Demis Foster, Executive Director
A life-long conservationist, Demis has over 25 years experience working on environmental campaigns and programs in the West. Demis grew up on a five generation family ranch in southern Idaho where she developed a lifelong love for nature, and a deep appreciation for the land and water that sustained the families in her rural farming community.
While earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Boise State University, she worked for the Wolf Recovery Foundation—the first organization in Idaho dedicated to the restoration of wolves in the Rockies. She then moved to the Pacific Northwest where she spent 15 years working on conservation campaigns, adventure and field science programs for youth, and overseeing a national environmental film festival. Demis was awarded the National Leadership Award for outstanding leadership in protecting public lands for her work as the Director of the Ancient Forest Roadshow—a year-long advocacy tour traveling across the nation with a 1,000-lb. crosscut section from an old-growth Douglas Fir tree.
She moved to New Mexico in 2010 to work on public lands and wildlife campaigns including the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument designation. She took the helm of Conservation Voters New Mexico as the Executive Director in 2013.
Roberto Aponte, Deputy Director of Operations
He is a visionary manager and leader with more than 25 years in event production and organizational leadership, in both corporate and nonprofit settings. In addition to his expertise in business administration, Roberto has strong skills as a trainer, facilitator and coach. He has a Master of Arts in Business from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and an undergraduate degree in Communications from Emerson College in Boston. His unique master’s degree was focused on bringing environmental sustainability and social responsibility to the practice of business.
Roberto’s career success began when he recognized the importance of being able to integrate the fullness of who a person is into the work that one does. When he applied this principle to his own work life, he experienced less work-related stress, became a more effective and productive worker and lived a more fulfilling life. He then extended this approach toward life-work balance to the teams and projects he managed with increasingly positive results. Roberto’s vision is that all human beings develop a healthy relationship to their work, leading to a sense of community in their workplaces and thus making it easier to do work that supports balance with our natural environment and greater collaboration amongst all social groups.
Molly Sanders, Deputy Director of Programs
Previously, Molly was the Global Warming Program Associate for Environment New Mexico, where she worked to mobilize public and grasstops support for clean and renewable energy in New Mexico. During her time there, she also worked with local groups on urban sprawl issues, and directed a canvassing operation during the 2008 Presidential Election.
Prior to coming to New Mexico in 2008, Molly received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in geography with a concentration in environmental systems and sustainability. During her undergraduate studies, she also collaborated with several professors, organizations and the City of Minneapolis conducting research on the public’s attitudes and perceptions of environmental action to help shape the city’s growing sustainability program. In her spare time, Molly enjoys camping, hiking and skiing.
Ben Shelton, Political & Legislative Director
Prior to joining CVNM, Ben served as legislative counsel for the Judiciary Committee of the District of Columbia Council, and field director for a mayoral campaign. He also helped advance policy for the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ben earned his Bachelor of Arts in Ecological Studies from Seattle University, and after seeing environmental degradation while working as a river guide in Washington state, he dedicated himself to working on legal and policy solutions. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor from Lewis & Clark Law School, specializing in environmental law. He feels at home in the Southwest and enjoys hiking, biking, and whitewater.
Liliana Castillo, Communications Director
Liliana’s career has centered on giving opportunity for the voiceless to have a voice, creating accountability and a world centered on truth. She has done so through journalism and working for non-profit organizations that help others. Liliana earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of North Texas in photojournalism with a minor in social sciences.
Born in Montana, Liliana was raised with respect and love for nature, specifically the mountains. She is on a continuous quest to capture and preserve the natural beauty of the world in photographs and words. She is elated to be able to help protect the environment through her work at CVNM.
Tyanne Benallie, Campaigns Director
Tyanne was born on the Diné Nation and is of the Near the Water Clan, and born for the Bear Clan People. Tyanne’s upbringing and background brings a unique perspective to her role as Campaign Director at CVNM Education Fund. Tyanne’s family homeland is near the Bistí Badlands (De-Na-Za Wilderness) in the San Juan County region. Growing up in a predominantly Latino Westside neighborhood of Albuquerque, Tyanne understands, and identifies with the needs of multicultural populations. Tyanne believes in the importance of culture and environmental protection for all people.
For the past 14 years, Tyanne has primarily worked with underserved populations in the areas of environment, social, economic, education and health. Tyanne carries knowledge in program management, grants management, project implementation, campaigning, community outreach and capacity building projects. Tyanne has worked in non-profits and the public sector, including at the Administration for Native Americans and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. She has direct experience working on the Navajo Nation, in New Mexican pueblo villages and in rural Alaskan Native villages. In addition to her work experience, she holds a Master of Arts in International Development & Social Change from Clark University in Worcester, MA and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO.
In her spare time, Tyanne loves to travel. She has had the opportunity to live, volunteer and travel to 27 countries world-wide. When she is not traveling, she enjoys running, hiking, skiing, yoga, music, mindfulness, writing and reading. She loves dogs.
Antonio Maestas, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator
Antonio joined the CVNM Education Fund staff in September 2018. Antonio grew up in the community of Mountain View located in the South Valley of Albuquerque. His passion for community organizing sprouted from an environmental justice internship with the SouthWest Organizing Project in 2015 where he realized the circumstances of his childhood could be traced back to environmental disparities plaguing low-income communities of color. Following this internship, Antonio organized with the Tibetan Environmental Justice Movement in Dharamsala, India in the fall of 2015. Returning back to the United States in the spring of 2016, Antonio was a lead education organizer to combat institutional racism and inequality at his college in Indiana.
When he returned to New Mexico, Antonio continued his environmental justice work with communities across Albuquerque, and with pueblo and land grant communities across the state. As a part of this work, he published a chapter titled “New Mexican Land Grants: A History of Conflict in the Chilili Land Grant” in a historical journal accounting the history of his land grant where he currently resides, La Merced del Pueblo de Chilili. One of Antonio’s great mentors told him, “Social movements are spiritual and the principles of environmental justice is our doctrine” for which he incorporates in his community organizing endeavors.
Antonio graduated from Earlham College in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Anthropology with a concentration in Socio-Cultural relations. In his spare time, Antonio enjoys travelling, playing music, reading books and trying new foods.