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Opinion: Letter from western governors a misguided, muddled attempt to hijack national forest management

Let science, not politics, guide forest management

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One man’s healthy forest is another man’s tree farm. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Flying in the face of science, the Western Governors’ Association last week called on the U.S. Forest Service to do more logging in an effort to promote forest health.

The letter, signed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Utah Gov. Gary. R. Herbert, also seems to suggest that privatizing some activities on publicly owned national forest lands could help address what they called a forest health crisis — without a single mention of global warming or the crucial restorative role of wildfires in forest ecosystems. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: BLM to use local data for wildlife planning

A fox in Breckenridge, Colorado. PHOTO BY DYLAN BERWYN.

Feds look for efficiencies in conservation efforts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Since wildlife doesn’t recognize the lines on a map that represent political boundaries, it’s important for conservation biologists to know how wild animals move on a regional level.

A new initiative from the Western Governors’ Association may help with those large-scale planning efforts, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which last week announced that it will use state and regional data and maps to help it identify wildlife corridors and crucial habitat.

The maps will be available for the BLM to use as a result of the Western Wildlife Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool, known as “CHAT,” an initiative of the Western Governors’ Association. Continue reading

Western governors seek better climate information

Western weather forecasting should improve under a new agreement between NOAA and the Western Governors' Association.

Extreme weather prompts call for improved forecasting

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Floods, drought, wildfires and severe storms have spurred the Western Governors’ Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make a deal that will improve the  development and delivery of climate science and services to Western states.

The agreement will increase collaboration and boost existing efforts to ensure Western states and the U.S. Pacific islands are better able to plan for natural hazards.

The memorandum of understanding was signed last week at the WGA’s Annual Meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and Govs. C.L. “Butch” Otter (Idaho) and Chris Gregoire (Washington), the Chair and Vice Chair of WGA. WGA includes Governors from 19 Western states and three U.S. Flag Pacific Islands. Continue reading

Opinion: Western governors wrong on endangered species

A western gray wolf. PHOTO BY GARY KRAMER, USFWS.

Changes in conservation policy and law must be based on science, not politics

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Reading some of the news reports from the recent Western Governors’ Association discussions on the Endangered Species Act left me rubbing my eyes, shaking my head in disbelief and wondering what century I’m in and what planet I’m living on. In case you missed it, here’s the gist, according to an Associated Press story, anyway.

It seems that the governors want to change the Endangered Species Act because they think it is a nonsensical law that hurts business, property owners and farmers and impinges on state sovereignty — in short, one of the greatest threats to motherhood and apple pie since Al Qaeda.

Some of the language used by the governors, at least as interpreted in the AP story, is the moral equivalent of the language used by Confederate secessionists in the Civil War era, and to hear welfare ranchers and golf course developers whine about how prairie dogs are “ravaging” their lands would be laughable if it weren’t so alarming. Continue reading

Western governors pledge cooperation on wildlife

Western governors have pledged to cooperate on trans-boundary wildlife conservation issues. PHOTO COURTESY GARY KRAMER, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Wide-open West no exception to global biodiversity and extinction crisis


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By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Governors from western states offered plenty of feel-good environmental messaging after their recent summit meeting, but it remains to be seen whether the promised steps will do much to stem the loss of wildlife habitat across the region.

Despite its reputation for wildness and wide-open spaces, the American West is no exception when it comes to species extinction and the global biodiversity crisis. More and more plants and animals are threatened and endangered across the region. While their have been a few high-profile restoration success stories, the political will to protect nature in a meaningful way is not always there.

Through a wildlife council, western governors have been working to conserve crucial wildlife habitat and corridors bringing states together for the first time to coordinate data and produce more accurate wildlife counts and maps. The governors committed their state agencies to complete wildlife decision-support systems within the next three years. Continue reading

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