Ninth Annual Eccles Family Rural West Conference

Human and Ecosystem Health in the Rural West
Fri March 31st - Sat April 1st 2023, All day
Durrell Center (Room 115)
Colorado State University
950 W Plum St, Fort Collins, CO 80521

Our interdisciplinary conference brings together academics, practitioners, and policymakers to share knowledge and ideas about the rural West. The conference aims to catalyze scholarship about and solutions to the region’s pressing problems. Each spring, the Lane Center travels to a different location in the West, growing the network of individuals and organizations invested in identifying solutions to challenges of rural policy, health, and environment.

With the theme of “Human and Ecosystem Health in the Rural West,” this year’s conference will take on a range of issues broadly related to health: sustainable ranching, including regenerative grazing and carbon sequestration practices; rural health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the impact of the Colorado River Basin crisis on California and the West. 

Attendance at Rural West is by invitation only.


Friday, March 31, 2023

Mar 31
5:30 - 8 pm

Welcome Dinner and Opening Keynote (by private invitation only)

The Ranch and the University: Partnering to Enhance Stewardship and Education

Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University

Private ranchlands encompass some of the most important lands and waters for long-term conservation of species and ecosystem processes in the American West, and they support a vibrant rural culture that has long defined this region. But sustaining these ecological and cultural values of western ranches is increasingly challenging in the face of climate change, wildfires, and financial, regulatory, and social complexities. Today’s ranch managers must be well versed in a broader range of ecological, legal, social, and economic topics than ever before. Universities can play a central role in providing managers with the knowledge needed to deal effectively with these challenges—but only if the universities work in close partnership with the ranches to understand the needs and priorities of the practitioners working on the ground. An example of a recently developed ranch-university partnership is the “Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship” program at Colorado State University. The program originated in conversations between ranchers and university faculty, where key needs and challenges were identified. The faculty took these ideas back to the university where they developed an education and research program. The program is led by the College of Natural Resources and has linkages with departments and programs across the university. The program emphasizes experiential learning and hands-on engagement with practitioners, complemented by coursework in essential subject areas. Research priorities are guided by and conducted alongside ranchers, who can quickly integrate research findings into their land management. We share examples of how ranch-university partnerships have benefited students, the university, and ranches. The goal is to provide the next generation of ranch managers with the knowledge and skills they need to operate western ranches in ways that are socially, economically, and ecologically productive and sustainable.       

Bill Romme

Tony Vorster

Bill Romme and Tony Vorster are part of the founding team and are instructors in the Western Ranch Management and Ecosystem Stewardship program at Colorado State University. Bill is an Emeritus Professor of ecology at CSU and a research scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL). Bill has spent his career studying the ecological role of fires in forests of the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere. Tony is also a research scientist at the NREL, where he evaluates and identifies management opportunities across forest and rangeland systems to address some of the most pressing land management issues such as drought, climate change, and invasive species. More information about the program can be found here:

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Apr 1
8:30 - 9 am

Registration and Breakfast

Apr 1
9 - 9:15 am

Welcome and Introductions

Apr 1
9:15 - 10:45 am

Panel: Regenerative Grazing

Panelists will explore the current and future possibilities of challenges of regenerative grazing practices, including adjusting the timing of grazing, rebuilding soils, and emphasizing monitoring and adaptation.

Delane Atcitty, Indian Nations Conservation Alliance 

Delane Atcitty has 29 plus years’ hands on experience in agriculture and natural resource management as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Agri-Business and a Masters of Science Degree in Ranch Management/Agri-Business. Past employers in agriculture include Poky Feeders, Hitch Enterprises Inc., King Ranch Inc., Navajo Nation Agriculture Program, and various ranches in the southwest. Delane’s other employers include the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Natural Resource Specialist, Bureau of Land Management-Rangeland Management Specialist, the Nature Conservancy-Rangeland Specialist, Natural Resource Conservation Service-Interim Rangeland Specialist, and as a private consultant at Arrowhead Resource Management, LLC on various projects. Delane has worked in all segments of the cattle industry from cow-calf segment, stocker segment, to finishing cattle at the feedlots. Delane also has experience managing bison for the Nature Conservancy. Delane is the current Executive Director for Indian Nations Conservation Alliance.

