The Alliance succeeds because of its committed and growing membership, dedicated staff, and visionary board. See below to learn more about the people who make this organization thrive.
Meet our staff:
Mark Pearson is a long-time advocate for Colorado’s wilderness, rivers and public lands, and recently returned to the role of executive director in 2017. He first got involved with San Juan Citizens Alliance in 1993 as a volunteer working on forest management and wilderness, leading the effort to craft SJCA’s Citizens Plan for the Wild San Juans that was finalized in 1999. Mark’s volunteer involvement with the Alliance led to a decade-long stint as executive director until departing in 2009. Mark’s heart lies in local, home-grown conservation advocacy and he is excited to tackle the challenges facing the San Juan basin. He has a B.S. in engineering physics from the University of Colorado and a M.S. in natural resource management from Colorado State University.
Mike joined SJCA in 2006 following ten years as an environmental consultant in the Four Corners region. Mike works on energy issues including coal, oil/gas, air quality and public lands. He specializes in the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy & Management Act, and Endangered Species Act compliance. Mike has a B.A. from Bates College and a M.A. in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver.
Gary joined SJCA in April 2020 and was an SJCA board member for several years prior to that. Gary Skiba worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife for 23 years. Throughout his professional career, Gary focused on threatened and endangered species management and spearheaded the agency’s efforts on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management. He has also worked for Great Old Broads for Wilderness and as an environmental consultant and monitoring conservation easements for La Plata Open Space Conservancy. Gary has a B.S. in wildlife management from the University of New Hampshire and a M.S. in wildlife biology from Colorado State University. He enjoys a wide range of outdoor activities and lives near Aztec, NM with his wife, Kate Pickford, and three dogs.
Rane joined SJCA in May of 2021. Rane was born and raised just over the mountains in Ridgway and has a vast love and appreciation for this corner of Colorado. She majored in Strategic Communication with an emphasis in design at University of Colorado Boulder. Rane's professional experience lies in custom branding encompassing everything from design to strategy to copywriting. Outside of work, you can find her running, hiking, and rafting in the summer and skiing in the winter. She also loves painting, drawing, and cuddling with her cat & dog.
Emelie joined SJCA in June of 2021. Born in Southern California, she earned a degree in Environmental Policy from Colorado College and a Juris Doctorate from Lewis & Clark Law School, completing a certificate in Environmental and Natural Resource Law and specializing in Federal Indian Law. Prior to joining SJCA, Emelie worked as a legal extern for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Coalition and the Earthrise Law Center focusing on ecosystem resilience and dam operation in the Columbia River basin. In her free time, Emelie enjoys whitewater kayaking, canyoneering, rock climbing, rockhounding and working in Durango’s lapidary and silversmithing studio.
Drew hails from the small mountain town of Granby, CO and feels most at home in aspen groves. She has a diverse background in membership-based nonprofits, economic development, and healthcare. After many years savoring life in Montana, she relocated to Durango in 2018 to be closer to family. She first learned of SJCA through a Green Business Roundtable luncheon, and admires the organization’s comprehensive approach to preserving the health and resilience of this region.
Drew attended Reed College before transferring to the University of Montana. She earned her degree in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Sustainable Business Management. Drew’s lifelong passion is dance, and she’s active in Durango’s Shimmy Mob belly dance troupe. She is also passionate about holistic healing, social justice work, and caring for our elders. Drew loves getting into the woods and on the water, as well as going to music festivals, gardening, cooking, puzzling, and adventures with her partner Eric and cat Olive.
John joined SJCA in August of 2022. Born and raised in North Carolina, he studied sustainable development at Appalachian State University, nestled in the misty Blue Ridge mountains. John worked summers as a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor in Alaska while obtaining a Masters in Political Science from the University of Wyoming, where he researched the impacts of megadam projects in Chilean Patagonia. He later attended law school at the University of Colorado where he helped to research and draft the Bears Ears National Monument proposal. After school, John served as a staff attorney for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, working to protect crucial wildlife habitat like ungulate migration corridors and large intact landscapes with rich Indigenous cultural resources like Wyoming’s Red Desert. You can find John outside exploring the lands he advocates for - climbing and skiing in the hills and basins.
Sara joined SJCA in September, 2022. Sara’s love for rivers began at an early age while exploring the mountain streams nearby her home along Colorado’s Front Range. While studying geosciences at Fort Lewis College in Durango, she worked summers as a guide on rivers throughout Colorado. After completion of her degree at Fort Lewis, she pursued an MS at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ with an emphasis hydrogeology. Prior to joining SJCA, Sara performed research on groundwater dependent ecosystems in Grand Canyon National Park focusing on ecosystem resilience to stress and disturbance. In her free time, you can usually find Sara on her raft, mountain bike, or snowboard. She also enjoys exploring the nearby mountain and high desert landscapes with her dogs.
