Dr. Melanie Armstrong- Executive Director 


Dr. Melanie Armstrong is the Executive Director of the Center for Public Lands, and an associate professor at Western Colorado University’s School of Environment and Sustainability. Her wide-ranging background includes work in communications, environmental history, and cultural geography, along with a 15-year career in land management with the National Park Service. Armstrong teaches courses on public lands, environmental policy, politics of nature, management skills, and environmental justice. Her goal as a teacher is to inspire students to be critical thinkers and communicators who are driven to work for justice in whatever career they pursue. She aims to turn the classroom into a space that forges transformative interactions with the world at large which will linger long after students graduate.


Peter Horgan- Fellow


After seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time in 2007, Peter knew he had to head west from the flatlands of the Midwest.  Soon after, he completed his B.S. in Outdoor Recreation and Tourism from Colorado State University, then immediately relocated to the Gunnison Valley upon graduating.  His passion for human-powered recreation led him to pursue a Master’s of Environmental Management from Western State University to further his knowledge in land management and conservation.  When not caring for the local lands, you can find him tied into a rope climbing the cliffs around the West or safely navigating the backcountry on his splitboard. 


Blaine Hartman -Fellow


Blaine first gained an appreciation for Public Lands on childhood backpacking trips with his father. Since then, Blaine has worked as a Wilderness Ranger, Trail Crew Leader, and Wildland Firefighter for the US Forest Service. As a Master of Environmental Management candidate his research interests emphasize using Geographic Information Science as a tool to efficiently manage wilderness use and outdoor recreation. In his free time he can be found backcountry skiing near Crested Butte or bagging peaks throughout the American West.


Gabby Zaldumbide- Taylor Park Fellow

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Gabby cares deeply about public land management. As a Master’s of Environmental Management Candidate she currently has two public lands-related projects going on. This spring, Gabby has been working on a survey for Taylor Park residents to gauge their understanding and trust surrounding the Taylor Park vegetation management plan. From the survey results, Gabby will be creating a comprehensive report that will hopefully give forest managers insight into Taylor Park residents' views and opinions. This summer, following the report, she will be working on a forest monitoring project in the public lands of Taylor Park. The data collected over the summer will provide a baseline for future studies in the area where the vegetation management plan is taking place, allowing us to study the effects of the management plan. Gabby is extremely thankful that Western gave her the opportunity to not only recreate in the extensive public land in the valley but to build a master's project centered around it, too.


Cassidy Cichowics- Fellow


Cassidy grew up exploring the waters of Lake Tahoe in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Her affinity for the mountains has influenced her love and appreciation for the outdoors as well as her dedication to spreading environmental stewardship and respect through her photography, education and work as a graduate student for the Center for Public Lands.

Cassidy is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology and Ecology and her Master’s in Environmental Management at Western Colorado University. Her focus is on Sustainable and Resilient Communities and is taking on a project dedicated to enhancing sustainability in Ski Towns through the United Nations Mountain Partnerships program. Cassidy is also working with the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival on a project to liven the community’s perspectives on wildflower preservation and conservation. Cassidy is thrilled to be part of the Center for Public Lands and contribute to the progress and development of an organization oriented around educating and instigating important discussing surrounding public lands.

On a sunshine soaked summertime day in Colorado, Cassidy will likely be gliding through the trees on her mountain bike. In the winter, her skis take precedence. Regardless of how she spends her days, Cassidy’s priority is to be outside spreading her gratitude for living in such a beautiful place.


Jill Young- Fellow


I am thrilled to be working as a fellow with the Center for Public Lands (CPL). My travels across the globe have allowed me to work on many ecosystem preservation projects. For example, I completed project work with vulnerable sea turtle populations in a small village of playa de Ostional, Nicaragua, and volunteer work with Calusa Nature Center near the Florida Everglades, as well as forest surveying in Haleakalā National Park in Maui, Hawaii. Among my travels, I’ve been residing and exploring colorful Colorado for 8 years. My time here has been spent in a variety of environmental and educational roles. As an afterschool director at an elementary school in Fort Collins; I encouraged students to participate in educational activities inside and outside of the classroom (e.g. plant and bird identification, and gardening to attract pollinators). My passion for public lands, and wilderness has stemmed from my compulsive curiosity and goals to advocate, research, and work with all levels of the ecosystem.

As a student in the Master in Environmental Management (MEM) program at Western Colorado University, my focus of research includes ecosystem ecology, fire science and soil science. This work will allow me to bridge my knowledge as a researcher and connect with people in interdisciplinary positions within academia, science, and land management agencies. Bridging science communication to the public and youth is not possible without partnership of people, policy, and science, especially to ensure the preservation of our ecosystem is upheld. I appreciate your time and I look forward to all that we can accomplish together!