Building a Dedicated Team of Land Stewards from the Ground Up
While each member of the Taos Land Trust team comes from diverse backgrounds, each shares a love for the land and a sincere commitment to conserving it for future generations to enjoy and explore. Every day, we strive to develop real skills and build new relationships and partnerships that will help us actually accomplish something on the ground. We recognize that we are conserving more than just land in each of our projects. We are protecting our connection to local culture and traditions and preserving a sense of place and relationship for people connected to the land. It is an honor and responsibility to use land trust tools and resources to help preserve the productive and open spaces of our beautiful home for the benefit of a broader community.
Kristina Ortez – Executive Director
Kristina Ortez is the Executive Director of the Taos Land Trust. She grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California in a small farming town and moved to New Mexico in 2008. She lives in Taos where she is raising her two daughters, ages eight and five. Kristina graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Anthropology and completed her Masters of Public Administration at the University of New Mexico. Kristina has dedicated her professional career to the preservation of public lands and ensuring clean water for rural communities. She serves as the Secretary for the newly restored Vigil y Romo Acequia Commission and sits on the Board of Directors of Alianza Agri-cultura de Taos and Conversation Voters New Mexico. Email: Kristina@taoslandtrust.org
Susan Nuss – Operations Manager
Susan Nuss comes from a long lineage of Iowa farmers, and though her father was the first son in over 100 years to leave the family farm and join the Air Force, she has fond memories of playing in cornfields and helping pick, shuck and silk corn as a child. Susan has a BA in Communications from Auburn University Montgomery, and served as Learning Facilitator for Delta Air Lines before moving to Taos post-9/11 to leave the corporate world, be with her partner, Jeff, and begin a new life working in the non-profit sector. Susan and Jeff are the new owners/stewards of nearly 2 acres of neglected land, and spend their free time investing sweat equity into the soil. Email: Susan@taoslandtrust.org.
Ben Wright – Education and Land Projects Coordinator
Ben has lived worked in New Mexico since 1996, transforming towards his current position as Education and Land Projects Coordinator for Rio Fernando Park. As an ISA certified arborist with experience in community tree care and community landscape stewardship, he has found a home with the Taos Land Trust in the agricultural and ecological restoration of the Rio Fernando Park lands. Email: Ben@taoslandtrust.org.
Jim O’Donnell – Communications and Policy Coordinator
Jim was born and raised in southern Colorado. He obtained both a BA in Anthropology and a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico. After ten years as an archaeologist, Jim served as the lead organizer for the Coalition for the Valle Vidal and after as the Northern Director for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Today Jim works part time as a freelance journalist, conservation photographer and our communications and policy lead. He is the author of “Notes for the Aurora Society” and leads yearly photography workshops to Havana, Cuba. Email: Jim@taoslandtrust.org
Maya Y. Anthony – Outreach Coordinator
Maya was born and raised in Taos until she left to pursue a degree in Environmental Planning and Design with a minor in Sustainability Studies from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. After completing her degree, she moved back to Taos to apply community-oriented skills in her hometown with an emphasis on local resilience and support for families and youth to engage in nature for long-term health and wellbeing. She is happy to be working towards those goals with Taos Land Trust on the Safe Routes to Parks project enhancing access for youth and underserved communities to Rio Fernando Park and Fred Baca Park. Email: Maya@taoslandtrust.org
Chyna Dixon – Working Lands Resiliency Coordinator
Chyna was born in Taos, and specializes in resilience research at the nexus of climate, water and agriculture. She holds a Masters in Environmental Science and Policy from Clark University, with a focus in Critical Geography. Her relationship to land and water stems from an acequia based childhood, a deep appreciation of the northern New Mexican cultural landscape, and her continued research on northern New Mexican climate change impacts and adaptation. Chyna coordinates the Working Lands Resiliency Initiative at the Taos Land Trust. Email: Chyna@taoslandtrust.org
Rita O’Connell – Development Consultant
Rita O’Connell has been working with nonprofit and change-making organizations in northern New Mexico since 2009. She specializes in strategic organizational development, helping nonprofits like Taos Land Trust implement working structures that support their efforts to effect complex systems change. Rita is also a performer, writer, and organizer, and a partner at KNCE 93.5FM. She holds an MA in Public Advocacy and Activism from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. Email: Rita@taoslandtrust.org
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