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Western Landscapes

Western Governors' Association

The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) represents the Governors of 19 Western states and 3 U.S.-flag islands. The association is an instrument of the Governors for bipartisan policy development, information exchange and collective action on issues of critical importance to the Western United States.

Mount Hood (Miles Hemstrom)

Established in 1984 through the merger of two Governors' organizations, the Western Governors' Association provides strong multistate leadership in an era of critical change in the economy and demography of the West. WGA helps Western Governors to:

Develop and Promote Sound Public Policy

WGA is an instrument of the Governors to formulate bipartisan, consensus-based policy positions and to realize those policies through strategic advocacy and implementation.

Exchange Information and Identify Best Practices

WGA provides an effective platform for Governors’ to discuss common challenges and opportunities, share ideas and examine issues of common interest.

Collect Data and Perform Quality Research

Western Governors, recognizing that reliable data forms the foundation of sound policy, turn to WGA for superior policy reports, issue briefs and other research products.

Educate the Public, Opinion Leaders and Other Policymakers

Utilizing multiple media and mechanisms, WGA aggressively promotes the positions, priorities and accomplishments of Western Governors.

WGA develops cooperative projects, work groups and resolutions that address a number of critical natural resources management issues, including Forest Health, Water and Drought, Crucial Habitat, and Energy and Transmission. Specific projects include:

Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools

The Western Governors’ Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), available at, is a non-regulatory tool that allows users to quickly identify crucial habitat in 16 western states.  The Crucial Habitat map is ranked on a relative scale of 1-6; 1 represents areas most likely to contain natural resources that contribute to crucial habitat and 6 represents areas considered the least likely to contain those resources. Each state had the ability to rank their data using a shared framework, guidelines, and definitions established by the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council.  Information on the process used create the tool, as well as detailed metadata, is available at

State-specific CHATs are publically available in several states, including Oregon.

Wildfire and Forest Health

As stated in the Western Governors’ 2013 policy resolution on Wildland Fire Management and Resilient Landscapes,

The health of the nation’s federal forests and range lands has deteriorated due to a reduction in active management, past federal fire suppression policies, and changing climate conditions. Overgrowth and crowding in forests has allowed damaging insects and diseases to flourish. Many of our range lands are infested with “cheat grass” or other invasive species. The result has been a significant increase in the average acreage burned, higher fire suppression costs, increased impacts on public health, catastrophic damage to the environment and more communities threatened by wildfires every year.

Reducing the risks of fires and restoring the health of Western forests and rangelands remains a high priority for Western Governors.  

Clean, Reliable Water Supplies for the West

The scarce nature of water in the West makes it a crucial resource for the communities, industries, habitats, and farms it supports. Clean, reliable water supplies are essential to maintain and improve quality of life.

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. States have the ultimate say in the management of their water resources and are best suited to speak to the unique nature of Western water law and hydrology. WGA supports Governors and states in working together on water supply, water quality, and drought management issues.

Currently, WGA and their affiliate, the Western States Water Council, are developing an online GIS water information resource known as the Water Data Exchange (WaDE).  WaDE will launch in June 2015.


In 2013, the Western Governors developed their 10-Year Energy Vision, a set of regional goals and objectives the Governors have agreed should guide energy development, use and policy in the West. This report is meant to be a guide and is not intended to supercede individual state energy plans. It demonstrates bipartisan cooperation on energy and environmental issues that can serve as a useful basis for state and national energy plans.

Relevant Links

Western Governors’ Association

Authored by Luca De Stefanis, Institute For Natural Resources (2012)

and revised by Carlee Brown, Western Governors' Assocation (2014)