“Our nation’s continued prosperity hinges on our ability to solve environmental problems and sustain the natural resources on which we all depend." – Sen. John McCain

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.



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.

Ann Watson was most recently employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Zuni Agency as the Natural Resource Manager where she oversaw the operation of natural resources, environmental management systems and agriculture programs. Her ecological expertise is in fishery biology and riparian and watershed management. Prior to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she worked for the Santo Domingo Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Tucson, Arizona, and the Bureau of Land Management in Rawlins, Wyoming. She has worked on a variety of rangeland and wildlife issues on public lands. Ann helped initiate the administration of the Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project and worked with the Middle Rio Grande Conservation Group to help restore native Rio Grande Silvery Minnow habitat. She has traveled extensively around the southern hemisphere and learned a great deal about global natural resource management issues. Ann is an avid cyclist, cross-country skier and reader. 



Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk was born and raised in southwest Colorado and is an enrolled member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Towaoc, Colorado. She earned degrees at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, Montana, and the American Intercontinental University in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. She formerly worked for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and in October 2013 was elected to serve as a tribal leader for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. She served on various committees and boards including the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs and was co-chair of the Bears Ears Intertribal Coalition. From an early age, Lopez-Whiteskunk has traveled throughout the country advocating for the land, water, air and animals, and educated others on Ute culture through song, dance and speeches. She works at the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado, as the Education Coordinator .

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.