Water & Tribes in the Colorado River Basin Leadership Team Members
February 7, 2021
Bidtah Becker is a citizen of the Navajo Nation (NN) and is currently serving as an Associate Attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. In July 2019, Governor Lujan Grisham appointed Ms. Becker to serve on the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. Prior, she had been appointed to serve as the Executive Director of the NN Division of Natural Resources (May 2015 to January 2019) after having served the Nation in the NN Department of Justice (DOJ) (2002 to 2015). While with the NNDOJ, she worked as an attorney across three different units: Human Services and Government, Water Rights, and Natural Resources. The majority of her career was with the Water Rights Unit. She is also happily married and the mother of two children, 14-year old teenage boy and 10 year old diva daughter.
Anne Castle is a senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado Law School, focusing on western water policy issues, including Colorado River management, integration of land use and water planning, and alternatives to permanent agricultural dry-up. From 2009 to 2014, she was Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the U.S. Department of the Interior where she oversaw water and science policy for the Department and had responsibility for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey. While at Interior, Castle spearheaded the Department’s WaterSMART program, which provides federal leadership on the path toward sustainable water supplies and was the driving force behind the 2010 federal MOU addressing sustainable hydropower. Castle also provided hands-on leadership on Colorado River issues and was the Chair of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group and a champion of Minute 319 between the US and Mexico. Castle is a recovering lawyer, having practiced water law for 28 years with the Rocky Mountain law firm of Holland & Hart.
Lorelei Cloud is a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and proudly serves the tribal membership on the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council. Born and raised on the Southern Ute Reservation, Cloud was elected to Tribal Council in December 2015. During her first year on Tribal Council, she welcomed the opportunity to serve as Vice-Chairman and currently serves as Treasurer and Chair on the Permanent Fund Endowment Investment Committee, the Southern Ute Tribe’s Audit Committee, and the Ten Tribes Partnership.
Prior to her election, Councilwoman Cloud worked 5 years as the Land Assistant Supervisor for the Southern Ute Growth Fund’s Red Willow Production Company, and has served on several committees and working groups over the years. Councilwoman Cloud is a true advocate for the Ute language, traditions, and culture; actively participating in cultural events and traditional gatherings. She is very passionate about helping the Southern Ute youth, women, and elders. She has four children and two grandchildren.
Peter is a nationally-recognized expert in Western water law and water policy, and has more than 20 years of experience in water law and policy, natural resources law and policy, U.S. environmental law, and federal Indian law. His experience includes representing municipalities, water agencies, industrial and energy concerns, land developers, investment firms, and nonprofit organizations and foundations in matters related to surface water rights, groundwater rights, state and federal regulation, and the Law of the Colorado River, as well as with regard to the development of federal, state and local policy solutions and the design and deployment of innovative investment tools for the management of local and regional water resource scarcity. He also has extensive experience with regard to facility siting, permitting, and regulatory compliance arising under the major federal and state environmental laws; land development and master planning, development rights, public infrastructure financing, and representing clients doing business on tribal lands and issues related to the management, development and conservation of state trust lands and federal public lands.(602) 888-7011 x10 (office)
(602) 402-6788 (mobile)
Jason John has worked for the Navajo Nation since 2001 and is currently the Department Director for the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources. The Department works on collecting/providing technical information on surface and groundwater resources, management of federal and state grants for water infrastructure, water infrastructure planning, and project management for planning, design, and construction of water systems in coordination with tribal, federal, state and other entities for the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
Julia Guarino is an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center out of Taos, New Mexico. Julia graduated from University of Colorado Law School in 2013. After her graduation Julia worked with the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment, the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. Julia is passionate about protecting the natural world and Western communities, and spend a lot of time gardening, volunteering, and being outdoors in her free time.
Mary E. Kelly serves as an alternate for Peter Culp. She is a nationally respected environmental lawyer and nonprofit program manager. Building on more than three decades of environmental law, policy, and advocacy experience, she provides environmental analysis and advocacy services to non-profits, foundations and other organizations. Ms. Kelly's areas of expertise include water law and policy, ecosystem restoration law and policy, U.S./Mexico border environmental issues, strategy development, grant writing, strategic fundraising and non-profit management.
