup activity in 2017 among the 25 largest states;
  • Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Nevada had the highest startup activity in 2017 among the 25 smaller states; and
  • The Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas metropolitan areas also ranked in the top 5.

Learn more about how The Kauffman Index of Startup Activity is determined and see the complete lists by reading the full report.

Winter Decimates Deer: The harshest winter in more than 30 years has decimated mule deer populations in western Wyoming. Heavy snow and cold temperatures took their toll on herd numbers, but researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how herds fare and rebound following devastating mortality events.

Rushing Rivers: Flooding in Idaho continues, pulling trees into the Boise River and worrying officials about potential damage to bridges and accumulation of debris. Also in Idaho: kayakers took advantage of high spring runoff to travel 300 miles of the Salmon River in 33 hours. That's a trip that normally would take weeks.

Hail Fallout: Last week’s hailstorm in the Denver area caused enough damage that a suburban mall may remain closed six months for repairs. Lakewood city officials are worried about losing an expected $2 million in sales tax revenue from the closing and thousands of employees are concerned for the future of their jobs. The woes don't stop there: Area residents filing auto and home insurance claims may have to wait months for repairs given the backlog.

New Life: A mill left over from Colorado’s once-booming gold rush will be redeveloped as a tourist destination, despite sitting atop millions of gallons of toxic, heavy-metal tainted wastewater. The designated Superfund site will be home to a 160-room luxury hotel and convention center, steampunk style cabins and affordable housing.

Fossil Find: More than 1,000 fossils collected from a cave in Wyoming will soon be on display at a museum. The animal bones, some dating as far back at 20,000 years, demonstrate the diversity of creatures that once roamed the West.

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

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

WGA's Ogsbury offers testimony on H.R. 2371, Water Rights Protection Act Discussion Draft

Published on .

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury offered testimony on May 18, 2017, on behalf of Western Governors before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans.

The testimony on H.R. 2371 and the Water Rights Protection Act Discussion Draft addressed states’ rights to manage and allocate their water resources, and reminded that states are best situated to understand their own unique legal frameworks, local hydrology and citizen needs.Testimony highlights included:

  • States are the primary authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing water resources, and they are primarily responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries;
  • The federal government has long recognized the right to use water as determined under the laws of the various states;
  • Each Executive department and agency should be required to have a clear and accountable process to provide each state with early, meaningful and substantive input in the development of regulatory policies that have federalism implications; and
  • In the absence of Constitutional delegation of authority to the federal government, state authority should be presumed sovereign.

The testimony concludes "Western Governors welcome the opportunity to partner with the Subcommittee and federal agencies to maintain states’ authority over their water resources."

Read, Download Testimony

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

Western Governors share reforms in response to Executive Order, 'Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda'

Published on .

 President Trump Regulatory Reform EOThe Western Governors' Association reached out to The White House on May 15, 2017, in response to President Trump’s Executive Order, Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda, which requires federal agencies to seek input and assistance from states.

In the letter to Justin Clark, the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at The White House, the Governors assert that they "believe realigning the relationship of the federal government and states so that it operates as a true partnership is one of the most important  reforms the President could undertake."

The outreach signed by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury includes an agency-by-agency menu of reforms, informed by Governors’ past interactions with federal agencies, for consideration by the White House and departmental Regulatory Reform Task Forces. The menu of reforms also was shared with appropriate House and Senate committees.

Read, download letter and suggested reforms

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

Western Governors urge passage of ‘Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act’ to enable revenue sharing from renewable energy leasing

Published on .

Geothermal Resources MapU.S. geothermal resources (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011)Western Governors urged Congressional leadership this week to pass the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2017, which enables the sharing of revenues derived from renewable energy leasing on federal lands with impacted states and counties.

States and counties incur costs, such as road maintenance, during the development and operation of renewable energy projects located on federal lands. Congress recognized this burden in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, when it created a program for the sharing of revenues from geothermal energy production on federal lands.

The letter -- signed by WGA Chair, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and WGA Vice Chair, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard – was sent on May 11, 2017 to House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop and Ranking Member Rep. Raul Grijalva, and Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Sen. Maria Cantwell.

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.

Best of the West: Drought at 20-year low, costly storm pulverizes Colorado, genetic rescue mission

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 8, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Drought Monitor May 2017Drought levels across the country are the lowest in almost 20 years, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

A series of significant storms this winter and spring contributed mightily to the decline and built healthy snowpack levels across the West, especially in Washington and Montana. “To see the changes we have in the last year, especially out West, it does astonish me,” said a representative with the U.S. Drought Mitigation Center.

