- The Need
- The Solution
A locally-grounded team has formed around previous and ongoing work in this area to make the SWIF a reality. The team members bring a combination of local, forestry, legal, financial, political, and federal expertise needed to pull off this multi-faceted approach. Team members work closely with other local, state, and national partners to build a broad coalition and deep capacity to not only realize the SWIF but also carry this work forward into the future.
Aaron manages this SWIF effort as well as MSI’s other forest health and watershed programs, including facilitating community stakeholder groups. He has more than 10 years of experience in project management, nearly 20 years of experience with landscape ecology and environmental monitoring, and 5 years experience in public facilitation and community outreach. Aaron works with the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, regional tribal entities, and the local governments of Archuleta, San Juan, La Plata, and San Miguel Counties. Aaron has a Bachelor’s Degree from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and a MS from Bard College. His thesis explored the Spatial Patterns of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Damage and Impacts on Tree Physiology and Water Use in the Black Rock Forest, Southern New York.
Ellen Roberts is a lawyer in Durango, focusing in the area of natural resources consulting and provides critical policy and analysis and stakeholder engagement needed to create SWIF. Since leaving the Colorado General Assembly at the end of 2016, Ellen works as a consultant with governmental entities, nonprofits and private foundations on improving Colorado’s forest health and water policy issues.
Ellen served in the Colorado legislature for 10 years, representing many counties in the southwestern corner of the state. She served in both the House and the Senate, finishing her last two years as Senate President Pro Tempore. In the legislature, Ellen worked on many natural resources policy issues, including water and forest health, and wrote and sponsored legislation in these policy areas. She served as chairwoman of the 2015 Water Resources Review committee and was chairwoman of the 2016 Wildfire Matters Interim committee.
A graduate of the University of Colorado’s School of Law, Ellen received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Early on, Ellen worked in several Western national parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, and as a ski lift operator in Winter Park, Colorado.
Jason Lawhon works for the San Juan National Forest as the Southwest Project Manager for the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative. In this role, he represents the San Juan National Forest in forming SWIF and ensures appropriate coordination with the RMRI. Prior to moving to Durango, he worked out of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office as the regional lead for the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative and as the Director of State & Private Forestry and Tribal Relations. In both of these positions Jason actively worked to build cross-boundary partnerships to facilitate comprehensive landscape scale restoration of public and private lands in Colorado.
Prior to this Jason worked for The Nature Conservancy where he served as the Director of the Forest and Fire Program and Fire Manager for the Colorado Chapter. In these roles, he worked to develop collaborative partnerships to facilitate landscape-level forest restoration, including prescribed fire, in high-priority areas that benefit forest health, communities, and water resources. Leading up to his time with The Nature Conservancy, Jason spent nearly 15 years working with the U.S. Forest Service in Wyoming, Utah, and Oregon. For much of this period, he held positions in fire and fuels management but also spent time working in recreation and forest management.
Jason holds a B.S. in the Conservation of Natural Resources from the University of Washington and a Masters in Forestry from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Bob Cole is a shareholder in the law firm Collins Cockrel & Cole where his practice focuses on emergency services and municipal clients, and has involved water rights, special district, public lands, and environmental issues before state, county and federal agencies and courts, including testimony before Colorado legislative committees. Bob is consulting on the design of an intergovernmental legal entity needed to operationalize SWIF that complies with all applicable laws & regulations. Before becoming a lawyer, Bob worked for nine years for the United States Forest Service on the Sequoia, Cleveland and Klamath National Forests in California— primarily in fire management and timber management.
Bob is also: a member of the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and Chair of the Grants Committee of the National Forest Foundation; a member of the National Fire Protection Association Wildland Fire Working Section; an associate member of the Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association; an associate member of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees; previously Chair for the Mile High Chapter of the Society of American Foresters; and a former member of the Clear Creek County Planning Commission and Upper Bear Creek/East Mount Evans master plan task force.
Bob obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Management from Oklahoma State University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado. He is a member of the Denver, Colorado, and American Bar Associations, and Metro City Attorneys Association.
Todd brings decades of experience in multiparty deal structuring, working with numerous government departments in the U.S. and Europe. As Managing Director at Quantified Ventures, Todd has led the launch of several projects utilizing outcomes-based financing to deploy green infrastructure and other resilience investments, improve energy efficiency, address water quality issues through on-farm management practices, and promote sustainable urban wood economies.
Todd joined Quantified Ventures from IBM, where he was a leader in IBM Smarter Cities—an initiative that elevated the role of data analytics to make government services more efficient and responsive to citizen needs. Todd also led a global deal structuring team, providing expertise in development of public-private partnership contracts with government departments in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Todd holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from University of California, Berkeley. He is based in Boulder, Colorado—the perfect place for a nature lover like him to bike, hike, and ski.
As a Director at Quantified Ventures, Ben led the structuring of the first-ever publicly issued Environmental Impact Bond with the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management, driving the transaction from origination to close. Ben leads other work in urban resilience, coastal wetland restoration, and forestry.
Ben brings a deep understanding of both the impact of environmental projects, and how they can be valued and financed. Having 10 years of experience in green infrastructure, clean energy, and climate and disaster risk reduction projects both domestically and internationally, his passion and commitment to finding creative financial solutions is driven by first-hand experiences working in communities facing environmental challenges. For example, he has conducted critical research as a Fulbright Scholar on vulnerabilities to climate change in the Himalayas of Nepal, developed solar power projects to bring electricity to off-grid areas of Namibia, studied changing glacier and sea ice dynamics in the Arctic, and co-created storm and flood resilience plans with community members in Bridgeport, CT. Ben led new green infrastructure investments at both Encourage Capital and at the UN Development Programme, where he launched a new flood resilience program in northern Pakistan that raised $37M in financing from the Green Climate Fund. He also brings finance experience developing carbon-optimized investment portfolios, conducting research on the correlation between ESG and financial performance of publicly traded securities, and modeling and fund raising for private equity and debt investments in renewables companies.
Ben holds a Master in Business Administration and Master in Environmental Management from Yale University, as well as a Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology from Williams College.
With her experience supporting a broad, regional, consensus-driven partnership, Laura is familiar with the challenges of implementing environmental projects across diverse stakeholder groups. As an associate director at Quantified Ventures, Laura manages projects that use outcomes-based financing to drive transformational impact across a range of topical areas, including wildfire resilience, outdoor recreation, and green infrastructure. With previous roles at the US EPA Office of Policy and Chesapeake Bay Program Office, she has worked with small business and regulators to reach consensus on recommended changes to regulations, made recommendations to streamline a wastewater discharge reporting process, and developed twelve new indicators of progress in environmental restoration.
Laura holds a Bachelor’s of Arts from American University in Political Science and International Studies, focusing on environmental politics and policy.