Nora McDowell is an enrolled member of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. She serves as the Project Manager for the AhaMakav Cultural Society, a division of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. Her primary role is to oversee the Topock Project site, which is a hazardous waste cleanup of Hexavalent Chromium VI along the Colorado River, 13 miles east of Needles, CA, this particular site is within ancestral homelands of the AhaMakav, “People of the River,” and is considered a Sacred site of the Mojave people. Nora was the former Chairperson of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe for over 25+ years, was instrumental in the formation of the 10 Tribes Partnership, Aha Macav Power Services, Fort Mojave Telecommunications Inc., Fort Mojave Tribal Utility Authority, and served as the Chairperson of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Member of Council of Energy Resource Tribes, Native American Rights Fund, National Tribal Telecom Association and a Founding Member of WEWIN, Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations. Her passion is the protection of all natural resources, cultural, religious, spiritual and environmental sites along the Colorado River and other areas that deserve advocacy and protection.
(928) 768-4475 (office)
(360) 259-7679 (mobile)
Matthew McKinney is the co-director of Water & Tribes in the Colorado River Basin. He is the Director of the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy at the University of Montana, and has over 30 years of experience in facilitation, mediation, collaborative problem-solving, and policy research and analysis. He has worked on land, water, and natural resources issues in the American West, as well as throughout North America and around the world. In addition to working on specific cases, he has helped design and manage a number of collaborative networks, partnerships, and organizations. Mr. McKinney co-chairs a university-wide graduate program on Natural Resource Conflict Resolution and is a Senior Partner, Consensus Building Institute. When he is not working on natural resource and environmental issues, he can be found hiking, biking, fly-fishing, floating, skiing, golfing, and otherwise enjoying Montana and the West.
Sharon B. Megdal is Director of the Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) at the University of Arizona, where she also serves as Professor and Specialist, Department of Environmental Science, C.W. & Modene Neely Endowed Professor, and Distinguished Outreach Professor. Her work focuses on water policy and management, on which she writes and frequently speaks. The geographic scope of Dr. Megdal’s applied research and engagement efforts ranges from local to international. Her long-term research focus includes comparative evaluation of water management, policy, and governance in water-scarce regions, groundwater recharge, and transboundary aquifer assessment. Sharon is committed to diversifying voices in water resources through the WRRC’s Indigenous Water Dialogues effort and related research. Dr. Megdal teaches the multi-disciplinary graduate course “Water Policy in Arizona and Semi-arid Regions”. She was named the 2020 recipient of the Warren A. Hall Medal for lifetime achievement in water resources research and education by the Universities Council on Water Resources.
Sharon Megdal’s current service activities include serving as Board President, International Arid Lands Consortium and Board Member, American Water Resources Association. From 2009 through 2020, she was a member of the elected Board of Directors for Central Arizona Project, serving as Board Secretary from 2016 through 2020. She has also served as board member and President for the Universities Council on Water Resources and the National Institutes of Water Resources, and she has served on numerous Arizona boards and commissions. Sharon holds a Ph.D. degree in Economics from Princeton University.
Colby Pellegrino is the Director of the Water Resources Department for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), the agency responsible for the treatment, delivery and management of Southern Nevada’s water resources. The SNWA meets the annual water demands of 2 million residents and 40 million visitors. Pellegrino joined the SNWA in 2003 and was an instrumental part of the Water Resources division where she supported Colorado River modeling efforts to anticipate changes caused by climate change, reduced flows and other inputs. In her current capacity, Pellegrino is responsible for the management of the SNWA’s water resource portfolio, which includes protecting Nevada’s interests and rights to Colorado River water through interstate negotiations, developing regional water conservation programs, managing groundwater resources, and water resource planning. Pellegrino is a native of Las Vegas, earning her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her Masters of Business Administration from Mississippi State University. An avid cook, hiker and outdoors enthusiast, she and her husband, Mark, have two children.
Jason Robison is an Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming College of Law. He teaches courses in water law and American Indian law and serves on President Laurie Nichols’ Advisory Committee on Native American Affairs. Professor Robison’s research focuses on water, public lands, and Native Americans in western North America. He co-authors a water law treatise and has published several articles on transboundary water law and policy, particularly in the Colorado River Basin. Professor Robison has held water-related legal and policy positions with the Harvard Water Security Initiative, Colorado River Governance Initiative at the University of Colorado, Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, Oregon Supreme Court, and Oregon Department of Justice. He has earned an S.J.D. and LL.M. at Harvard Law School, a J.D. at the University of Oregon School of Law, and a B.S. in Environmental Studies at the University of Utah.
