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Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance hires new executive director

Markleigh Swanson is the new executive director of the Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance. (Courtesy photo)
Markleigh Swanson brings experience from Tucson gardens

The Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance recently announced it has hired a new executive director.

University of Arizona graduate Markleigh Swanson will replace former Executive Director Shaine Gans and Associate Director Diane McBride.

Swanson will collaborate with Bureau of Land Management staff and the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum to continue promoting the Alliance’s outreach, education and stewardship as they encourage “responsible enjoyment of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the surrounding public lands.”

Swanson recently moved to Montezuma County from Tucson, Arizona. She graduated from the University of Arizona summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics. After graduating, she began her career in nonprofit work at the membership department of Tucson Botanical Gardens.

Swanson is excited about working with SCCA.

“I have always been passionate about the environment and stewardship,” she said. “I think more people should be able to experience the wonders of nature, but it is more important than ever to do so responsibly to preserve these natural and cultural treasures for generations to come. I’m very happy to be a part of the conservation process.”

Swanson said she plans to grow the organization and add employees.

“The board of directors and I will soon be starting a strategic planning process that will give us a better idea of where we want to take the organization in terms of mission, goals and opportunities,” she said. “SCCA has been very small since its inception in 2013, with only one or two employees at any given time.”

SCCA was founded by people concerned about public lands in Southwest Colorado and specifically, the landscape of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Swanson also hopes to help create a lecture series to help visitors learn about the national monument.

“We will be reorganizing some of the programming that we have previously provided and collaborating with the BLM in new ways,” Swanson said. “We’re hoping to bring a regular lecture series to Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum to highlight Indigenous expertise on various subjects of interest to our supporters.”

The organization relies on volunteers and individuals who advocate and raise funds on its behalf. Swanson plans on ramping up fundraising efforts and getting more people involved.

“We will also be focusing more on fundraising and membership in order to grow our organization and our constituency,” Swanson said. “As part of this expanded effort, I imagine a host of new fundraising events and activities with plenty of room for member and volunteer engagement. These changes and endeavors will ideally allow us to recruit more volunteers and advocates to help preserve the natural and cultural resources of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.”

SCCA works with the Bureau of Land Management to engage the community and are proud partners of Onward! a Legacy Foundation that exists to “provide opportunities to develop and maintain a sustainable resource base that will enhance the quality of life for residents in the Four Corners communities.”

For information about SCCA and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, visit swcocanyons.org online.