Delane also serves as a Board of Director for Navajo Agricultural Products Industry a 110,000 acre tribal farm located in Farmington, New Mexico. He currently serves as a Board of Director for the Society for Range Management, Enriched Ag Board of Directors, Holistic Management Internationals Board of Directors, and is a on the Native Seeds Needs and Capacity Committee for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as being on the National Grazing Lands Coalition Advisory Council.

Glenn and Caryl Elzinga, Alderspring Ranch 


Glenn Elzinga is the head guy (aka CEO), and with Caryl Elzinga, co-founder of Alderspring. Twenty-four years ago, he left his 9-5 forestry job, bought 7 cows and a small ranch, and began producing beef with his wife Caryl. Today, he owns and manages Alderspring (1650 deeded acres and 46,000 rangeland acres) while raising his 7 daughters and producing grass fed organic beef. His passion for wellness as an interconnected web of soil, land, animal, and human health led him and Caryl to create their “inherding” grazing paradigm. Glenn also currently speaks as a guest in both podcasts and regenerative agriculture conferences.

Caryl is Alderspring’s CFO, co-owner and founder, and plant expert. She holds a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies with an emphasis on native plants wetland and riparian systems, which makes her passionate about restoring wild plant populations and wet areas. Together with Glenn, she designed our “inherding” practice as a herding methodology for managing wild landscapes. Caryl is also the lead author of Monitoring Plant and Animal Populations: A Handbook for Field Biologists. Besides her regenerative ranching and botany work, Caryl is a mother and example to her seven daughters.


Paul DeLauneTexas A&M University 

Paul DeLaune is a Regents Fellow and Professor of Environmental Soil Science with Texas A&M AgriLife Research at Vernon. His research has been widely recognized as he has worked closely with various research, extension, and policy-making entities in consultation with landowners to develop end-products that have been implemented for immediate use and impact to better manage and protect soil and water resources. His research has focused on climate-smart practices such as conservation tillage, crop rotation and cover cropping in water-limited environments. He is currently working more closely with regenerative practices that incorporate grazing in cover crop and pasture cropping systems to restore soil health and function.


Dallas Hall Defrees, Sustainable Northwest


Dallas Hall Defrees is a fifth-generation cattle rancher with an established career in rangeland ecology and management. Dallas is an engaged, active member of her family’s operation, which has received honors in recognition of excellent land management, including the National Tree Farmer of the Year.

Since childhood, Dallas has had a passion for land stewardship and sustainable management and has catered her education and professional life towards natural resources and taking care of the land. Dallas received a master’s degree in Rangeland Ecology and Management (Oregon State University) to gain the skills and scientific knowledge needed to help preserve natural lands. As a trained rangeland ecologist, Dallas seeks to find the best uses for an array of ecological environments. The interface between science and land management is where her passion lies. 

Dallas’ roots in eastern Oregon, her extensive educational training in rangeland science, and her passion for finding consensus for complex ecological challenges influences her passion for thriving and resilient ecosystem management.

Apr 1
10:45 - 11 am


Apr 1
11 am - 12:30 pm

Panel: Carbon Sequestration and Ranching

This panel will explore the role ranches can play in carbon sequestration, focusing in particular on the complexities of and opportunities for ranchers' participation in the Carbon Credit market and the current state of carbon market science.