Hail of a Mile High Storm: The storm that hit the Denver area on Monday, May 8, may wind up being one of the costliest on record for Colorado. Hailstones the size of golf balls were recorded, smashing windshields and skylights at a mall, as well as causing extensive flooding and damage. Flooding also continues to impact California, as its record snowpack melts and prompts flood warnings in Yosemite National Park.

Sage-Grouse Switch: A group of bi-state greater sage grouse have been relocated from California to Nevada in an effort to save dwindling populations of the bird near the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Watch a video produduced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about this “genetic rescue” mission. Learn about a similar partnership to relocate sage grouse from Wyoming to North Dakota.

Recreation Recognition: The National Recreation and Park Association has announced finalists for the 2017 Gold Medal Award, which honor community excellence in planning, resource management and innovative approaches to park services delivery. Of the finalists, 14 are located in western states; winners will be announced this fall. Meet the finalists.

Governors in the News: Western Governors are making headlines by announcing STEM grants, implementing an education initiative, and hosting an economic summit. Get the latest updates on recent accomplishments by governors in our roundup.

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

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

Western Governors' News: Colorado's big bike ride, digital learning in Oklahoma, economic summit in Utah

Published on .

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

ALASKA Gov. Bill Walker was appointed by President Trump to the Council of Governors, a 10-member group focused on military issues and defense spending.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey heralded Arizona’s growing economy, which has created more than 100,000 private sector jobs since 2015.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown lifted the drought state of emergency in place since January 2014 following severe rain and snowstorms this winter, while encouraging residents to maintain water-saving practices.

Colorado Gov John HickenlooperGovernor HickenlooperCOLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled the route for the 6th annual Pedal the Plains cycling event that celebrates the agricultural roots and frontier heritage of the Eastern Plains of Colorado.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige touted a new online data portal which provides streamlined access to hundreds of data layers, topographic maps, and imagery connecting users to GIS resources.  

IDAHO Gov. Butch Otter voiced his support for a program that helps individuals finish incomplete higher education programs and enable a goal of at least 60% of Idahoans, between the ages of 25 and 34, to have a college degree or postsecondary certificate by 2020.

MONTANA Gov. Steve Bullock, WGA Chair, hosted outdoor industry leaders from across the state to discuss strategies to grow Montana’s outdoor recreation economy and create jobs.

New Mexico Gov Susana Martinez croppedGovernor MartinezNEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval partnered with the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology to announce $1 million in STEM Workforce Challenge Grants to help meet the demand for jobs in the STEM fields.

NEW MEXICO Gov. Susana Martinez announced $40 million worth of investments in New Mexico startups, which is expected to support more than 50 technology companies statewide.

NORTH DAKOTA Gov. Doug Burgum applauded the passage of a bipartisan education bill allowing school districts to apply to waive state rules and structures and propose innovative instructional methods.

OKLAHOMA Gov. Mary Fallin signed digital learning legislation into law to incorporate technology into classrooms and require schools to include digital teaching and learning standards in their local professional development programs.

OREGON Gov. Kate Brown reiterated her commitment to Oregon’s timber industry at an event to celebrate the nation’s tallest wood building, which was constructed with cross-laminated timber engineered to have the strength of steel.

SOUTH DAKOTA Gov. Dennis Daugaard, WGA Vice Chair, honored more than 7,000 of South Dakota’s public servants on State Employee Recognition Day

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott commended the expansion of Ryder Integrated Logistics in Fort Worth, which will create more than 200 jobs and $5.2 million in capital investment.

Utah Gov Gary HerbertGovernor HerbertUTAH Gov. Gary Herbert hosted the state’s 11th annual Economic Summit in Salt Lake City focused on opportunities for small and large businesses.

WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee praised the state’s Beginning Educator Support Team program, which mentors new teachers and increases retention and effectiveness.

WYOMING Gov. Matt Mead applauded the announcement from the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. that wolf management would return to the state.

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: Wind top renewable energy source, flood watch continues, blasting off in Arizona

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 1, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

18454 wind turbines hillsideThe Energy Information Administration reported this week that wind generators accounted for 8% of the operating electric generating capacity in the United States during 2016, which makes it the leading renewable energy source in the U.S. Four of the top five producing states are in the West: Texas, Oklahoma, California and Kansas. Nebraska also made news this week by joining the “Gigawatt Club,” with wind accounting for more than 10% of energy produced in the Cornhusker state.

Snowmelt Surge: The impact of severe winter storms continues to threaten western cities and residents:

  • In California, snow is 80 feet deep in some places, and daily water management coordination calls are being conducted to time reservoir releases to avoid excess runoff.
  • Montana is also preparing for rapid snowmelt, with higher-than-average snowpack levels and temperatures in the 80s expected this weekend.
  • Flooding has forced planners of the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon to reroute the course, which has been relatively unchanged for more than 30 years.

