Here is a partial list of our dedicated staff who is the heart and soul of PCL. Feel free to contact us!
Howard is a Philanthropreneur combining his for-profit experiences of 30+ years in the financial, technology, and hospitality fields with his non-profit consulting and board experiences. Between starting businesses and co-founding non-profits, he has helped develop pathways for private sector businesses to integrate with value-based strategies and partner with NGO’s of all types to promote sustainable economic, cultural, and environmental solutions.
After founding his first business in college, he co-founded an international economic development company that used micro-enterprise, sustainable and cultural tourism, and in-country workshops to promote local businesses and services in over 50 countries on six continents. These efforts strived to replace destructive resource extraction programs, unfair labor practices, and culturally harmful policies with opportunities that provided long-term sustainable economic and environmental benefits to local communities. This dynamic work across the globe encouraged Howard to continue his work at home in California with local, statewide, and national NGO’s focusing on water policy, land use, local community planning, and economic development.
On a personal front, Howard found combining his entrepreneurial business efforts and value-oriented non-profit passions an effective confluence of his life’s goal — give back more than you take. While professionally guiding rivers and mountains around the globe, Howard experienced cultures and communities that gave more than they received. This inspired his professional and volunteer work to focus on the intersectionality of complex, multi-sector issues.
Howard is honored to have the opportunity to lead PCL, with its diverse and successful history, into another decade of accomplishments.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Matt began working locally with the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) in 2008. Focused initially on biodiversity preservation, Matt became ECOS’s Land Use and Conservation Policy Director, engaging on the broad spectrum of issues at the nexus of land use, transportation, housing, and climate policy. As PCL’s statewide Policy Director since 2017, he continues his focus on planning policy development that seeks to provide joint-solutions to California’s environmental and social equity challenges.
Johnnie originally joined the PCL staff in 2016 and returned in 2022. Johnnie manages PCL’s water and wildlife policy and plays a key role in advancing the League’s development and communications programs as well as PCL’s annual Environmental Assembly. Before joining PCL’s staff, Johnnie was the Operations Director for Friends of the River for 12 years, managing communications, operations, and coordinating the California Rivers Day. Johnnie has almost three decades of experience in nonprofit administration, program management, and environmental policy. Johnnie studied government at Sacramento State, is an avid flat-water kayaker, and can often be found kayaking the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Mono Lake, and the many rivers of Northern California.
Natalie S. Brown
Environmental Policy Advocate
Natalie is a dedicated environmental policy advocate hailing from Sacramento. With dual degrees in History (B.A.) and a self-designed B.S. in Environmental Policy & Planning, Natalie’s academic work centered on the intersection of people, the environment, and social justice. During her undergraduate years at UCLA, Natalie fostered an interest and expertise in environmental governance, completing intensive individual research on critical issues like the Colorado River crisis and the inequities at play in the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Now, as part of the PCL team, Natalie applies this insight to her policy work, working to improve California’s water systems and correct environmental inequities across the state. Her passion and knowledge are dedicated to making California a more sustainable, equitable, and climate-resilient state.
After growing up near the coast and redwoods of the San Francisco Bay Area, Leah moved to sunny SoCal for college, where she earned her degree with highest honors from the UC Santa Barbara Environmental Studies Program, with a Concentration in Applied Ethics. Leah’s passion for environmental conservation and education drew her to PCL, and she is excited to be working toward protecting species and habitats, creating sustainable communities, and safeguarding natural resources for future generations. Leah lives in San Diego and spends her free time running, surfing, and attending concerts.
Kelly has worked on policy and advocacy campaigns with various organizations, including in the Washington, DC, offices of the Sierra Club and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Most recently, Kelly spent her law school summer externing with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, where she focused on issues under the California Endangered Species Act. Her passions include running grassroots campaigns to advance state and federal policy to protect wildlife and ensure clean air, water, and green spaces for all communities. Kelly has her wildlife rehabilitation license in her home state of New York and enjoys working hands-on with wildlife in addition to working on policy to address systemic environmental issues.
