New collaborative conservation task force launched

The Western Governors’ Association and the Biden Administration spearheaded a new task force that will focus on bringing state and federal officials together to deal with conservation issues affecting the western United States.

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, along with the Western Governors’ Association, announced the new “Task Force on Collaborative Conservation” last week. The task force will “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,” reads a press release from the Interior Department.

The task force will tackle issues such as wildlife corridors, wildfire and drought response, and forest and rangeland restoration. It will also work with the administration to track progress on the America the Beautiful initiative, which is the administration’s commitment to conserve 30% of American lands and waters by 2030. The Wildlife Society, along with two professional forestry societies, expressed their support for this initiative last year in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack.

The Memorandum of Agreement underlying the new task force notes that the American West is facing an increased risk of uncharacteristic wildfires, mounting effects of climate change, drought and the proliferation of nonnative invasive species. It also notes that the interdependent relationships and responsibilities among jurisdictions across the West make collaboration on these issues essential.

The agreement calls on the Interior and Agriculture Departments and the WGA to look for opportunities to collaborate, to establish working groups as necessary, and to provide recommendations for overcoming barriers encountered in conservation and natural resource management. The task force will also work with the administration to implement the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes funding for wildlife restoration, drought mitigation and wildland fire resilience.

Header Image: A new “Task Force on Collaborative Conservation” will focus on bringing federal, state and local jurisdictions together to tackle conservation issues in the western United States. Credit: BLM Oregon & Washington