Board of Directors

Estee Rivera Murdock

President
Estes Park, CO

Estee Rivera Murdock, is the executive director at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, which produces educational publications, offers seminars, supports research, and provides philanthropic support to Rocky Mountain National Park and other public lands partners in Colorado and Wyoming. Born and raised in southern Arizona, Estee previously worked for the National Park Service for nearly a decade. She has an MA in geography with a focus on Hispanic community engagement and public lands and geographic information science. She also holds a B.A. in anthropology and Spanish literature, all from the University of Arizona. She currently resides with her husband and daughter in Estes Park, CO.

John D. Belkin

Vice President
Basalt, Colorado

John Belkin has been a practicing attorney in Colorado and Wyoming since 1998, working in the areas of real estate development, land use and planning, land conservation, environmental law, mining and government relations. John is with the law firm Garfield & Hecht, P.C. in Aspen. He has served as a federal law clerk, a staffer to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as an aide to the United States Trade Representative. Originally from New Britain, Connecticut, John is a graduate of Hobart College and Quinnipiac University School of Law. John’s interests include skiing, ice climbing and mountain biking, and spending time with his two sons Bear and Bruin and German Shepherd Emily.

Seth Cothrun

Treasurer
Tucson, Arizona

Seth Cothrun is Director of Global Thematic Marketing at Franklin at Franklin Templeton Investment Institute. As a senior executive at Sonoran Institute, Seth played a leadership role in refocusing the organization’s mission while rebuilding brand, marketing and development strategies in the U.S. and México. Previously, he managed business development and marketing initiatives throughout the Americas in the institutional asset management space, working with some of the largest public and private funds in the world. The early part of his career was spent as a program manager in the U.S. Forest Service throughout the West, in addition to serving nationally on Type 1 Incident Management and Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation teams tasked with managing high complexity wildland fire incidents and post-fire effects. He is a native of the Sonoran Desert and loves the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming where his wife is from.

Laura Helmuth

Secretary
Rockville, Maryland

Laura Helmuth is the editor-in-chief of Scientific American and a past president of the National Association of Science Writers. She has been the health, science & environment editor for The Washington Post, digital news director for National Geographic, science and health editor for Slate, science editor for Smithsonian, and a reporter and editor for Science magazine's news department. She  serves on the National Academy of Science, Engineering & Medicine's standing committee on the science of science communication and the advisory board of Spectrum, an autism news magazine. She has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley. A hiker and birdwatcher, she comes West whenever she can.

Photo by Austin Diamond

Wendy Fisher

Salt Lake City, Utah

In 1990, Wendy joined with the original Board of Directors in founding what would become Utah Open Lands. Utah Open Lands and Wendy have since been recognized as a leader in conservation efforts in Utah with over 60,000 acres preserved to date. She has served on various legislative task forces looking at agricultural, trail and open space preservation, most recently chairing a subcommittee of the Executive Water Task Force. Wendy gave the opening remarks at the 2014 Columbia Law School, State Attorney’s General and National Association of State Charities Conservation Easement Conference. Wendy and her work at Utah Open Lands have been awarded many distinguished honors, including Park City Rotary's 2016 Professional Citizen of the Year and Utah Botanical Center’s Environmental Stewardship Award among others. Most recently, Wendy’s story of the protection of Toll Canyon, Managing, Accommodating and Sustaining the Wild was published as part of the Reimagining a Place for the Wild collection of essays, first presented at the Reimagine Western Landscapes symposium in Montana’s Centennial Valley.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker

San Clemente, California

Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent educator in American Indian environmental policy and other issues. She teaches courses on environmentalism and American Indians, traditional ecological knowledge, religion and philosophy, Native women’s activism, American Indians and sports, and decolonization. She also works within the field of critical sports studies, examining the intersections of indigeneity and the sport of surfing. She is also an award-winning journalist and the author of two books, including As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock.

Samaria Jaffe

San Rafael, California

Samaria Jaffe is the Conservation Fund's Regional Director of Fundraising for the Pacific Coast, Alaska and Hawaii. She has served as the executive director at the Point Reyes National Seashore Association. Before joining PRNSA, she was at The Trust for Public Land, developing conservation and fundraising programs for communities across northern California, primarily in the Sierra Nevada. She played a lead role in some of the Sierra Nevada’s most visible open space campaigns in recent years, Martis Valley and Royal Gorge at Donner Summit. She is inspired by community-driven conservation and stewardship. Samaria is a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, and spent much of her youth exploring the trails and beaches of Point Reyes.

