Mike joined the GOCO programs team as southwest regional officer in October 2023. He'll support GOCO partners and grant program applicants from concept to grant award.
What did you do before you came to GOCO?
I’ve been fortunate to serve in a number of unique roles in this part of the country. Most recently, I had the pleasure of filling the associate director role at the San Juan Mountains Association—an awesome organization committed to helping people explore, learn about, and protect the majestic lands of Southwest Colorado. Before that, I was the trails and restoration program officer at the Catena Foundation, helping promote amazing grantees work to provide equity and access through trail development and youth cycling, and partnering broadly throughout the Colorado River basin to promote restoration and capacity building with tribes. Prior to that, I served as the first director of the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps at Conservation Legacy. It was an absolute honor to work with a team of 11 native staff, promoting in-community AmeriCorps programs and helping create new, accessible, outdoor job training opportunities for hundreds of native young adults in trails, restoration, and historic preservation. I was humbled to learn so much about area tribes and pueblos through partnerships with tribal communities and individuals, especially on Navajo Nation, Acoma Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, Hopi, and urban native communities in Albuquerque, NM. Before that, I served for six years as river restoration director in the same organization, implementing and scaling a model for collaborative landscape-scale restoration on the Dolores (CO/UT), Escalante (UT), Verde, and Gila Rivers (AZ). Collaborative conservation continues to inspire me, from both the nonprofit and philanthropic perspectives.
What brought you to GOCO?
A couple of years ago when I witnessed GOCO’s transition to the regional model, I started conversations with a few of the new regional officers, including my predecessor, Estrella. I found myself thinking, “Wow, that seems like the dream job!” I’ve been involved with and witnessing GOCO initiatives from several different vantage points over the last 12+ years and am so inspired by the work! While I absolutely loved the work at San Juan Mountains Association, I just couldn’t not apply for this gig!
What has been your favorite part of working here so far?
It’s early days, but I’ve been psyched to meet the amazing team (thanks for being so welcoming y’all!). I’m enjoying expanding my perspective and awareness of GOCO’s programs and the broader community of partners, applicants, grantees, and inspiring projects!
What are some of your favorite things to do outdoors?
I think I was in 6th grade when I first saw a juicy fruit commercial with Damian Sanders in neon, shredding on a snowboard. My dad and I steamed the tip curve of my first homemade plywood fishtail snowboard and screwed some old metal edges on it, before any ski areas allowed the sport in Vermont. I strapped it on with some bungy cord bindings, riding it down the back hill without falling! I never switched back to skiing! That was part of what inspired me to move to Colorado.
My last class at Prescott College was Wild and Scenic River Research in the Grand Canyon via an 18-day river trip. I nervously started to learn to row a boat, and when the trip was done, I immediately started searching for a raft. Seasonal work kept me freed up in fall to explore the canyons of the southwest—and I’ve tried to hit them all! There is no better way to disconnect, explore and adventure! I’ve got a couple 30-day trips under my belt, and my 8-year-old daughter Summer has already been on over 20 overnight trips! So fun!
Where is your favorite place to get outdoors in Colorado?
Oh boy, this is a tough one. I love the Upper Animas, and the canyons of the Dolores River. My family just spent a long weekend camping outside of Lake City and my daughter got up her first 14er—Handies! It is sooo beautiful around there! But Colorado has so much to offer. I’m still exploring!
What is your most memorable outdoors mishap?
Gulp. Which one to choose… Was it the time my handlebars almost fell off at the end of a 26-mile, high-country ride? Ha! Flipping a boat twice in Westwater with some newbies on board? Oops!? Walk of shame out of the Upper Animas with a flat boat, or worse, no boat?? Hmmm… no. It was a splinter. We were on the latter end of a long November river trip, parking the boats and backpacking into the Maze District of Canyonlands. Ahhhh. The orange of cottonwoods in the fall, and the place to ourselves! I was breaking up some tamarisk firewood, and a small piece went into my sandaled foot (remember your PPE people!). I think I got part of it out and we proceeded to backpack for three days. At the tail end my foot had swelled up significantly. I couldn’t tie my shoe, and I started to fear infection, watching it by the hour for streaking. Soaking and poking produced some relief, and the splinter came out! Good thing as we were still seven (planned) days from Hite Marina. Perhaps there’s some serendipity there (or vindication), as I went on to recruit and train armies of conservation corps members to control tamarisk and Russian olive along hundreds of miles of southwest rivers!!
What is the coolest wildlife you have spotted while outdoors in Colorado?
My daughter and I have been keeping a bird list, as we’re lucky to have a piece of Colorado’s 2% riparian habitat in our backyard. We’ve hit 24 species! I know there’s more out there (show yourselves, you sneaky warblers). I was messing around this summer on a carpentry project out back and saw a bird land in a nearby tree, just above eye level. I was thinking it looked different and stopped quick to get a good look. It was a pigmy owl! First one I’ve seen. So cool!