Help us protect our wilderness
Meet our Board of Directors:
A Colorado native, Michael is a professor of Sociology and Political Science at Fort Lewis College, with a focus on waste policy and the informal recycling sector. Prior to teaching, Michael worked 5 ½ years as the Coordinator of the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center focusing on community outreach and campus sustainability. He was the first male Executive Director of Sexual Assault Services Organization providing advocacy and support for victims of sexual assault, and worked as the Environmental Stewards Program Director for Conservation Legacy, partnering with several bureaus under the Department of the Interior. Additionally, Michael served as the Mayor of Durango, and has been past President of La Plata Electric Association. In his free time, Michael can be spotted hiking and camping above timberline, harvesting eggs from his chickens, or playing violin in his gypsy folk band, Carute Roma.
Ryan is the co-founder of PineSpire, a company whose mission is to decarbonize the transportation sector and help businesses access the financial benefits of fleet electrification. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Wesleyan University and professional experience in environmental consulting, hydrology, energy development, and carbon markets. Ryan has worked deep in the weeds in a range of areas including NEPA processes, Renewable Energy Structured Finance, and Water Rights in southwest Colorado. The San Juan region has been home to Ryan for decades, where she has taken every opportunity to backpack, hunt, bike, ski, and otherwise be outside.
Steve grew up in the mile-high city of Denver after his parents ran out of money on their way to Seattle from Kansas. After spending the sixties in Boulder and graduating from the University of Colorado with a B.S. in Business, he went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Northern Colorado. He worked for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and survived many Wyoming blizzards before moving to the Four Corners, where he’s lived for 33 years. Steve worked in the City of Farmington’s Finance Department and held positions on several local boards, including the Farmington Inter-Tribal Indian Organization and the Four Winds Treatment Center. He’s been strongly influenced by the book “Yellow Dirt” by Judy Pasternak, which documents the history of uranium mining and its’ consequences on the Navajo Nation.
Maya is an attorney who represents individuals and nonprofit clients with public interest objectives through her environmental law practice focused on public lands protection, wildlife conservation, and ensuring governmental transparency and accountability. She has also successfully represented Native American tribes and individuals in federal court to protect voting rights. Prior law school, Maya earned a Master’s Degree in environmental science from Yale University and worked as a biologist on endangered species conservation. She lives in Durango and loves exploring the local trails with her husband and two boys.
Buz was born in Honolulu, raised in Northern California and, after a brief stint in the US Merchant Marine and 4 years in the Army as a German Linguist, graduated with BA in Biology from University of California at San Diego. He attended medical school at the University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, and completed his Family Medicine residency in Santa Rosa, CA. Upon completing his training, Buz moved to Jackson, WY, where he lived and worked as a Family Practitioner for 20 years. He moved to the Four Corners in 2015, and has recently retired from practicing medicine. He has always been passionate about protecting and exploring this amazing orb called Earth and enjoys pursuing his love of hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, snowboarding, skiing, learning languages, and traveling.
Todd Gartner is the Director of Cities4Forests and the Natural Infrastructure Initiative at the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global environmental organization, which supports 80+ cities from around the world to invest in the conservation, restoration, & management of their forests, working landscapes, & urban green infrastructure. Todd specializes in policy development and deploying funding and financing approaches to reduce wildfire risk, enhance water security, and protect natural systems to benefit urban and rural communities. Todd’s previous work included developing and running the Conservation Incentives and Ecosystem Markets program at the American Forest Foundation, field forestry work in New England, fire ecology and eco-tourism research in Botswana and India, business consulting for the USDA Forest Service and several years as a corporate financial consultant. Todd earned his Master of Forestry degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a B.S. in finance from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. Todd is an outdoor enthusiast and loves to hike, paddle, board, climb and soak in hot tubs.
Rose is a staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, where she works primarily on oil and gas litigation and economic diversification issues in the Four Corners region. She earned a J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law in 2019, where she specialized in critical race studies and public interest law and policy. During law school, Rose was president of the Native American Law Students Association and editor-in-chief of the Indigenous People’s Journal of Law, Culture, and Resistance. After law school, Rose worked at DNA-People’s Legal Services in Farmington, New Mexico, as the director of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) project, providing assistance to victims of domestic violence. Rose is based in Farmington, New Mexico.
Kobe is originally from the Northwest and grew up spending his summers exploring the Four Corners region. Kobe received a Master’s degree in Recreation Administration from Aurora University and a Master’s in Education from Northern Arizona University. Kobe currently serves as the Director of Sustainability and Higher Education Programs at Pacific Pathways. Kobe has a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education through Prescott College, where his dissertation focused on applying regenerative development and design principles to place-informed educational design. Kobe currently studies with globally recognized regenerative development and design professionals at the Regenesis Institute in Santa Fe, NM. He recently founded the Western Slope Institute in Durango to further his research through the design of young adult education programs that contribute to multi-scale regeneration in La Plata County. Kobe enjoys living in Durango and exploring the region with his wife and two children.