Julie Nania was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2017 representing Division 5, Crested Butte. Her current term, her second, expires in 2025. Julie serves as the High Country Conversation Advocates water director, a position she has held since 2014 when she relocated to Crested Butte. Prior to her move, Julie spent three years as faculty at the University of Colorado through appointments with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and Colorado Law’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment. Her work at the University involved collaborating with a range of local communities to address natural resources and climate issues. She graduated from University of Colorado School of Law in 2011 and received her B.A. in International Studies from the University of Washington in 2007.
Julie said she was “strongly encouraged” to pursue a seat on the District’s Board of Directors by former Board member Steve Glazer. “At first, my interest in serving was piqued by a remarkable representation of folks in water that I really respect and wanted to learn from,” said Julie. “Steve Glazer was on the District Board at the time and lectured me on the important role the District has in managing water resources for the water users of this valley…He was a fascinating force of nature!” Sadly, Steve passed away in 2016 after serving 17 years on the District Board.
As the water program director at High Country Conservation Advocates, Julie works to protect the state’s rivers by identifying and advocating for designation as “outstanding natural resource waters” and recommending rivers for protection through the forest planning process. She also directs stewardship projects to improve watershed health and restore riparian habitats. Finally, she consults with municipalities to advance water efficiency, water quality and conservation efforts.
“My goal is to maintain, and if at all possible, improve the health of our ecosystems while continuing to protect our watershed for all water users,” said Julie. “I realize this is a lofty goal as with an increase in population, there comes a set of sacrifices for us all to be able to continue to live, play and sustain a livelihood in our valley.”
Julie noted that the District Board is at a critical crossroads of planning watershed management strategies for a future of continuing drought conditions, more extreme temperatures and weather, earlier snowmelt, dust on snow and increased development in the Gunnison River Basin. In spite of these challenges, Julie said she is excited about the opportunity to work within the legal system and come up with creative solutions to address how to effectively manage the needs of conflicting users competing for the same resource.
“I think we will need to grow our lens from just looking at traditional water uses to zoom out to the bigger picture of all ecosystems and how we need to adapt to ensure their survival for the future,” said Julie.
Julie said she is proud that the District has been proactive, especially in the last few years, about assessing watershed health and how that impacts our water users. “It’s not just about who is using what water, it is about how the system works as a whole and how changes in our climate and environment impact the system as a whole.”
When Julie is not on the river studying its ecosystems, she and her husband, Dan Loftus, who were just married this spring, love to be on any river just relaxing and enjoying the beauty and life force of the water. “Dan is a wonderful husband who is a huge river enthusiast,” said Julie. “In fact, one of our first dates was on the Taylor River for a Taylor Tuesday event. We also have two wild rescue dogs who join us on our adventures and love to shred and ski with us on the frozen form of our water.”
UGRWCD General Manager Sonja Chavez noted that Julie has played such an important role on the District Board in helping the District understand and stay abreast of conservation and water issues in the basin. “Julie has been an invaluable asset to the District,” said Sonja. “With her legal background in big river issues and federal reserve water rights and the fact that she has her boots on the ground on a daily basis observing our watershed and ecosystems, she comes to the Board with a wealth of knowledge and experience that is so important and helpful in meeting the District’s mission.”