July 1, 2011 in Idaho

Gregoire takes reins of Western governors group

Incoming chairwoman unveils promotion initiative
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Z. Russell photo

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter buttonholes Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer on a water issue shortly before the start of the Western Governors Association conference in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

On the same day that Washington eliminated its tourism promotion funding and shut down its state tourism office, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her new role as chairwoman of the Western Governors Association, announced that her initiative for the year will be a “Get Out West!” campaign, promoting outdoor recreation, conservation, tourism and volunteerism across the 19 Western states.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to do it collectively with governors in the West,” she said.

Her initiative will focus on highlighting the importance of the recreational and tourism sectors of the Western economy; boosting “recreation, conservation, healthy communities and tourism”; and improving public policies that foster tourism, recreation and conservation in the West.

“The state can no longer afford to do some things it has done historically,” said Gregoire, who took the gavel from outgoing chairman Gov. Butch Otter on Thursday. “So we’re turning to the private sector to see if we can’t fund a coalition. … This is about partnering with private-sector organizations that have already come forward to me and said how enthused they are. REI has already stepped up and said, ‘Let us know what you want us to do.’ ”

In May, the Washington Legislature eliminated the remaining funding for state tourism promotion, which would have been about $2 million for the fiscal year that starts today. State support had been as high as $7 million in past years.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the newly elected vice chairman of the Western Governors, backed Gregoire’s initiative.

Also on Thursday, the governors association:

• Approved a memorandum of understanding with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on making crucial weather and climate science information more broadly available to the states and others in the West. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, said the agreement will make sure NOAA can provide the information decision-makers, businesses and others need to plan for and deal with extreme weather.

• Heard from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that her state currently has the largest wildfire in its history, and 1 percent of the state’s land mass has burned. “The destruction is vast, and the losses are … so, so great,” she said. She called for more intensive forest management to minimize such devastation in the future.

• Heard from Republican U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, that he is working with Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson on a revamp of the Endangered Species Act.

• Hosted Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the United States, who told the governors, “Canada is your biggest customer.” Doer said, “We buy more goods and services from the United States than the whole European Union put together.” He also noted that of Canada’s 35 million people, 25 million visit the United States.


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