• image-candidate
  • image-candidate
  • image-candidate

Gwen LacheltBrief Biography

I was born in New Mexico and raised in Alaska and Colorado. I come from a long line of farmers, ranchers and miners — with my mother from Montana and my father raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I moved to Durango in 1981. Since graduating from Fort Lewis College I’ve helped create BearSmart, Durango Community Access Television, and San Juan Citizens Alliance. I was the founder and director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. I have two sons who love the outdoors and sports. A lifelong cyclist, I have completed several bike tours including Ride the Rockies and the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.


Work Experience Prior to 2013

I believe that local government should inspire residents to envision a fair and healthy county. Prior to being elected County Commissioner in 2012, my work was focused on protecting landowner property rights, air and water quality.

I founded Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, the first US organization dedicated solely to working with communities to prevent and minimize energy development impacts. During my tenure, we grew the organization to a staff of nine with a budget of $750,000 and a membership of 43,000.

My work with San Juan Citizens Alliance and Earthworks’ OGAP to expose the unregulated practice of hydraulic fracturing in La Plata County contributed to the worldwide movement to expose fracking impacts, to require the full and public disclosure of the chemicals used in drilling and fracking operations, and to instigate the FRAC Act, a bill before the United States Congress to remove the exemption of fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

I have been interviewed for energy-related articles in media outlets such as The Durango Herald, Time Magazine, Newsweek, People, ProPublica, Mother Jones, CNN, The Denver Post, The Fort Worth Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, Vancouver Sun, Anchorage Daily Times, National Public Radio, PBS, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News


  • La Plata County Air Quality Advisory Committee – 1998
  • Western Governor’s Association Advisory Committee on Coalbed Methane Best Management Practices – 2002
  • New Mexico Oil Conservation Division Pit Rule Advisory Committee – 2010
  • New Mexico Oil Conservation Division Environmental Advisory Committee – 2011-2012


  • In 2005 I was a national finalist for the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World award. My organization received a $5,000 grant for my award.
  • Worked to establish La Plata County’s oil and gas regulations
  • Worked with then State Representative Ellen Roberts (now State Senator Roberts (R-Durango)) to develop, promote and pass into law the Colorado Landowner’s Protection Act
  • Built a statewide coalition to pass legislation to balance stakeholder interests on the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission and adopt new protections safeguarding public health and water and air quality
  • Built a coalition of ranchers and environmentalists to work with State Representative Andy Nunez (Independent-Hatch) to develop and pass into law the New Mexico Surface Owner’s Protection Act
  • Helped create a statewide coalition in New Mexico to permanently protect the treasured Valle Vidal from mineral extraction. This legislation was signed by President Bush in 2006
  • Hosted an international oil and gas development tour with 11 Canadian First Nation Chiefs and members of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and ranchers from Montana and Wyoming
  • Participated in and led trainings on fundraising, organizational, campaign and strategy development; frequently to speak throughout the US and Canada

Community Activities & Affiliations

  • Leadership La Plata 1990 graduate
  • Past-President, Durango Chapter of National Organization for Women
  • Board Member, Fort Lewis College Environmental Cente
  • Founding Board Member, Durango Community Access Television founding board member
  • Founding Board Member, BearSMART
  • Board Member, San Juan Citizens Alliance
  • Powder River Basin Resource Council
  • Earthworks
  • New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association.
  • Education

    1985, 1997-1998

    Antioch University, Yellow Springs, Ohio

    Antioch University, Yellow Springs, Ohio


    Graduate level course work in Environment and Community Program.

    Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado

    Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado


    BA in Political Science

  • Experience


    Founder & Director


    1999 - Present

    Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project

    Executive Director

    San Juan Citizens Alliance

    1998 -1999

    San Juan Citizens Alliance

    Executive Director

    Western Colorado Congress

    1994 - 1998

    Western Colorado Congress

    Community Organizer

    Western Colorado Congress

    1987 - 1994

    Western Colorado Congress