SRS Funding Squeeze: Rural Idaho schools with already tight budgets are facing another challenge, owing to reduced funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS). The program provides critical funding to districts located on federal lands, and Western Governors support the continuation of these programs. Read the letter WGA just sent to leadership of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Blast Off! An Arizona company successfully launched a 42-foot rocket prototype this week as a part of a larger initiative to begin commercial launches next year. The company also plans to launch its own constellation of micro-sats to offer sensor testing and eventually, satellite-based computing applications.

Dark is Good: Glacier National Park in Montana and Canada’s Waterton Lake National Park are being recognized for their unobstructed night-sky views. After a decade of work, the area spanning the two parks has been named the first trans-boundary International Dark Sky Park for its lack of light pollution.

Winning the Web: The Missoula group behind the popular YouTube series SciShow just won the 2017 People’s Voice Webby Award for excellence on the internet. SciShow, known for its off-beat scientific explanations, has garnered more than 650 million views on YouTube.

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

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

WGA's Jim Ogsbury offers testimony on behalf of Western Governors before House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies

Published on .

DOE Photo of WIPP with drums of wasteWaste Isolation Pilot Plant Transportation Safety ProgramWGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury offered testimony on May 3, 2017, on behalf of Western Governors before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies.

The testimony shared Western Governors' views on the appropriations and activities of the federal agencies under the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction. The testimony, in part, advocated for:

  • Support for updating and building new infrastructure for existing water, wastewater and hydropower facilities;
  • Continued federal data collection, monitoring, and drought information programs;
  • Funding for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Transportation Safety Program.

The testimony also included a reminder that states have exclusive authority over groundwater located within their borders, so the Subcommittee should not to permit the use of appropriated funds for any activity that would, or has the potential to, usurp states’ authority over groundwater resources.

Read, Download Testimony

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

WGA announces Britta Beckstead as new Energy and Air Policy Advisor

Published on .

Britta BecksteadBritta BecksteadThe Western Governors' Association is pleased to announce the hiring of Britta Beckstead as its new Energy and Air Policy Advisor.

Prior to joining WGA in 2017, the Oregon native was an Assistant Attorney General with the Colorado Department of Law and represented and advised the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.

"Britta brings a powerful combination of practical experience and dynamic energy to this important policy position. She is ready and equipped to operate as a fierce advocate for the bipartisan policy priorities of Western Governors,” said Jim Ogsbury, WGA Executive Director.

Britta earned a B.A. in Environment, Economics, and Politics from Scripps College and a law degree from the University of Colorado Law School. While earning her degrees, Britta interned with Region 8 and Region 9 of the Environmental Protection Agency. She has also worked for the Roberts Environmental Center and Natural Resources Law Center.

Learn how to contact Britta and meet the WGA team.

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

WGA concerned that proposed Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 usurps existing state authorities

Published on .

House Energy and Commerce CommitteeThe Western Governors' Association has voiced concern to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about provisions in the proposed Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 that designate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as lead agency for all hydropower authorizations, approvals, and requirements mandated by federal law.

In a letter sent on May 1, 2017, WGA requested that this language be removed or amended so that existing state hydropower licensing authorities are not replaced, or in any way impeded, by FERC jurisdiction.

As expressed in section B(1)(a) of WGA Policy Resolution 2015‐08, Water Resource Management in the West: "While the Western Governors acknowledge the important role of federal laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, nothing in any act of Congress or Executive Branch regulatory action should be construed as affecting or intending to affect states’ primacy over the allocation and administration of their water resources."

Learn more by watching the hearing, Legislation Addressing Pipeline and Hydropower Infrastructure Modernization, at 10 a.m. (ET) on May 3, 2017.

Read, download the letter

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

Best of the West: Plains wildfires recovery slow; West best for graduates' jobs; see a flying car

Published on .

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting April 24, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Flying CarWatch a flying car in actionFarmers and ranchers on the plains in Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma are struggling to get back on their feet following wildfires and drought earlier this year. Nearly 2,100 square miles of land were burned, more than 20,000 cattle and pigs were killed, and $55 million worth of fences were damaged or destroyed. Read about how farmers are dealing with the aftermath.

Waters Keep Rising: Flooding in Idaho has residents on edge, and disaster declarations are in place for all state counties. This week, the Boise River hit its highest flow of the year, and experts are estimating the total cost of flood damage statewide to be $30 million.