Darryl Vigil is the co-director of Water & Tribes in the Colorado River Basin. He is Jicarilla Apache, Jemez Pueblo, Zia Pueblo, and currently serves as the Water Administrator, Jicarilla Apache Nation; Chair, Water is Life a Tribal Partnership; official spokesperson (and past chair) for the Colorado River Ten Tribes Partnership; member of the Coordination Committee of the Next Steps of the Colorado River Basin Supply Demand Study; member of the Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project Planning, Construction and Operation Committees; member of the Coordination Committee of the San Juan River Recovery and Restoration Project; past Secretary/Treasurer and Board of Trustees of the Colorado River Water Users Association; past Chair, Board of the Jicarilla Apache Utility Authority; past President/CEO, Apache Nugget Corporation the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s Gaming Enterprise.
Garrit Voggesser is the Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Partnerships Program. Garrit has worked with NWF for fourteen years, engaging tribes nation-wide on a wide array of wildlife and habitat conservation issues, particularly western water issues, bison conservation, protecting tribal resources from energy extraction, ensuring equity for tribes in federal natural resource legislation and appropriations, and providing environmental education and outdoor opportunities for tribal youth. Since 2004, he has partnered with tribes to protect the ecological and cultural values of the Colorado River. Prior to his current tenure, Garrit served as NWF’s bison coordinator and as a tribal conservation consultant. Garrit received a Ph.D. in American Indian and environmental history from the University of Oklahoma in 2004.
Jay Weiner currently serves as water counsel for the Quechan Indian Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. He is of-counsel to the majority Indian-owned firm Rosette, LLP where he represents tribes on water and other natural resources matters, and also works as an assistant attorney general in the Montana Attorney General’s Office, primarily handling water court litigation in Montana’s ongoing general stream adjudication and Endangered Species Act cases. Jay has extensive experience negotiating Indian water rights settlements and navigating them through federal, tribal and state approval processes, and works on an array of other water and environmental law issues. He lives in Helena, Montana, with his wife and son.
John Weisheit was raised in California and Arizona by parents who love the Colorado River and its tributaries. John has been a professional river guide since 1980. He lives in Moab, Utah with his wife Susette DeCoster. From 1993 to 2005 John was the editor of The Confluence: The Journal of Colorado Plateau River Guides. In 1996, John and Susette completed a 110-day river trip that started below Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River and ended at Pearce’s Ferry at Lake Mead. John co-founded Living Rivers in 2000 and Colorado Riverkeepers in 2002. The mission of the organizations is to promote river restoration through mobilization. By articulating conservation and alternative management strategies to the public, the organizations seek to revive the natural habitat and spirit of rivers by undoing the extensive damage done by dams, diversions, and pollution on the Colorado Plateau. John co-wrote Cataract Canyon: A Human and Environmental History of the Rivers (University of Utah 2004). The authors used repeat photography to enhance a narrative about the physical and biological changes that have occurred in the Canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau since the 1871 expedition of John Wesley Powell.
Mike Wight is the Restoration and Trails Program Officer with the Catena Foundation. Mike previously served as the Director of Conservation Legacy’s Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) Ancestral Lands Program from 2016-2019 where he worked with 11 native staff to develop and support 5 “in-community” offices in Zuni, Acoma, Navajo, Hopi, and Albuquerque. The Ancestral Lands program engages more than 300 native youth and young adults each year in restoration, recreation, preservation, and conservation projects with a crew and intern based workforce and economic development model. Before working with Ancestral Lands, Mike was in the position of SCC’s River Restoration Director for 6 years where he helped to develop and sustain collaborative, watershed-length, habitat restoration partnerships in the Colorado River Basin, with a focus on the Dolores, Escalante, Verde and Gila rivers. Both positions required collaboration with federal agencies, tribes, foundations and grantors. Mikes previous work experience included working as a river instructor with Outward Bound, Academic Director of an alternative High School, and building trails/firefighting with USFS in Arizona. Beyond program development across the southwest, Mikes has served on the Board of River Management Society, River Restoration Adventures for Tomorrow, Nederland Parks and Recreation Open Space. Between work, Mike can (not) be found in the mountains or on the rivers of the Southwest with his wife Julie and daughter Summer.