USDA, Dept. of the Interior, Western Governors Assn. launch collaborative conservation task force to effectively respond to land, water, wildlife challenges facing Western landscapes

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WASHINGTON , February 4, 2022 (press release) –

Task Force will help coordinate historic investment in conservation programs and natural resource infrastructure projects across the West

The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture today joined the Western Governors Association (WGA) to launch a Task Force on Collaborative Conservation designed to enhance collaboration across federal, state and local jurisdictions and focus on the strategic coordination necessary to meet our collective natural resource management challenges and improve environmental outcomes for communities across the West.

The agreement formally establishes the Task Force as a forum for federal, state and territory representatives to collaboratively and effectively respond to the land, water and wildlife challenges facing Western landscapes. The Task Force will be essential to strengthening this state/territory-federal collaboration as local, state and federal leaders implement President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which contains historic investments in wildlife restoration, drought mitigation and wildland fire resilience.

This Task Force will be an important forum for collaboration, but state and federal participants will maintain their commitments and responsibilities to consult with Tribal Nations and engage with key stakeholders on natural resource conservation and management priorities.

“Growing up in the high desert of New Mexico, I am no stranger to water scarcity, threats of wildfire and relying on the land. As climate change intensifies these environmental challenges, we have a unique opportunity to collaborate with our Western partners and advance our shared priorities, including implementing President Biden’s infrastructure investments to bolster communities’ resilience against more extreme weather,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I look forward to further coordinating with states and territories through this Task Force as we endeavor to conserve and protect our natural resources.”

“As Western communities grapple with environmental challenges exacerbated by climate change, such as increasing drought and more frequent and intense wildfires, bolstering effective collaboration between the federal government, states and territories to respond to these issues is imperative,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This Task Force will be an important vehicle for enhancing cooperation between the Departments of Agriculture and Interior and our Western partners on the conservation challenges impacting the region, as well as coordinating critical funding like the investments secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will make a real difference for communities across the West.”

“This is an important milestone in strengthening collaboration between western states and the federal government, and builds on efforts like the USDA-WGA Shared Stewardship Agreement,” said Jim Ogsbury, WGA’s Executive Director. “Western Governors appreciate the value of cross-boundary coordination between federal, state, local, Tribal and private landowners on issues like wildfire mitigation, invasive species control, and habitat restoration. The Task Force is designed to drive to collective action on some of the biggest challenges we face on our western landscapes.”

The newly launched Task Force will help strengthen effective coordination and implementation of priority conservation programs and policies, including those affecting wildlife corridors, wildfire and drought resilience and response, and forest and rangeland restoration. It will also contribute to the development of a conservation atlas to advance the America the Beautiful initiative, while supporting the voluntary stewardship efforts of ranchers, farmers and other private landowners and to keep working lands working.

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