Maintaining the Culture: New generations are preserving Native American culture and language in western states. In North Dakota, a curriculum (modeled after a similar program in Montana) based on interviews with native American elders is being integrated into classrooms.  In Colorado, members of the Arapaho tribe are embracing old- and new-school educational methods to keep their traditional language alive.

Western Schools, Job Markets Make Grade: U.S. News and World Report released its national Best High Schools rankings, and 13 of the top 20 schools are in western states. And for new college grads entering the workforce, 8 of the best U.S. jobs markets are in western states, according to a study by ZipRecruiter.

Cars Cruise Into Future: This week Waymo announced the expansion of a self-driving car program in Arizona. Hundreds of residents will utilize the free service in Phoenix. “This latest phase of Waymo’s testing will provide new transportation options for Arizonans who participate, and help pave the way for the expansion of this technology," said Gov. Doug Ducey. What's next? A Silicon Valley company called Kitty Hawk piloted a flying car above a scenic lake (see the video) about 100 miles north of San Francisco.

TIME's Most Influential: The CEO of an Idaho business has been named to the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world for the first time, Hamdi Ulukaya is the founder of Chobani, which produces yogurt at the world’s largest manufacturing facility of its kind in Twin Falls.

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

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

TRCP honors Western Governors Hickenlooper, Mead for bipartisan leadership in collaborative conservation efforts

Published on .

Governor Mead receives TRCP AwardGovernor Mead with, left, Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of TRCP, and Jim Ogsbury, Executive Director of WGA (Photo, TRCP)Western Governors John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Matt Mead of Wyoming were honored on April 26, 2017, by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) for their bipartisan leadership in ongoing collaborative conservation efforts and advocacy.

Governors Mead and Hickenlooper were presented with the 2017 James D. Range Conservation Award — named for TRCP’s co-founder, a conservation visionary, and presented to one Democrat and one Republican each year — for their collaborative efforts to help restore sagebrush habitat as co-chairs of the Sage Grouse Task Force. They are the first state governors to receive the award, which is typically given to members of Congress.

Gov. Mead shared credit with his task force colleagues and cited Wyoming’s unique outdoor-recreation-driven economy and future generations of outdoorsmen and women as his inspiration. His award was presented by Jim Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors’ Association.

Gov. Hickenlooper accepted his award from Sen. Michael Bennet and addressed the many benefits of public lands for Coloradans—including hunting and fishing access—and “the magic” of the simplest outdoor experiences.

Governor Hickenlooper receives TRCP AwardGovernor Hickenlooper offers remarks after receiving his award. (Photo, TRCP)Television personality, writer, and outdoorsman Steven Rinella also was honored at the event with the Conservation Achievement Award.

The awards were presented at TRCP's ninth annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Tucker Carlson of FOX News Channel and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC served as co-masters of ceremony for the event, which brought together policy-makers, outdoor industry innovators, and conservation group leaders. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made closing remarks emphasizing the value of America’s public lands.

The TRCP has supported the past two WGA Chairman's Initiatives: the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative and the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.  The TRCP's mission, in part, is "to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish" by helping "create federal policy and funding solutions by uniting our partners and amplifying the voices of American sportsmen and women in service of Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy."

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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.

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

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: Craft beer and spirits booming, flooding continues, innovative rural hospital thriving in Idaho

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

Read, download the letters

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

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

Published on .

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

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

For more information, visit the National Park Week website.

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

ATTEND THE ANNUAL MEETING: Read the agenda and register for the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting,which also will include a keynote by world renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker. The meeting hosted by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will be held June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana.

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

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

Published on .

Governor Brown during snow measurement 2015Current conditions in California are far different than when Gov. Brown took part in a 2015 snowpack measurementUPDATE, May 2, 2017: The final seasonal survey by California officials in the Sierra Nevada mountains shows snowpack is twice its normal level.

April 11, 2017: California Gov. Jerry Brown on April 7 lifted the emergency drought declaration in place since January 2014, thanks to record rain and snow storms that replenished water reserves to end six years of historic drought in California.

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

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

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

Learn more ...

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

Watch the Webinar on YouTube

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

Watch recordings of the previous Chairman's Initiative webinars:

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on .

Vegetation ManagementUPDATE: On April 27, 2017, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 1873, the 'Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act.' (More)

April 3, 2017: Western Governors have urged leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee to give an expedited review to the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act on its reintroduction.

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

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

Read, download letter

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See last week's Best of the West

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

View the livestream

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See last week's Best of the West

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the previous Western Governors' News.

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See last week's Best of the West

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

Read, download the letter

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more ...

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

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

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

Published on .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See last week's Best of the West

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

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