The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to “establish a framework to allow the Forest Service and WGA to work collaboratively to accomplish mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to the increasing suite of challenges facing western landscapes.”
The agreement, announced at the WGA 2018 Winter Meeting in Hawai’i, is an outgrowth of two ongoing activities: the Shared Stewardship initiative of Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative of Western Governors.
The agreement was signed at the meeting by Secretary Perdue, WGA Chair and Governor of Hawaiʻi David Ige, and WGA Vice Chair and Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum.
“This is an important step in cooperatively addressing land management challenges,” said Governor Ige. “We recognize that no one agency or level of government has the capacity to deal with all of these risks alone. This MOU puts us on a path to working closely on these serious matters.”
“Governors possess primary decision-making authority for management of state resources, including many resources on federal lands. Being a ‘good neighbor’ is an essential component in USDA’s work, which is why this MOU is so important,” said Secretary Perdue. “USDA’s Forest Service will work shoulder-to-shoulder with WGA to co-manage risks and identify land management priorities. As authentic collaborators, the states and federal government will improve service to the public by creating more efficient, effective, and long-lasting policy.”
Federal, state and private managers of forests and rangelands face a multitude of urgent challenges, including catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds, and epidemics of insects and disease. The conditions fueling these circumstances are not improving, as demonstrated by the devastating wildfires of 2018.
The U.S. Forest Service announced a new strategy earlier this year to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments. Over the past two years, Western Governors have been examining a wide variety of land management challenges, including those involving large landscapes with multiple ownerships.
The MOU commits the U.S. Forest Service and Western Governors to a “more integrated approach to prioritizing investments where they will have the greatest impact and will work together to set priorities that address risk across broad landscapes.”