Senior Water Policy Advisor
Jonas Minton directed PCL’s water program for nearly 20 years before his sudden and unexpected death on June 22, 2022. He seemed ageless in life and omnipresent in the world of water politics. He had a kayaker’s joy of feeling at one with the energy of water in motion, and he had a policymaker’s understanding of the forces that tugged at each drop of water as it wound from our highest peaks, through our rivers, cities, farms, and then to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, billions of dollars were spent to redirect and reuse that water. A modified first-come-first-served allocation system that promised too much to too many worked creakily and was long overdue for a tune-up.
About the same time Jonas joined PCL, the drought impacts of climate change were coming into focus, and population growth was pushing water demand beyond our delivery system’s best-case capacity. Delta fisheries were facing extinction, and central valley farmlands were sinking due to groundwater over drafting. Local governments were approving new subdivisions without new water to serve them. Policymakers and major stakeholders were largely in denial of these changing realities, and gridlock was the result.
Sorting through these issues, Jonas focused on a starting point: Did increased Delta water exports accelerate the dramatic decline in Delta fisheries? Recently completed off-stream storage in southern California made increased exports possible, and concurrently many delta fish populations inched closer to extinction. In his thoughtful, methodical way he met with stakeholders, briefed legislators, and shared data with reporters. Slowly, pressure built to better understand the relationship between large water exports and the health of California’s largest estuary. After much work, a transparent, science-driven commission was formed to set guidelines for the governance of the Delta and its water. Finally, important public policy decisions were moved from the backrooms to the public square. Issues were confronted, data were shared, and decisions were made. Battles continued but they took place on ground made more solid by science and openness.
Jonas also focused on the relationship between water and urban development. As the population grew and the drought implications of climate change became increasingly clear, Jonas pushed for more accurate and more detailed reports on the reliability of our water supply. How variable is our current water supply and how much water is available for new growth? After negotiations with PCL, the State agreed to publish a State Water Project Reliability Report every two years. Modest at first, within four years, climate change was added to the analysis. The 2021 report was just recently released and was touted by DWR officials as “one of the single most important sources of information that the Department puts out in terms of climate change information as it funnels downstream to water users.” The 2021 report reduced average annual deliveries by about 5% from the 2019 report. This tells local governments and regional water agencies that future average deliveries are shrinking. While not good news for these water users, it is the type of openness and transparency that Jonas knew was important to public policymaking.
Jonas also cared about free-flowing rivers. While at PCL, he spent over a decade working on the complicated task of removing the San Clemente Dam. This allowed the Carmel River to flow unimpeded to the sea, much to the delight of its native steelhead trout population. True to form, Jonas quietly and persistently worked with local governments, utilities, citizen groups, and other stakeholders to overcome the seemingly infinite concerns of the parties involved.
Jonas had a long and successful career before coming to PCL, and these brief comments only highlight a few of Jonas’ contributions to water policy while at PCL. Perhaps his most remarkable talent was his ability to communicate with everyone across the entire spectrum of water policy and politics. He constantly sought ways, both big and small, to solve problems and make the world a better place. When polarization drove people apart, he brought stakeholders together to identify small steps that were in everyone’s best interests. When ACWA proposed groundwater reform in the Central Valley, he instantly recognized the opportunity for progress and actively worked to build a broader coalition around their efforts. When Westside farmers with junior water rights were fallowing fields, he worked with them to develop solar farms. When pollution and sinking water tables tainted the water supply of small communities, Jonas helped link social justice groups with traditional environmental groups to pass the Right to Water legislation.
Over the past several years, Jonas, along with a passionate team of legal advisors, compiled the “Updating California Water Laws to Address Drought and Climate Change” report with 11 recommendations on updating California water laws. This first year Jonas and his team introduced three pieces of legislation spawned from this report, and PCL and our allies are continuing to work diligently to get them passed and signed by the governor.
Jonas preferred to work out of the spotlight and give others credit. He provided knowledge, insight, and a lot of space for people to come to their own conclusions. It’s hard to find someone who didn’t enjoy working with Jonas. Now we are all learning what it is like to live without him.
In his honor, PCL is setting up a Jonas Minton Water Warrior Fund. Money donated to this fund will be dedicated to continuing Jonas’ work at PCL on his grand vision of creating sustainable water resources for all Californians, protecting the threatened resources that are disappearing all too quickly, and building a resilient water future in the midst of the climate crisis. Please designate your donations to this fund if you want to support Jonas’ vision for the future.