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Staff

Ron Hassel
Ron Hassel
Executive Director Southwest Conservation Corps

Ron has over 14 years of experience leading conservation corps, having joined SCC in April 2011. Previously to his work with SCC, Ron worked with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), holding a variety of leadership positions within the conservation corps program. Throughout these positions he has developed skills and interests in many different areas, including organizational leadership, risk management, fire prevention, fuels management, restoration, and trail design and construction. Prior to working with the corps, Ron worked as a project engineer for a large consulting firm and was responsible for the design and construction management of highway bridge projects. When not working with the corps, Ron can be found biking the roads and trails of SW Colorado, skiing, playing the guitar, and spending time with his family. Ron is passionate about service, civic engagement, preservation of wilderness, and sustainable living in this changing world. Contact: ron@conservationlegacy.org

Mike Wight
Mike Wight
River Restoration Director

Mike spent five seasons with the Forest Service in Arizona while working towards his B.S. in Ecology and Natural History at Prescott College. His final studies included conducting Wild and Scenic river research in the Grand Canyon. Mike has directed small corps programs, served as Project Coordinator for RMYC (CO) and spent five years as Academic Director for an alternative high school focused on service learning and outdoor experience. Throughout this time he became more passionate about the Southwest’s amazing rivers and was also a river instructor with Outward Bound. Joining SCC as River Restoration Director was a culmination of Mike’s varied experiences. Four-years after beginning the position, he finds great value in engaging young adults in riparian restoration, while supporting watershed length, collaborative habitat restoration initiatives on the Dolores, Verde, Escalante and Gila rivers with five conservation corps programs and a wide host of partners. Contact: mike@conservationlegacy.org

Lauren vanVliet
Lauren van Vliet
Intern Coordinator

Lauren got her start in conservation working for the Alternative Spring Break Program at the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement planting cyprus trees, chasing away alligators and taking a machete to invasive species. A couple government degrees later she tried her hand at environmental lobbying work at the Sierra Club in DC.It wasn't long before wilderness called her back again. Lauren worked with SCC for two terms on their chainsaw crew, loved everything about the SCC community, and well, stuck around.   Lauren is excited to take on the new Intern Coordinator position in 2016. Email: lauren@conservationlegacy.org

Durango/Four Corners Office

Kevin Heiner-Regional Director
Kevin Heiner
Regional Director

With over 7 years of Corps specific nonprofit management and leadership experience, Kevin Heiner serves as the Regional Director of the Four Corners region for SCC. Kevin holds 2 undergraduate degrees, graduating from Western State College of Colorado Magna Cum Laude in Business Administration and Recreation Leadership and Resort Management. When not working Kevin can be found spending time with his family and friends, often outdoors, sneaking away to adventure and tour through the iconic and wild southwestern USA and beyond. Kevin has a passion for adventure and the friendships and community forged through perseverance to common goals and discovery, both of self and surroundings. Kevin loves culture, history, good food, music and being free to be the inner goofball that his serious position must sometimes betray. Kevin believes deeply in active mentorship, stewardship of the natural world, active civic and community engagement and peer accountability. Contact: kevin@conservationlegacy.org

Katy Olson- Office Manager
Katy Olson
Office Manager

Katy joined SCC for the summer in 2010 and came back full time in May 2011. A southern belle, Katy received her BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. After moving around for 13 years, Katy’s family was finally able to settle back in Durango to raise three children. Outside work, Katy loves mountain biking, mushrooming, and walks through the woods. Side note: Katy has been known to play favorites to those who provide her with chocolate! Contact: katy@conservationlegacy.org

 

 

Jordan Burningham, Program Director
Jordan Burningham
Program Director

Jordan started with SCC early in 2015. in 2012 he got his first exposure to the conservation movement as a Crew Leader for the Utah Conservation Corps, where he learned much about himself.  Deciding to finish his B.S. at Utah State University, he began working full-time as a GIS technician (read: sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen in a basement office) where after a few months he finally had a moment where long days, dirty hands, and going to bed tired were calling; so, he returned to UCC as a Field Boss in 2014, and never looked back. Outside of the Corps world, Jordan has worked in Arboriculture, as a Research Technician throughout the west, as a backcountry yurt guide in the Bear River Range of Utah, and as a Student Trips and Program Climbing Coordinator for the Outdoor Program at USU. His ultimate goal in life is to expose people to the wonders of our natural world through stewardship and service. When not at work, he takes pleasure in pursuing the quiet places; usually by means of skiing, climbing or fly fishing. jordan@conservationlegacy.org

Teresa DiTore-Program Coordinator
Teresa DiTore
Program Coordinator

Teresa joined the SCC team in 2016 as a Program Coordinator. Living in New Jersey for the first 20 years of her life had Teresa yearning for some bigger, vaster landscapes than the streams and hills she grew up in. She moved to Vermont to study environmental science, where her class and play time allowed Teresa to truly feel the power of the wilderness, and inspired her to work outside in the conservation field. After leading a crew with the Student Conservation Association, Teresa finally ventured west of the Continental Divide for the first time to work for the Utah Conservation Corps for the past two years. Besides corps work, she has worked in both environmental education and GIS positions. Teresa comes to Durango and SCC excited to share her love of saws and rocks, and is looking forward to exploring the beautiful Southwest! Email Teresa: tditore (at) conservationlegacy.org.