Jane Zelikova, Colorado State University 

Photo Credit: Grace Branaugh/CSU

Dr. Jane Zelikova works at the intersection of climate science and policy. Her work focuses on advancing the science of carbon removal and she is currently the executive director of the Soil Carbon Solutions Center at Colorado State University, where she works with leading scientists to build the tools and approaches needed to accelerate the deployment of credible soil-based climate solutions, measure their impacts, and bring them to scale. Her recent TED talk on the topic of soils and climate change can be found here

In addition to her scientific and policy expertise, Dr. Zelikova is the cofounder of 500 Women Scientists, a global grassroots nonprofit organization with the mission to serve society by making science open, inclusive and accessible and fighting racism, patriarchy and oppressive societal norms. She is also the founder of Hey Girl Productions, coproducing and starring in the film End of Snow, which has been featured in National Geographic and Outside magazine. 

Bre Owens, Western Landowners Alliance 

Bre Owens lives in Los Molinos, CA where she runs a small cattle operation, and serves as the Stewardship Coordinator for Western Landowners Alliance. Bre grew up in Northern CA on a cow-calf ranch, attended Chico State and CSU, Fort Collins, focusing her studies on rangeland ecology and livestock production. Beyond CA, she’s worked on cattle ranches in OR, NV, WY and HI. She is motivated by a love for working landscapes – for the people, land, plants and animals that are a part of them. She believes that agriculture at its best is conservation at its best. Bre’s role at WLA is designed to bring landowners' needs and community-based solutions into WLA’s programs, policy and communications efforts, while sharing resources, along with building and facilitating partnerships across the West. Starting this year, on behalf of WLA and partners, she will be directing a set of climate-smart commodities pilot projects funded through USDA, for the purpose of developing a western climate-smart network that envisions a land-based economy in which the return on investment grows over time as the lands and communities from which services are derived, are stewarded and restored. She serves as the board chair of the CA Rangeland Conservation Coalition, board chair for Holistic Management International, and is a CA Certified Rangeland Manager (CRM #97). She advises on collaborative projects, including one advancing Integration of Scientific, Economic, and Social Knowledge to Establish Carbon Markets in the American Southwest and a project developing Smart Foodscapes to Enhance the Sustainability of Western Beef Production. 

Bill Milton, Milton Ranch 


My family has been ranching in Montana since 1956. My wife Dana and I have owned and operated our current family ranch in Musselshell County since 1978. We have three children, two boys working in Montana, and a daughter, a fireman paramedic in Connecticut, who plans to return to the family ranch. During the last 40 or so years, I have worked with several local organizations and efforts committed to taking care of land and community. In 2019 my wife Dana and I were the first Montana recipients of the Aldo Leopold Award.  Most recently, I am participating as a rancher member, and sometimes facilitator, with several working groups in Central Montana, covering nine counties, including the Musselshell Watershed Coalition, the Winnett ACES, the CMR Community Working Group, and the Musselshell Valley Community Foundation. I have assisted several ranch families with succession planning facilitation. I have a particular interest in figuring out how ranchers and local communities monitor the health of their working landscapes and communities-particularly within the Grassland Biome of North America, Since February of 2016, I have been facilitating a broad and diverse group of partners, called the Rangeland Monitoring Group (RMG), dedicated to finding an effective means to achieve this objective. Relatedly, I am on the Planning Committee for the Central Grasslands Roadmap and the Life in the Land Project ( Certainly not unrelated, my practice as a Soto Zen Priest has helped inform and support my appreciation for our shared interdependence and the need to imagine solutions respectful of everyone’s unmet needs.

Christy Wyckoff, Redwing Ranch


Dr. Christy Wyckoff is the owner-operator of Redwing Ranch, a cattle ranch in Southern Colorado on the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As a wildlife ecologist, Christy’s career has focused on wildlife conservation and ecological land management, skills that she is now using to move Redwing Ranch from conventional to regenerative grazing practices. Prior to her move back to Colorado in 2022, Christy was the Deputy Director of the Santa Lucia Conservancy, in Carmel, California, where she led the wildlife research, prescribed-fire and community-fire-preparation programs. She also supervised the land management program which included the Conservancy’s novel conservation cattle grazing program. Christy received her BS in Biology from Stanford University, ‘02, chased feral pigs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville for her MS, ‘07, and delved into the molecular world of chronic wasting disease in elk at Colorado State University for her PhD, ‘13. Over her career Christy has advised and mentored over 40 students (undergraduate and graduate), advancing the careers of young conservation and land management scientists.

