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'Cowboy code' guides western governors

by BILL BULEY
Hagadone News Network | July 27, 2022 1:00 AM

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COEUR d’ALENE — The first meeting of the Western Governors Association in three years brought together eight state leaders guided by the “cowboy code.”

They finish what they start, said WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury. When something needs doing, they do it. It’s not what they say, it’s what they do.

Citing the 1934 novel “Code of the West” by Zane Grey, Ogsbury spoke of “unwritten rules centering on hospitality, fair play, loyalty and respect for the land."

“To an individual, the governors who are joining us for the 2022 WGA annual meeting this week personify these principles and execute their responsibilities in accordance with these ageless ethical tenets,” Ogsbury said.

The three-day conference that opened Tuesday at The Coeur d’Alene Resort saw some of the West’s most influential men sit down for talks and presentations about challenges facing them and their constituents, including the economy, energy, health, cybersecurity, supply chain issues and drought.

"This is going to be a very productive meeting here in Coeur d’Alene," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said Yellowstone National Park, which recently suffered millions of dollars in damage in historic flooding, “is open, ready for business and going strong, and that’s because of the great neighborly relationships that we have."

“Western governors are about getting things done and taking on some of the most complicated issues that face our nation,” he said.

On day one, they heard from Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, Javier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and a five-person panel on wildfire threat and the best ways to prevent and combat wildfires.

The event hosted by Idaho Gov. Brad Little also pulled in governors Doug Ducey (Arizona), David Ige (Hawaii), Greg Gianforte (Montana), Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Spencer Cox (Utah) and Mark Gordon (Wyoming).

Little said their problems “are somewhat unique, but they’re also somewhat common.”

He said the interdependency of the western states is their “bread and butter,” creating effective partnerships and collaborations to deal with challenges including land management, drought and invasive species.

“It's the chemistry of us all getting together and talking about what's working and what's not, what we need to do better and how we need to plan for the future,” Little said.

He said the states need to leverage their resources to best utilize an aging workforce and deal with a shortage of affordable housing.

He pointed out that many of the western states are the fastest-growing areas in the nation.

“This community you're in right now is perhaps the fastest-growing community in the United States, and we didn't see it coming,” Little said. “It's been a challenge to the state and then a challenge to the local community here. And we hope that some of the solutions to that incredible growth are addressed here.”

The annual meeting continues today with Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, outlining how states and the federal government can work together to help veterans facing homelessness, mental and behavioral health issues, and medical needs from combat service.

There will also be roundtable discussions on protecting the supply chain and restoring burned landscapes.

photo

Idaho Gov. Brad Little speaks during a press conference before the start of the Western Governors' Association meeting at The Coeur d'Alene Resort. He is joined by, from left, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (obscured) Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte.

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