Governors have a chance to chart new course for Western states
June 28, 2013
The Western Governors’ Association could not have picked a more stunning backdrop or a more beautiful weekend to brainstorm about public policy. Park City is honored to have the leaders of the West here in our backyard.
We hope the setting, along with the stimulating discussions about public lands, energy, health care and education, will inspire them to renew their commitments to solving some of the difficult challenges facing their constituents.
In fact, the elected officials who represent the 20 states, commonwealths and territories in the association, have championed many precedent-setting policies that have improved the lives of their residents. As a result, their economies are rebounding and they are seeing an enthusiastic influx of new residents and industries.
But there is more work to be done.
In addition to the issues common to other regions, like reducing the cost of health care and improving schools, Western leaders have an enhanced responsibility to protect the public lands within their jurisdictions. They are the guardians of some of the most beautiful, productive and environmentally sensitive lands in the nation.
In the past, many Western governors have been known to heed the drumbeat of economic development over the call for conservation, but we would argue that a growing number of their constituents would support a shift in those priorities.
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We hope that during this conference, governors from states that have previously been reluctant to regulate oil, gas and other extractive industries will take a moment to recalibrate their sentiments and consider the consequences and also the alternatives.
This sunny weekend, for instance, could be a catalyst to initiate efforts to harness alternative energies like solar and wind.
Utah, under Gov. Gary R. Herbert, has been one of the leaders in progressive business development, but the state is also facing serious environmental issues that could threaten the progress made on other fronts. Air pollution levels in the Salt Lake Valley, as an example, could ultimately dampen the state’s economic initiatives.
We applaud the Western Governors’ Association for putting public lands front and center on this weekend’s agenda, and hope that it portends a shift indirection that will place more emphasis on environmental stewardship, support for sustainable energy ideas and firm enforcement of pollution reducing regulations.