Christy grew up on a ranch outside of Paso Robles, California, where she connected with the wide-open spaces and independent spirit of western communities. She is deeply interested in helping address the challenges western communities and landscapes are facing including drought, climate change, wildfire, rural “brain-drain,” and urban growth. Christy Wyckoff joined the Lane Center Advisory Council in 2018.

Apr 1
12:30 - 1:45 pm


Apr 1
1:45 - 3:15 pm

Panel: Rural Health in the Wake of Covid-19

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, how have rural healthcare systems had to adapt? This panel will bring together scholars and practitioners who consider the present state and future potential of rural health systems at this critical inflection point.

Phil Polakoff, A Healthier WE

He is a consulting professor, Stanford University School of Medicine and affiliated scholar, Stanford University Bill Lane Center for the American West. He is Founder, CEO at A Healthier WE

Dr. Polakoff’s career in health and healthcare spans forty-five years and includes clinical services, product innovation, network development, care management, organizational and business enhancement, policy formulation, communications and financing. Dr. Polakoff’s previous positions have included being shortlisted for US Surgeon General, Senior Managing Director of publicly traded consulting firms, advisor to numerous payers, providers, investors, employers, labor organizations and public entities. Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Total Health Advocacy Partners (Thap!). He has produced numerous health-related media productions. Including videos being aired as Phil Polakoff MD-Thrive Global.

Cora Neumann, Native American Development Corporation

Dr. Cora Neumann is a public health expert, and currently serves as Chief Health Officer for the Native American Development Corporation and their Urban Indian Health Clinic. Over the past 20 years, Cora has collaborated with local and national leaders, including First Ladies in the US and worldwide, Tribal leaders, and rural health agencies to bring quality, accessible health care to their communities. She is founder of the Global First Ladies Alliance, serves on the board of Columbia University School of Public Health, and is a recipient of the Montana Public Health Association Award for Exemplary Service. Cora grew up and is based in Bozeman, Montana, surrounded by four generations of family, from her grandmother to her two teenage children.

Angelina Salazar, Western Healthcare Alliance 

Angelina is the Chief Executive Officer of Western Healthcare Alliance and its affiliated companies. Working with the Board of Directors, key stakeholders, and the executive management team, she establishes long-range goals, strategies, plans, and policies for the overall benefit of rural healthcare in Colorado and eastern Utah. She joined the WHA team in May 2016 to strengthen and lead the marketing and communications programs. In January 2019 she was named CEO after stepping into the interim role in July 2018. Angelina serves on the National Cooperative of Health Networks Board of Directors (current Board President), the Colorado Health Institute Board of Directors (current Board President), the Saybrook University Board of Trustees, the Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions Advisory Board, Club 20 Healthcare Policy (current Co-Chair), National Rural Health Association Rural Health Policy Congress, the Ariel Clinical Services Board, and the Prime Health Advisory Board. Her dedication to solving rural healthcare challenges and building strong relationships in the community have helped to build visibility, impact, and financial stability.

Bruce Cain, Stanford University



Bruce Cain is an expert in U.S. politics, particularly the politics of California and the American West. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a prominent scholar of elections, political regulation and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. Prior to joining Stanford, Professor Cain was director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley from 1990-2007 and executive director of the UC Washington Center from 2005-2012. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and has won awards for his research (Richard F. Fenno Prize, 1988), teaching (Caltech, 1988 and UC Berkeley, 2003) and public service (Zale Award for Outstanding Achievement in Policy Research and Public Service, 2000). He is currently working on state regulatory processes and stakeholder involvement in the areas of water, energy and the environment. 

