WAIMEA, Hawaii — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF, 1.2 MB) (MOU) to “establish a framework to allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and WGA to work collaboratively to accomplish mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to the increasing suite of challenges facing western landscapes.”
Specifically, the agreement was signed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, WGA Chair and Governor of Hawai’i David Ige, and WGA Vice Chair and Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum. The MOU commits the USFS and WGA 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.” Following the signing, Secretary Perdue and Governor Ige issued these statements:
“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.”
“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.”
The agreement, announced at the WGA 2018 Winter Meeting in Hawai’i, is an outgrowth of two ongoing activities: the Shared Stewardship Initiative (PDF, 3.7 MB) of the USDA, and the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative of Western Governors.
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 USFS 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.
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