Demis Foster, Executive Director

A life-long conservationist, Demis has over 25 years experience working on environmental campaigns and programs in the West. Demis grew up on a five generation family ranch in southern Idaho where she developed a lifelong love for nature, and a deep appreciation for the land and water that sustained the families in her rural farming community.

While earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Boise State University, she worked for the Wolf Recovery Foundation—the first organization in Idaho dedicated to the restoration of wolves in the Rockies. She then moved to the Pacific Northwest where she spent 15 years working on conservation campaigns, adventure and field science programs for youth, and overseeing a national environmental film festival. Demis was awarded the National Leadership Award for outstanding leadership in protecting public lands for her work as the Director of the Ancient Forest Roadshow—a year-long advocacy tour traveling across the nation with a 1,000-lb. crosscut section from an old-growth Douglas Fir tree.

She moved to New Mexico in 2010 to work on public lands and wildlife campaigns including the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument designation. She took the helm of Conservation Voters New Mexico as the Executive Director in 2013.

Roberto Aponte, Deputy Director of Operations

Roberto is our Operations Director, responsible for developing the strategy for and overseeing CVNM’s operational, administrative, human resources and financial systems.

He is a visionary manager and leader with more than 25 years in event production and organizational leadership, in both corporate and nonprofit settings. In addition to his expertise in business administration, Roberto has strong skills as a trainer, facilitator and coach. He has a Master of Arts in Business from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and an undergraduate degree in Communications from Emerson College in Boston. His unique master’s degree was focused on bringing environmental sustainability and social responsibility to the practice of business.

Roberto’s career success began when he recognized the importance of being able to integrate the fullness of who a person is into the work that one does. When he applied this principle to his own work life, he experienced less work-related stress, became a more effective and productive worker and lived a more fulfilling life. He then extended this approach toward life-work balance to the teams and projects he managed with increasingly positive results. Roberto’s vision is that all human beings develop a healthy relationship to their work, leading to a sense of community in their workplaces and thus making it easier to do work that supports balance with our natural environment and greater collaboration amongst all social groups.

Molly Taylor, Deputy Director of Programs

Previously, Molly was the Global Warming Program Associate for Environment New Mexico, where she worked to mobilize public and grasstops support for clean and renewable energy in New Mexico. During her time there, she also worked with local groups on urban sprawl issues, and directed a canvassing operation during the 2008 Presidential Election.

Prior to coming to New Mexico in 2008, Molly received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in geography with a concentration in environmental systems and sustainability. During her undergraduate studies, she also collaborated with several professors, organizations and the City of Minneapolis conducting research on the public’s attitudes and perceptions of environmental action to help shape the city’s growing sustainability program. In her spare time, Molly enjoys camping, hiking and skiing.

Ben Shelton, Political & Policy Director

Ben joined CVNM as Political & Legislative Director in October 2015. A lifelong environmentalist, Ben brings lobbying, legal, policy development and electoral campaign experience to the CVNM team.

Prior to joining CVNM, Ben served as legislative counsel for the Judiciary Committee of the District of Columbia Council, and field director for a mayoral campaign. He also helped advance policy for the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ben earned his Bachelor of Arts in Ecological Studies from Seattle University, and after seeing environmental degradation while working as a river guide in Washington state, he dedicated himself to working on legal and policy solutions. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor from Lewis & Clark Law School, specializing in environmental law. He feels at home in the Southwest and enjoys hiking, biking, and whitewater.

Ragan Matteson, Campaigns & Civic Engagement Director

Since New Mexico enticed Ragan with its sunsets and agricultural heritage, she focused her energy on agriculture along the Rio Grande Valley. For ten years she worked with small, local & organic farms – cultivating production, consulting farmers, as management with the Downtown ABQ Growers Market, and coordinating UNM’s on-campus community gardens program. Synthesizing her sustainable agricultural experience with business and renewable energy education, Ragan co-founded a biofuel company, providing foundation for roles with SolarCity/Tesla as a renewable energy consultant and legislative advisor, and also political consulting. She considers healthy environment, civic engagement and policy crucial for socially just, economically viable communities.

Liz Lee, Director of Philanthropy

Liz joined the CVNM team in May 2020, bringing more than 30 years of experience covering all aspects of nonprofit fundraising. Previously she served as Director of Philanthropy at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, and earlier worked in fundraising roles at the School for Advanced Research and Las Cumbres Community Services. She earned her Certified Fundraising Executive credential in 2013.

Liz started her professional life as a journalist, working as a reporter for the Associated Press in New York City, a freelance writer in Paris, and a writer for the Foreign Service Journal in Washington, DC. Before moving to Santa Fe in 1998, Liz worked in her first environmental job in DC, on an international media project that explored the links between environmental degradation and women’s health.

Born in DC, Liz grew up in Turkey, Germany, and Canada as the daughter of a diplomat. When her father left the service, her family moved to a small town in Iowa. Liz received her BA in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from Colgate University. A former rock climber and mountain biker, she moved to Santa Fe (where her parents had relocated) to spend more time outdoors. Along with hiking with her dog Lulu, she has recently taken up stand up paddleboarding. Liz participates in the local Master Gardener program, and serves on the Board of the Santa Fe Watershed Association.

Michael Jensen, Communications Director

Michael joined CVNM in April 2020, after two years doing communications and public education at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center preceded by two-years as an environmental consultant. Prior to that, he worked nearly ten years for Amigos Bravos doing grants and communications and later as Albuquerque Projects Director.

