Dr. Virginia Necochea
vnecochea at nmelc.org
Dr. Virginia Necochea is a long time educator, researcher, writer, and community advocate. She is the former executive director and a founding board member of the Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS), a community-led nonprofit focused on protecting and preserving land and water resources in the Valle de Atrisco (South Valley, NM) and larger Middle Rio Grande region.
Dr. Necochea’s connection and commitment to land and water emanates from her abuelitos - individuals who were deeply connected to Mother Earth and the importance of remaining connected to the land. The foundation and drive for Dr. Necochea’s work is rooted in ceremony, her Mexican Indigenous roots, and motherhood. She strives to engage in work that places community and environmental justice at the forefront.
Director of Operations & Finance
rcastillo at nmelc.org
kpalmer at nmelc.org
Senior Staff Attorney
ejantz at nmelc.org
Community Outreach Manager
vrangel at nmelc.org
jjonsin at nmelc.org
Charles de Saillan
cdesaillan at nmelc.org
mlocke at nmelc.org
sschuurman at nmelc.org
Mia Montoya Hammersley
mhammersley at nmelc.org
Diana Garcia Cuna
UNM CEC Intern
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors governs the Law Center, establishes policy, hires the Executive Director, and determines which cases the Law Center will handle. The members of the Board, their date of association, their occupations, and affiliations are:
Donna House, President, 2006, Alcalde – Donna House (Diné) currently is a biocultural consultant who works with Indigenous community-based organizations to protect People and their ecosystems. A lifelong ethno|botanist|conservationist, House was previously one of the key designers of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and has protected plant species/habitat on Indigenous lands throughout the southwest. House inhabits spaces in historic Ohkay Owingeh territory along the Río Grande del Norte, and the Navajo Nation.
Ramon Padilla, Vice President, 2016, Las Cruces – Ramón is a high school social studies teacher at Alma d’arte Charter High School and college instructor in the College of Education at New Mexico State University. Prior to his teaching career, he worked for many years with the Doña Ana County Colonias Development Council as their youth and community organizer. He brings to the board his experience working with communities, political organizing and community education. His commitment to equity is the foundation of his teaching and community work.
Johana Bencomo, Secretary, 2018, Las Cruces – Johana Bencomo is the Executive Director of NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fe (CAFe) and a Las Cruces City Councilor. Johana has been community organizing for eight years, working to build power for and with historically underrepresented communities throughout Southern NM. Johana joined the NMELC Board of Directors in 2018.
Harry Browne, Treasurer, 2010, Silver City – Harry is the business manager for the Aldo Leopold High School. He is the former Executive Director of the Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP) where he worked closely with the Law Center on the Chino and Tyrone Mine cases. He is in his second term as a member of the Grant County Commission and brings administrative and public policy expertise to the board.
Michael Casaus, 2010, Albuquerque – Michael is The Wilderness Society’s New Mexico State Director and has worked for over two decades to protect our wild and sacred places and to diversify the environmental and conservation movements. Michael brings to the board his knowledge of environmental justice issues in the Southwest and his experience as a conservationist, political campaigner and community organizer.
Susanne Hoffman-Dooley, J.D., 2004, Santa Fe – Susanne is a water lawyer who has worked for many years with the Office of the State Engineer where she oversaw water rights adjudications, conducted administrative litigation and wrote regulations. She is currently mostly representing asylum seekers pro bono in immigration law cases. She brings to the board legal, water law, and administrative law expertise.
Renee Ingold, 2001, Cerrillos – Renee retired from operating her own horse boarding and training facility. She was active in our Ortiz Mountain gold mining reclamation fight, and has been a strong financial supporter of the Law Center for over a decade.
Douglas Meiklejohn founded the New Mexico Environmental Law Center in 1987 and remained the Law Center’s Executive Director until 2019. He served as Founder/Staff Attorney through the Fall of 2021.
Under his direction, NMELC advocated for communities and the environment on hundreds of issues. Doug led landmark industry changes in uranium mining clean-up, exposure to medical waste, landfill locations, oil and gas ordinances, aquifer and river water protections, the cleanup of legacy radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, greenhouse gases and highway expansions.
To read a complete history of NMELC’s founding, click here.