Ryan Brink, Program Coordinator
Ryan Brink
Program Coordinator

Ryan has spent a number of years in conservation, academia, and outdoor leadership and he joins SCC as the Four Corners Program Coordinator. After graduating from college in the North Country of New York, he joined the SCC and led a number of crews, including technical trails, sustainable forestry, and a Crew Leader Development crew. In 2012, he left to pursue his Masters degree in geology from the University of Vermont. Following the completion of his degree, he built upon the skills he learned at SCC and started working for and eventually become a partner in a small professional trail crew in Northern Vermont. Though he loved building trails in the Northeast, his passion for teaching and his love for the desert Southwest drew him back to Colorado and SCC. In 2016 he became our Field Supervisor and is now looking forward to what he can accomplish as a Program Coordinator. rbrink@conservationlegacy.org

Richard Brown- Field and Logistics Coordinator
Richard Brown
Field and Logistics Coordinator

Hailing originally from the mother country, Richard has made a life for himself in Colorado’s desert southwest. Starting his passion for the corps world straight out of high school, by serving with Maine Conservation corps, since then Richard has become a ten year veteran of the corps movement. When on the job, he can be found anywhere from the bottom of a pile of saw parts to the steep side slopes of the San Juan mountains, safely guiding boulders by steel cable to their resting place in the structures that are part of our legacy. Richard has climbed his way through SCC since 2006, when he started as a crew leader in training. Now he manages equipment, tools, food, trainings and a family beyond the one he has at SCC. richard@conservationlegacy.org

Salida/Los Valles Office

Nicole Blaser, Regional Director
Nicole Blaser
Regional Director

Nicole joined SCC May 2016. Her outdoor career began at 18-years old, trail building with the Student Conservation Association in Milton, FL. She spent the rest of her young adult years traveling the world mentoring youth on extended wilderness expeditions, instructing snowboarding, mountaineering, leadership and a myriad of other youth development and character-building skills. Overall, she has enjoyed 20 years serving in a variety of rolls at NOLS, the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, and most recently at Big City Mountaineers as MN Regional Director. Nicole has degrees in Biochemistry, Biological Conservation, and Environmental Studies. Experiencing personally the life-changing impact of outdoor education and stewardship programs, Nicole brings a passion and dedication to providing these transformational opportunities to others. She is grateful to be offering her skill sets to support the SCC mission. In her free time, Nicole might be precariously sitting in one of those inverted yoga poses pondering where is the next outdoor adventure with her amazing dog Leo. Email Nicole at: nicole@conservationlegacy.org.

Anna Hendricks, Program Director
Anna Hendricks
Program Director

Anna rejoined the SCC team as the Los Valles Region Program Director in December 2016 after a three year conservation corps hiatus in which she managed the Mountains to Sounds Greenway Trust volunteer program in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She is excited to reconnect with her conservation corps roots and has served in many roles over the years as a Corps Member, Project Leader, Program Coordinator, and more recently as Recruitment and Admissions Coordinator for the SCC Four Corners region. Born and mostly-raised in Colorado, she is excited to be a part of conservation efforts much closer to home and her heart. She has found the SCC to be an incredible organization in which to cultivate her wonder for the natural world while connecting with and building community.  When given the chance, she can be found hiking, biking, climbing, dancing, and generally meandering about the amazing Colorado landscape. Contact: ahendricks@conservationlegacy.org

Ancestral Lands Office

Chas Robles-Program Director
Chas Robles
Program Director

has began with the SCC in April 2012 as a Field Supervisor and co-led a Disaster Relief Crew in New York in November 2012, after Hurricane Sandy. In January 2013, he began as Ancestral Lands Program Coordinator, working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Acoma Pueblo to support existing programs and bring new conservation opportunities to Tribal Lands in the Southwest. Chas became Four Corners Program Director in January 2014 and the AL Program Director in 2015. Before joining the SCC, Chas spent 3 ½ years with the Student Conservation Association’s Desert Restoration Corps, working to restore and protect desert ecosystems in the Mojave Desert. He worked in Mount Rainer National Park with the SCA and led high school crews throughout Colorado with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. When not working, Chas can be found climbing in the mountains or desert, canyoneering in Red Rock country, or falling off his bike on beginner mountain bike trails.

Aaron Lowden, Ancestral Lands Program Coordinator (Acoma Pueblo)
Aaron Lowden
Ancestral Lands Program Coordinator (Acoma Pueblo)

Aaron joined SCC in May 2012 as a Crew Leader under Ancestral Lands heading a youth hiking program called the Acoma Hiking Club for it’s second year. Prior to becoming an SCC Staff member he worked for the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and National Park Service- Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance (NPS-RTCA) Program coordinating a trail feasibility study with for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. While under SCA/ NPS-RTCA Aaron worked the Zuni Mountain Trails Partnership to help facilitate a trail project with the US Forest Service as well as initiate, coordinate, and lead the first pilot groups of the Acoma Hiking Club. He also worked for the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak’u Museum as Tourism and Hospitality Coordinator for two years. Aaron was born and raised in the historic and culturally rich Pueblo of Acoma and studies at New Mexico State University. He enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, mountain biking, and participating in his Acoma cultural traditions. Contact: aaron@conservationlegacy.org.

