THE MRGCD CONSERVATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE WAS ESTABLISHED TO GUIDE AND SUPPORT THE MRGCD’S CONSERVATION PROGRAM. IT IS MADE UP OF MRGCD BOARD MEMBERS, MRGCD STAFF, AND VARIOUS MRGCD CONSTITUENTS AND OTHER, WHO REPRESENT A BROAD CROSS SECTION OF THOSE INTERESTED IN THE SUCCESS AND HEALTH OF THE MRG VALLEY. ALL MEMBERS HAVE SPECIALTIES, EXPERIENCE, OR QUALIFICATIONS THAT ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE PROGRAM.
Conservation Advisory Committee Members
Stephanie Russo Baca
MRGCD Director Stephanie Russo Baca comes from a family with a long and proud tradition of living close to the land. She and her husband own a few acres of land in Los Chavez, where they live, raise livestock, and have a permanent pasture. Their kids are involved in 4-H and FFA and show the livestock they raise. During the growing season they help on their family’s farm in Bosque, NM. Ms. Russo Baca is currently the staff attorney and Ombudsman Program Director at the Utton Transboundary Resources Center located at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As the Ombudsman Program Director, she guides the activities of the Joe M. Stell Ombudsman Program, which is a statewide program that provides impartial adjudication information and procedural guidance to unrepresented water right claimants in the State of New Mexico. Her undergraduate degree is in Agroecology, and she holds both the Indian Law and Natural Resources and Environmental Law Certificates from UNM School of Law.
Valerie Moore is a former MRGCD Board Member and resides in Lemitar, NM. She has been farming in the Rio Grande Valley for 40 years.
Surjit S. Rajpal
Mr. Rajpal owns and operates a farm in the South Valley. He is the retired Chief Risk Officer of one of North America’s largest banks. Mr. Rajpal relocated from Chicago with his wife (Mary) and son (Taig) to set up Sunset Seva Farm, an organic farm on the site of the defunct Sunset drive-in theatre and adjoining farms. The Rajpal family is deeply committed to sustainable farming practices, protection of the environment and wildlife habitat.
Chris Sichler is a farmer in San Antonio, NM.
Mr. Maesta is an irrigator who currently serves as the President for the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias (SVRAA), Mayordomo for the Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia, Commissioner of the Pajarito Acequia Association, and member of the Concilio of the New Mexico Acequia Association.
Dr. Lamadrid is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Spanish from the University of New Mexico, who taught folklore and cultural history. He now edits the Querencias Series of UNM Press. Querencia is a popular term in the Spanish-speaking world used to express love of place and people. This series promotes a transnational, humanistic, and creative vision of the U.S.‐Mexico borderlands, based on all aspects of expressive culture, both material and intangible. He is an acequia activist and Commissioner from the Alamos de los Gallegos Acequia in Albuquerque’s north valley. He is on a team preparing documentation for a UNESCO nomination of the acequia tradition in New Mexico and Colorado for world intangible cultural heritage designation. He was also a member of the curatorial team of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival “El Río” program on bio-regionalism and traditional culture in the Río Grande/Bravo basin
Mr Hartwell is the Director at Summit Conservation Strategies, a small consulting firm focused on effective conservation program design and implementation. He has over eighteen years of experience in environmental policy and water resources management. He has recent experience with policy development, design, and implementation of collaborative voluntary water conservation programs in New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and and other western states. He has worked on the applied economics of conservation incentive programs focused on both water and energy efficiency.
Prior to founding Summit Conservation, Mr Hartwell was a partner and managing director of Ecosystem Economics and worked for four years managing energy efficiency programs at the Federal Bonneville Power Administration. He brings training in policy analysis, finance, and economics to his work. He has a BA from Williams College, summa cum laude, and an MPA from New York University. Ray lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife and two sons.
Mr Ish has been with the District since Fall of 2019. He is a Water Resources Specialist and serves as Coordinator and primary point of contact for the District’s Conservation Program. A graduate from the University of New Mexico, he received a BLA in Fresh Water Conservation and Management, as well as a minor in Sustainability Studies. Casey most recently completed his master’s degree at the University of New Mexico’s School of Law where he received his MSL in Natural Resource and Water Law.
Ms. Coughlin joined MRGCD in 2021 as the new Agronomist/Agroecologist after an eleven-year career with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Oregon and New Mexico.
As a professional soil scientist, conservation planner, snow surveyor, and civil rights program manager, Ms. Coughlin brings years of experience building partnerships among rural and urban communities across the West to solve complex agricultural and environmental challenges. Born and raised ranching and rodeoing in Nevada, Ms. Coughlin received her Bachelor of Science degree in Crop and Soil Science with a Soil Resource Management focus from Oregon State University.
Ms Najmi has been the District’s Planner for over 20 years responsible for resource management, policy development, planning, project management and community outreach. Yasmeen has been the primary point person for partnerships to manage the District’s riparian (bosque) lands. She is part of the District’s Conservation Program Team and represents the District in the MRG Endangered Species Collaborative Program and many other partnerships. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico in Community and Regional Planning with an emphasis in Natural Resources.
Audubon, New Mexico
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The Utton Center