Fátima Luna

Tucson, Arizona

Fátima Luna serves as the Climate and Sustainability Policy Advisor for City of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, leading and managing the development and implementation of the city’s climate action plan. Luna’s experience includes serving as the environmental and natural resource economist for the Sonoran Institute in the Water and Ecosystem Restoration (formerly known as the Colorado River Delta Program). Most recently, she led an initiative to establish a small-scale conservation fund that collaborates with water users to create a network of community-led or community-owned small-scale restoration projects in the Colorado River Delta. Fátima is a mother of three and an advocate for racial and environmental justice. In her free time, she enjoys weightlifting, gardening and hiking.

Andrea Otáñez

Seattle, Washington

Andrea Otáñez is an educator and journalist who has written, edited and developed online and print packages in a variety of journalistic beats, including environment, science, politics, medicine, communities, religion and consumer affairs. She is currently an associate teaching professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, Seattle, where she has developed courses in race, gender and equity, focusing specifically on critiquing the rituals of journalistic objectivity and on the representation of Latinx people in media. Otáñez has worked as a reporter, copy editor, team editor and columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune and The Seattle Times. She also worked as an acquisitions editor and editor-at-large for the University of New Mexico Press. At root, she’s a high-desert devotee. 

Marla Painter

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Born and raised in California, Marla now resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her education focused on interdisciplinary environmental studies. She has worked in the Intermountain West since the mid 1970s, including a stint at Nevada’s Foresta Institute for Ocean and Mountain. She’s also done community organizing around issues including nuclear waste disposal and the impact of military training activities, and has worked to build an environmental movement inclusive of all the West’s cultures. Marla has also worked as staff, volunteer and fundraiser for political candidates committed to the environment and human rights.

Bryan Pollard

Farmington, Arkansas

Bryan is an Oklahoma native and citizen of the Cherokee Nation who manages global journalism projects for the Associated Press. He began his journalism career in Portland, Oregon, where he was the founding managing editor of Street Roots, a nonprofit newspaper covering issues of concern to the city’s homeless and low-income citizens. He has served as executive editor of Indian Country’s first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, and president and associate director of the Native American Journalists Association. His work has focused on empowering Indigenous voices in journalism, and examining and explaining the intersection of journalistic freedom and Indigenous rights.

Raynelle Rino

Oakland, California

A longtime environmental education professional, Raynelle began her career in the sciences as an ecology field researcher then moved onto environmental education and social justice at the grassroots organizational level. Her love for nature and youth development brought her to teach in unique settings like alternative high schools, environmental justice neighborhoods, parks, and juvenile justice facilities. In 2016 Raynelle started Rino Consulting Solutions, a nature-based consulting firm that provides coaching services for professionals and build bridges between mainstream environmentalism and people of color. Its mission is “to support and inspire the leaders of today to live in the confidence of their identities as they move through a world in the midst of social, racial, and environmental transformation.” Raynelle is a graduate of Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Biology, a Rising Leaders and 2042 Today fellow, and lives in Oakland with her husband and daughter.

Rich Stolz

near Seattle, Washington

Rich Stolz has been a longtime community organizer with a deep background in immigration, environmental justice and economic justice organizing and advocacy at the national, state and local level. He recently served as the executive director of OneAmerica, a statewide racial justice community organizing group in Washington state. He lives near Seattle, Washington, where he continues to engage in advocacy, organizing and strategy development with community-based organizations.

Andy Wiessner

Snowmass, Colorado

Andy Wiessner, has been on the board of High Country News since 1986, and is the organization’s longest-serving board member. Andy is a public land consultant with Western Land Group, which specializes in federal land exchanges and land use issues. He served a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969-70, and worked as staff assistant and counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittees on Mines and Mining (1975-1976) and the Subcommittee on Public Lands in Washington, D.C. (1977-1985). Andy serves on the board of the Wilderness Workshop based in Carbondale, CO, and the Wilderness Land Trust, a nonprofit specializing in the acquisition of wilderness inholdings. Other past board service has included organizations such as: Eagle Valley Land Trust, American Wilderness Alliance, Clear Creek Land Conservancy and Eagle County Citizens for Open Space.

Luis Torres

Emeritus
Santa Cruz, New Mexico

Luis Torres, board member emeritus, has had a 50-year career doing social change/community organizing work. A native of northern New Mexico, Luis launched his career in 1970 when he took his first in a series of job with a Community Action Agency, a War on Poverty Program. In 1974, he opened the first ever American Friends Service Committee in New Mexico. He directed that program for 10 years. In 1984, he went to work for the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) as their northern New Mexico director. In 1992 he left SRIC and since then has continued his life-long involvement in social change work  mostly as a volunteer and occasionally being paid for consulting.

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