Michael has 15 years of experience with New Mexico water policy, regulatory, and legal issues. He represented Amigos Bravos as a stakeholder in the first Dairy Rule to protect groundwater; co-coordinated Communities for Clean Water; and worked with the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment. In Albuquerque, he conducted a two-year water quality monitoring project in the drains and ditches along the Rio Grande that documented the presence of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting compounds, worked with South Valley community organizations and neighborhoods to hold a series of charettes on the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff, and participated in a year-long national diversity, equity and inclusion project with organizations representing stormwater-impacted environmental justice communities.

While he grew up in California and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Michael has lived in Austin and Washington, DC, as well as in Germany, Norway, and Brazil before settling in Albuquerque and raising a family here.

Greg Peters, Public Lands & Wildlife Advocate

Greg joined CVNM as the Public Lands and Wildlife Advocate in November 2019. His role is to develop, coordinate, and implement policies in the areas of public lands, wildlife, and outdoor recreation, and increase community involvement in public lands decision making.

Greg grew up in western Massachusetts, in the foothills of the Berkshires. While earning a Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Greg worked for the Kestrel Land Trust as a land steward & GIS projects assistant.

After graduating, Greg moved out west and served as the Director of Conservation for Summit Land Conservancy, a Utah-based land trust. Here he worked directly with landowners and stakeholder groups to conserve critical open lands throughout the Wasatch Back. Greg went on to earn a Master of Environmental Law & Policy from Vermont Law School, with a concentration in land use. He joined the school’s land use institute as a research associate where he tracked and advocated for land use legislation and court decisions.

Greg then served as the Executive Director for Hawaii-based environmental nonprofit, Malama Maha`ulepu, working to preserve and protect the ancient Maha`ulepu watershed on Kauai’s south shore. Most recently Greg worked in the outdoor sports industry in Scottsdale, Arizona, managing one of the largest action sports retailers in the southwest.

In his spare time Greg can be found skiing, climbing, and camping in the mountains of New Mexico.

Samantha Kao, Climate & Energy Advocate

Sammi joined CVNM as the Climate and Energy Advocate in January 2021. As a lifelong environmentalist, Sammi is eager to bring her commitment to climate change mitigation to CVNM, where her role is to develop and implement policies, with the help of our partners and legislators, to further New Mexico’s renewable energy initiatives. 

Sammi grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2015 with B.S. degrees in Biochemistry and Biology. In May 2019, she graduated with her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law, also receiving a certificate in Natural Resources and Environmental Law. 

Before Sammi joined CVNM, she was the Voter Protection Director with the Democratic Party of New Mexico for the 2020 General Election. She also worked as Commissioner Cynthia Hall’s Field Director for her re-election campaign in the June 2020 Primary Election. While in law school, Sammi also competed in the Jeffrey G Miller National Environmental Moot Court competition at Pace University. 

Sammi is an avid traveler. Her goal is to visit every country by the time she turns 40. Her passion for experiencing new cultures and life outside of her comfort zone inspires her to travel as far and as often as she can. Her favorite travel destination is Madrid, Spain. Sammi also loves cooking, taking care of her houseplants, and spending time with her dog Bailey.

Antonio Maestas, Manager of Equity & Organizational Effectiveness

Antonio joined the CVNM staff in September 2018. Antonio grew up in the community of Mountain View located in the South Valley of Albuquerque. His passion for community organizing sprouted from an environmental justice internship with the SouthWest Organizing Project in 2015 where he realized the circumstances of his childhood could be traced back to environmental disparities plaguing low-income communities of color. Following this internship, Antonio organized with the Tibetan Environmental Justice Movement in Dharamsala, India in the fall of 2015.  Returning back to the United States in the spring of 2016, Antonio was a lead education organizer to combat institutional racism and inequality at his college in Indiana.

When he returned to New Mexico, Antonio continued his environmental justice work with communities across Albuquerque, and with pueblo and land grant communities across the state. As a part of this work, he published a chapter titled “New Mexican Land Grants: A History of Conflict in the Chilili Land Grant” in a historical journal accounting the history of his land grant where he currently resides, La Merced del Pueblo de Chilili. One of Antonio’s great mentors told him, “Social movements are spiritual and the principles of environmental justice is our doctrine” for which he incorporates in his community organizing endeavors.

Antonio graduated from Earlham College in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Anthropology with a concentration in Socio-Cultural relations. In his spare time, Antonio enjoys travelling, playing music, reading books and trying new foods.

Carly Jones, Membership Associate

Carly joined CVNM in January 2020 as our Administrative Associate. Carly grew up in Los Alamos, where nature was never far away with the Jemez Mountains practically in her backyard. There, she spent time camping and hiking with her family, and playing with her cats, rabbits and dogs. Living in close proximity to nature instilled a great passion and curiosity for the natural world, and sparked an interest in photography.  

After graduating high school, Carly studied physics, chemistry, biology, painting, art history and photography at the Santa Fe Community College. While in college, Carly also volunteered at the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance contributing her efforts to the Mexican gray wolf recovery campaign. This experience opened her eyes to grassroots organizing and outreach, and inspired her to receive a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology with a Concentration in Conservation from the University of New Mexico. During her undergraduate studies, she collaborated with the Pajarito Environmental Education Center to address cattle overgrazing in the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. During university and after graduating, Carly also did consulting work to help with nonprofit fundraising, organizing, and policy projects. 

In her spare time, Carly enjoys reading, painting, and exploring New Mexico’s landscape while hiking with her dogs, Clover and Opal. 

Learn about the rest of our team working for our sister organization CVNM Education Fund here.

Learn about the Dogs of CVNM here.

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