WHO WE ARE
Board of Directors
Ashley Lee, President
Ashley Lee is a realtor and resident of Las Vegas for the last seven years. Originally, from Stockton, California, she grew up in the foothills of Yosemite National Park. Her love for the outdoors started at a young age, appreciating how nature supports personal introspection. Ashley stumbled upon the Amargosa area a few years back while exploring the backroads and hot springs. She instantly fell in love with the simplicity and vastness of the area. Ashley’s happy to be joining the board as another contact in the Las Vegas area. She looks forward to engaging with the community and bringing awareness and interest to other outdoor enthusiasts.
Patrick Donnelly, Vice President
Patrick Donnelly is Great Basin director with the Center for Biological Diversity and lives on the banks of the Amargosa River in beautiful Shoshone, California. He has made his career in desert conservation for almost 20 years, managing desert tortoise and riparian habitat restoration projects, teaching outdoor leadership courses, building trails, and for the past nine years as a full-time activist. He served a stint as the executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy from 2014-2016, which was enough time to fall deeply in love with the charismatic microfauna and flora which make the Amargosa such a special place. In his current role he works on advocacy and litigation on behalf of groundwater dependent ecosystems and endemic species across the Great Basin and northern Mojave deserts.
Naomi Fraga, Treasurer
Naomi Fraga is Director of Conservation Programs at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, CA. She has been studying plants of the Mojave Desert for over 15 years. Her research interests include plant geography, conservation biology, rare plants of western North America, taxonomy of monkeyflowers (Phrymaceae), and pollination biology. She is particularly interested in the flora of the Mojave Desert in southern California. Naomi received her Ph.D. in Botany from Claremont Graduate University and she also holds a M.S. in Botany from Claremont Graduate University and a B.S. in Botany and Biology from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Naomi also serves as Secretary for the Southern California Botanists, Vice President of the California Botanical Society and is a council member for the American Society of Plant Taxonomists.
Bill Neill, Secretary
Bill Neill was educated as a geologist and petroleum engineer, and over the past 40 years his primary environmental interests have been the California Desert and control of invasive species. From about 1979 to 1981 Bill produced and directed an educational film on feral burros for the Sierra Club’s Desert Committee, that’s now viewable on YouTube. From 1983 to 1998 he organized volunteer groups that employed chainsaws and herbicide to remove a non-native tree, tamarisk or saltcedar, from desert springs and riparian areas throughout the California Desert and adjacent states. For the past two decades Bill has been self-employed as a professional herbicide applicator, working to control invasive wildland weeds and exotic trees in coastal watersheds of Los Angeles, Orange and western Riverside Counties. He joined the Amargosa Conservancy’s Board in 2014 and has served as secretary since 2018.
Chris Clarke is a writer and activist based in the southern Mojave Desert. Currently the Ruth Hammett Associate Director of the California Desert Program for the National Parks Conservation Association, Chris is best known for his incisive environmental writing covering the California Desert at Los Angeles’s KCET TV, the Earth Island Journal and other venues. His reporting career stretches back to covering the passage of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act and the mid-90s campaign to prevent the dumping of nuclear waste in Ward Valley. A desert resident since 2008, Chris lives in Twentynine Palms with his wife Lara and their dog Heart.
John Hiatt has been working on conservation issues for almost 40 years. He has served as chair of the Red Rock Audubon Society’s conservation committee since the late 1970’s. He became active in the wilderness movement during the 1980’s as part of the effort to designate wilderness on Forest Service lands in Nevada. After passage of Nevada’s Forest Service Wilderness bill in 1989 John re-focused on BLM wilderness quality lands and has actively promoted that cause ever since. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of Nevada Wilderness since 1995. He is involved with several conservation organizations including the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, the Sierra Club’s California-Nevada Desert Committee, and the Amargosa Conservancy. In the area of civic affairs he has been a member of the Enterprise Town Advisory Board since 1979 and served as chairman for 15 years. He has served on the Las Vegas Valley Citizens Groundwater Management Advisory Committee since its inception in 1998; involved with Integrated Joint Water Planning Citizens Advisory Committee; and a member of the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the Mojave-Southern Great Basin region in Nevada. An organic chemist by training, with a Ph.D. from Yale University, John has been employed as a clinical and forensic chemist since 1973.
Chris Roholt lives in Riverside, California, and has worked on behalf of the California Desert for three decades. He retired in 2010 from the Bureau of Land Management, having spent over twenty years as the Wilderness and National Conservation Lands Coordinator for the California Desert District. In this capacity, Chris was instrumental in the implementation of the California Desert Protection Act, which created over three million acres of BLM Wilderness in California. Chris also initiated the BLM’s first comprehensive wilderness restoration program, partnering with the California State Parks OHV Division and the Student Conservation Association, in what has now been a fifteen year program to restore desert Wilderness Areas. Chris and his wife Karen are active in the Gates Cactus and Succulent Society, and have a remarkable collection of prize-winning cacti and succulents at their home. Since retirement, they have begun summering in Missoula, Montana, where they both have roots.
Russell Scofield retired in 2020 as the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Implementation Coordinator for the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan (DRECP) after 31-years of public service. He previously served in key positions for BLM both in Sacramento and the desert. He also served as the Department of Interior’s Executive Coordinator for the California Desert Managers Group. He is a wildlife biologist and in his free time, he enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, and photography. Russell and his wife have lived in the desert near Joshua Tree since 1993.
Laura Crane is the Director of the Climate Program for the California Chapter of The Nature
Conservancy. In this role, she leads a team of conservation practitioners who design and
execute innovative strategies at the nexus of climate and land use. As society responds to the
threat of climate change, as well as the impacts of climate-exacerbated natural disasters, this
team advances solutions that center nature in the approaches employed to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions and help people and wildlife adapt to changing conditions. For the last 20 years,
Laura has worked on the protection of the Amargosa Basin in both California and Nevada, as
well as desert conservation more broadly. She lives near Joshua Tree with her two teenage kids
and their dog.
Barbara Zimmermann retired in 2020 after spending over 30 years as a natural resources lawyer in California and Alaska. Having grown up on the east coast with its lush landscape, her love of the desert was not instantaneous but overtime she has come to love the beauty and quiet of the Amargosa region and the people that live there. Barbara has been active in volunteer organizations in Pasadena where she has lived for almost 20 years. She enjoys hiking in the Arroyo Seco with her three rescue pups.
Mason Voehl, Executive Director
Mason Voehl is an activist and writer representing the Amargosa Conservancy from his home in Las Vegas, NV with the support of his wife Sarah and their dogs, Bear and Summit. Over the last decade, Mason has cultivated a love affair with the American West through leadership roles in community organizing and environmental field education. Mason’s essays on human-land relations in an era of anthropogenic climate change have been featured in The Dark Mountain Project, Climbing Magazine, and the Black Mountain Radio podcast. Through witnessing the “micro-multitudes” present in the Amargosa watershed — the extraordinary microflora and fauna that call the riverlands home — Mason fell instantly under the Amargosa’s spell. He looks forward to elevating the platform of the Amargosa through advocacy and community engagement in this new chapter of the Conservancy’s history. Mason holds an MA in Environmental Philosophy from the University of Montana.