The Western Leaders Network consists of local officials from tribes, counties, cities and towns, water districts, rural electric cooperatives, and other entities who support policies that advance conservation in the realm of water, energy, public lands, climate change and community resilience.


Western Leaders Network staff

Gwen Lachelt is a La Plata County Commissioner in the state of Colorado. In 2012, running on a pro-conservation platform, she narrowly defeated a six-year incumbent. In 2016, running on her solid conservation record, Lachelt defeated her challenger in an anti-environment election year. Gwen was born in New Mexico and raised in Alaska and Colorado. Since graduating from Fort Lewis College in 1985, she’s helped create BearSmart, Durango Community Access Television, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. She is the founder and past director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project.

Jessica Pace worked as a news journalist in Colorado and her native Tennessee prior to joining Western Leaders Network. As a reporter in Nashville, she covered state and county government and public education. She moved to Durango two weeks after the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill to work for The Durango Herald, where she covered topics including county government, real estate, water policy and infrastructure, the extractive resource industry and tribal issues. She is interested in all things that affect and influence land, water, people and politics in the West.


Western Leaders Network board

Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk was born and raised in southwestern Colorado. A member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, she advocates for the land, air, water and animals. She is a former member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council and presently serves as Bears Ears InterTribal Coalition Co-Chairwoman.  She has spent a decade  working in the information technology field for Chief Dull Knife College, Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. At an early age, she traveled throughout the country presenting, speaking and sharing the Ute culture through song and dance.

Elise Jones is a two-term Boulder County Commissioner, first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. She spent 13 years as executive director of Colorado Environmental Coalition in Denver, and prior to that worked as a Senior Legislative Assistant for Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR), directed the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund in Boulder, and was a project coordinator for National Wildlife Federation.

Don Schreiber along with his wife, Jane, run the Devil's Spring Ranch in northwest New Mexico's Rio Arriba County. In 2008, they pioneered the Open Space Pilot Project with BLM, industry and Holistic Management International to cut the numbers of new oil and gas well locations on and around the ranch by 90%, and to apply advanced construction and rehabilitation practices to all of the 122 oil and gas wells existing within the project area. 

Lauren Pagel is the Policy Director at Earthworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development. Lauren joined Earthworks, then Mineral Policy Center, in August 2002, after previously assisting with their 2001 campaign to stop the Bush administration from rolling back important rules to protect public lands from mining. Before joining Earthworks, Lauren helped the Union of Concerned Scientists organize their campaign to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock. Before her time at UCS, Lauren was a part of the legislative team at Friends of the Earth, working on a variety of issues ranging from the Farm Bill to trade issues. Prior to Friends of the Earth, she worked on the field team at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. During her time at Earthworks, Lauren has testified in front of Congressional committees, represented Earthworks on the steering committee for the Western Mining Action Network and been quoted in publications such as the New York Times and Time Magazine. Lauren graduated from Vassar College in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.