Biden admin, Western governors launch conservation task force

By Jennifer Yachnin | 02/03/2022 04:26 PM EST

A trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand Lake, Colo.

A trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand Lake, Colo. David Zalubowsk/AP Photo

A new partnership between the Biden administration and Western state governors aims to ease tensions between federal and state officials on a range of conservation policies, including wildfires and drought.

The Interior and Agriculture departments today unveiled the “Task Force on Collaborative Conservation” in conjunction with the Western Governors’ Association.

The task force aims to address “natural resource management challenges and improve environmental outcomes for communities across the West.”


“Growing up in the high desert of New Mexico, I am no stranger to water scarcity, threats of wildfire and relying on the land,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “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.”

WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury, whose organization represents 19 states and three U.S. territories, said the agreement builds on existing collaborations with the federal government, including the Agriculture Department.

“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,” Ogsbury said in a statement. “The task force is designed to drive to collective action on some of the biggest challenges we face on our western landscapes.”

The task force will focus on issues like wildlife corridors, wildfire and drought response, and forest and rangeland restoration. The group will also contribute to the Biden administration’s efforts to create a database to track progress on its conservation pledge, the America the Beautiful program.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.