Apr 1
3:15 - 3:30 pm


Apr 1
3:30 - 5 pm

Panel: The Colorado River and the Rural West

This panel discusses issues associated with the dwindling water supply of the Colorado River and the River’s impact on water infrastructure and access in California and throughout the Western region.

Bidtah Becker, Navajo Nation 

Bidtah Becker is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and currently serves as the Chief Legal Counsel to the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice-President.  Bidtah’s career has been dedicated to serving the Navajo Nation in several different roles since 2002 except for a nine-month sojourn as the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Deputy Secretary for Environmental Justice, Tribal Affairs, and Border Relations as an appointee of Governor Newsom. Bidtah has served on the Water and Tribes Initiative in the Colorado River Basin where she co-chaired the Universal Access to Clean Water effort, on the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, and on the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission. She holds a B.A. in Foreign Service, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University with a specialty in Latin American Studies and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Bidtah is also a champion for Indigenous arts and artists. President Biden nominated her and the Senate confirmed her to serve as Member of the National Council on the Arts. In 2012, President Obama appointed her to serve as a trustee for the Institute of American Indian Arts and Culture (IAIA) where she still serves. She and her husband are Sustainers of gallupARTS, a nonprofit arts council serving Northwest New Mexico and 2021 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in New Mexico. Becker has also served two separate terms on the board for the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts, including one year as board chair.

Bidtah lives on the Navajo Nation in Fort Defiance with her husband, their two teenage children, and their beloved black and white cat rescued from the Human Society.

Kathryn Sorensen, Arizona State University 

Kathryn served for many years as Director of Phoenix Water Services as well as Director of the City of Mesa’s Water Resources Department. In these roles she was responsible for the delivery of safe, clean, reliable water for millions of Arizonans, and significantly advanced the sustainable management of water resources in Arizona and the Colorado River basin.  Kathryn earned a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Michigan.  In her position at Arizona State University, she oversees the research efforts of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, serves as a Professor of Practice at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and as a Senior Global Futures Scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.  Kathryn is a member of the Colorado River Research Group.  


Jennifer Gimbel, Colorado State University

Jennifer Gimbel is a Senior Water Policy Scholar at the Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University. She has had the opportunity to work for both federal and state governments on numerous water issues. She formerly held the position of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. As the Former Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Ms. Gimbel served as Colorado’s representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission and as the Governor’s representative in negotiations regarding the Colorado River. She also held several positions in the Attorney Generals’ offices in Colorado and Wyoming.  

Felicia Marcus, Stanford University 


Felicia Marcus

Felicia Marcus is the William C. Landreth Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West Program, an attorney, consultant and member of the Water Policy Group. She most recently served as chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, implementing laws regarding drinking water and water quality and state’s water rights, hearing regional board water quality appeals, settling disputes and providing financial assistance to communities to upgrade water infrastructure.

Before her appointment to the Water Board, Marcus served in positions in government, the non-profit and private sector. In government, Felicia served as the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest region during the Clinton Administration, where she was known for her work in bringing unlikely allies together for environmental progress and for making the agency more responsive to the communities it serves, particularly Indian Tribes, communities of color, local government and agricultural and business interests. Preceding the EPA, Marcus served as the president of the board of Public Works for the City of Los Angeles presiding over the department through a time of great change and challenge, including numerous emergency response situations (including flood, earthquake and riots).

In the non-profit world, she was the western director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and prior to that the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Trust for Public Land. Marcus also has an extensive background as a private sector and public interest lawyer, as well as a community organizer, most notably as a founder and general counsel to Heal the Bay. She has served as the director of litigation for Public Counsel, a public interest law firm; an associate at the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson; a visiting fellow at the Center for Law in the Public Interest; a law clerk to the Honorable Harry Pregerson (9th Circuit Court of Appeals); and legislative assistant to Congressman Anthony C. Beilenson in Washington, DC.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Harvard College, and Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law.

Apr 1
5 - 5:15 pm

Closing Remarks

Apr 1
5:15 - 6:15 pm