Chako, Ancestral Lands Program Coordinator (Navajo Nation)
Chako
Ancestral Lands Program Coordinator (Navajo Nation)

Anthony Ciocco, known to most as ‘Chako,’ joined SCC Ancestral Lands in 2012 leading ecological restoration crews on the Navajo rez. Chako is of the Mvskoke Nation, Tokvpvcce tribe, Hotvlkvlke clan, and calls Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico home. After graduating from CU Boulder he worked in his local Mvskoke (Creek and Seminole) communities doing language revitalization and Indigenous food sovereignty work. A lifelong outdoorsmen he believes ecological restoration and the corps lifestyle is an ideal space to empower Indigenous young people. Through his corps experience he has found a rare opportunity for Native young adults to forge life-long friendships, share deep personal transformative experiences, and work for the betterment of their communities both ecologically and culturally. His professional career has focused on these important intersections of Indigenous culture, wilderness, language, agriculture, and physical well-being. In 2014 Chako received the Champion of Change Award from the Whitehouse for his work with Southwest Conservation Corps Ancestral Lands program. While his work in Ancestral Lands is truly a labor of love, outside of the office he spends his time with his family, in his traditional community, or hunting, fishing, rock climbing and being in the wilderness. Contact chako@conservationlegacy.org

Ryan Aguilar
Ryan Aguilar
Ancestral Lands Field Coordinator (Zuni)

Ryan Aguilar comes from Zuni and Santo Domingo Pueblos of New Mexico. In 2016, he was hired as the Ancestral Lands Program (AL) Field Coordinator for Zuni Pueblo. Ryan started out with SCC in May 2015 as a summer intern based out of El Morro National Monument, NM. This was his first ever corps experience of any kind and quickly realized the magnitude of positive impact that SCC gives to the communities they serve. With the direct mentorship of SCC and El Morro’s Heritage Preservation Division, Ryan was able to convince Zuni’s Tribal Administration to start an AL program for its people. As an active member of the Zuni traditional lifestyle, he feels that it is personal responsibility to learn in every way, in order to pass that knowledge down. Prior to joining SCC, he worked as an archeology laborer. He was raised into a traditional home, and gives credit to all his grandparents for teaching him his cultural identity. An outdoorsman by heart, in his spare time he loves hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching, or just being outside. Truly believes he found his calling in SCC!! Email Ryan: raguilar (at) conservationlegacy.org.

Lance Hubbard

Photo Coming Soon!

I am Navajo born for M?'ii deeshgiizhinii clan and chii'nii clan. I'm from Ganado AZ. The only thing I got is my certificate for carpentry and welding. I started out as a crew member in 2006 at Hubbell's Trading Post in Ganado AZ. I tend to the fields and the wash that runs by Hubbell's Trading Post. I joined SCC every summer since that year but only one year I volunteered for the summer because I didn't get selected to be on the Hubbell crew. But since I found out and started with SCC, every summer I love it. My future career was supposed to be welding or carpentry. But once I went to school for those trades and worked with those trades, I got bored fast. I wanted to work with SCC all the time. When I hold the chainsaw, I could operate it all year and never get bored. And same thing for trail and fence work. In 2012 that's when I met Chako. We work at Hubbell's doing stream restoration and trail work. I learned a lot from Chako. Whatever he taught me in that crew, I passed it on.

I learned a lot working with SCC. When I first started working with SCC, I just needed money for school supplies. But when I got selected to work with SCC, it changed me a lot, like how I think about the land now. I want to help the land and the community. I never knew I would be working behind a desk but I still love what I do. I'm still helping the land and community. so I started working as a crew member, than later down the road I was a crew leader. Then I became staff, which was a lot of work to get where I'm at now. so I started from the bottom and worked really hard to the top, but I ain't to the top yet... Email Lance: lance (at) conservationlegacy.org.

Natalie Pyrooz- GIS Coordinator
Natalie Pyrooz
GIS Coordinator

After 6 years of traveling extensively both for fun and for seasonal biologist positions, Natalie joined the Ancestral Lands Program in February 2015. She brings a great deal of technical experience in spatial and biological data collection and analysis to SCC. Believing strongly in the power of experiential learning, Natalie deeply appreciates the value of the Corps’ programs and the influence they can have as youth are discovering their life paths. Passionate about experiencing beautiful places and diverse cultures, she will never stop exploring, and is excited to share her love of the wilderness with others. When not working, she enjoys photography, botanical illustration, dancing, and a variety of outdoor pursuits such as backpacking, biking, and skiing. natalie@conservationlegacy.org