Where Are They Now

Meet Five Former ONDA Law Clerks and Interns Making the World a Better Place

It takes a village to protect, defend, and restore Oregon’s sagebrush wildlands. All of ONDA’s work is effective thanks to the tremendous support of our members, supporters, and volunteers, a hard-working staff and a steady stream of stellar student law clerks and interns.

Seeing how these clerks and interns go on to use skills and experiences from their time at ONDA throughout their careers is always gratifying, and, as we celebrate our 35th anniversary in 2022, we wanted to highlight five former law clerks and interns whose work in conservation and beyond is sure to inspire you.




Bitteroot blooms on north-facing cliffs in western North America.

The Paiute name for bitteroot is kangedya. Traditional Native American uses of the plant included eating the roots, mixed with berries and meat, and using the roots to treat sore throats.



Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse


Jane Heisler, Sage Sustainers Member

Jane Heisler, Sage Sustainers Member

I love to travel and I love the desert! Supporting ONDA monthly allows me to hit the road without forgetting Oregon’s high desert—even when I’m not there.

Maddy Munson

Public Lands Director, Wild Montana

Why Maddy supports ONDA’s mission: “Public land conservation can be a long process requiring a lot of dedication through slow and steady progress. ONDA has the perseverance to accomplish lasting conservation measures by working across different areas from litigation, policy, stewardship, and restoration efforts.”

Favorite spot in Oregon’s high desert: Among the “many amazing hidden gems in Oregon’s high desert,” one of Maddy’s favorite areas is along the John Day River near Priest Hole. During law school, she “fell in love with the humbling and rugged landscape of the John Day River Basin with its colorful hills, rocky cliffs, vast skies, and cold water.”

Growing up in Boise, Maddy explored the sagebrush steppe all over southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. Spending time in these landscapes helped her gain an early appreciation for wild, open spaces and inspired her to pursue a career in conservation.

Maddy first heard of ONDA as an undergrad at the University of Oregon, where she was majoring in environmental studies and minoring in public policy. In one of her classes, students discussed a landmark court decision—in a case brought by ONDA—establishing the Bureau of Land Management’s obligation to consider wilderness values during land use planning. Maddy was struck by the importance of the administrative processes that govern how our public lands are managed.

Fast forward just a few years and Maddy was now clerking for ONDA while she attended law school in Portland. Her favorite memory from that experience was combing through statutes, policy manuals, and community-generated field surveys to find support for ONDA’s proposal that the Bureau ought to preserve millions of acres of wildlands in the Owyhee country. Maddy’s comprehensive critique became a major part of our public comments on the agency’s proposal. In fact, this was the court-ordered planning process that grew out of the case Maddy and her classmates had studied just a few years earlier.

“These types of administrative issues, while not the most glamorous, are an essential piece of public land advocacy and have lasting consequences,” observes Maddy.

While wrapping up law school, Maddy was named a Wyss Scholar for the Conservation of the American West. She is the Public Lands Director for Wild Montana in Bozeman, focusing on engaging citizens with rulemaking, agency projects, and agency planning processes. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my experience and opportunities to learn at ONDA,” says Maddy.

Brittany Leffel interned with ONDA in the autumn of 2018, assisting with outreach and events.

Today, she is overseeing a stewardship program and outreach communications at Tualatin Riverkeepers, an organization which provides hands-on restoration opportunities along the Tualatin River and its many tributaries.

“I work alongside community partners and local governments to educate and engage community members to be active watershed stewards of the Tualatin River watershed. This year, I was proud to redesign a virtual volunteer training program that reflects our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The most valuable skill the Brittany honed during her time at ONDA was how to find common ground.

“During my internship, I had the opportunity to listen to many different perspectives. Through this experience, I observed that lived experiences weigh heavily on people’s perspectives,” said Brittany, “We can’t always change someone’s mind, but we can find common ground as a tool to create effective policy.”

Brittany Leffel

Stewardship Coordinator, Tualatin Riverkeepers

Paul Ruprecht

Sagebrush Habitat Conservation Fund, Western Watersheds Project

What inspires Paul to bring attention to public lands:

“In my view, public lands are our greatest treasure as Americans. These areas can also be very important reserves as we confront crises of climate change and loss of biodiversity.”

Growing up in Twin Falls, Idaho, Paul accompanied his parents and brothers on high desert adventures in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. He developed a love of wild places and recognition of the importance of public lands.

During and after college, Paul spent six seasons as a wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service in Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska—including a couple seasons with the elite Vale Hotshots in southeastern Oregon.

Paul clerked with ONDA during law school, in 2011. ONDA had just won an important ruling in a long-running travel planning case on Steens Mountain. The court directed us to submit a proposal for protecting the mountain while the agency prepared a new travel plan. Paul visited Steens to ground-truth several disputed routes, and his subsequent court declaration helped us secure an injunction, still in place today, that protects about 120 miles of obscure routes from damage and expansion on some of the mountain’s wildest areas.

After law school, Paul worked as a public interest attorney with Western Watersheds Project, bringing important cases to protect lands and wildlife throughout the northern Great Basin country.

Now a resident of northwestern Nevada, Paul feels a special connection to the Oregon desert. Paul particularly loves exploring the Warner Mountains, Warner Valley and southern Hart Mountain country—relishing memories like spotting a black bear in 12-Mile Creek and appreciating ancient rock art in the High Lakes area. Adding to an already diverse resume of experiences, Paul is currently pursuing graduate studies in natural resources and conservation.

Lindsay interned with ONDA in the fall of 2013, starting just after we received a windfall of new members at a Wild and Scenic Film Festival. Her first order of business was getting all those new folks welcomed, thanked and properly situated in the member database – perhaps foreshadowing her future role as our membership coordinator.

As an intern in the development department, Lindsay ensured that day-to-day tasks like shipping out Wild Desert Calendars were handled with aplomb, and she helped with strategic new initiatives, such as putting together visitor’s guides for popular spots in Oregon’s high desert.

Following her internship, Lindsay worked at ONDA through 2018 and implemented many systematic improvements to our processes as our membership base grew. She credits ONDA leadership with helping her to learn how to be confident in her own good work. And, she says, “The second most important thing I got to practice was priortizing, because small nonprofit workload was and is REAL.”

Today, as Director of Communications and Outreach, at the Jackson Hole Land Trust, she keeps people informed about that organization’s great work and gives them opportunities to plug in.


Lindsay Jones

Director of Communications and Outreach, Jackson Hole Land Trust

Why Lindsay supports ONDA’s mission:

“I still support ONDA’s mission because I fell in love with Oregon’s high desert, and getting to know the passion and determination of the ONDA community–staff, members, and volunteers–firsthand has given me nothing but confidence that ONDA will continue to champion our public lands.”

Kristin Ruether

Worldwide Refugee Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

What is inspires Kristin about Oregon’s high desert and drives her to bring attention to public lands:

“I love the peace of the high desert and all its sensory features, especially the night sounds of insects and owls and the smell of sagebrush baked in the sun or after a rain. . . . At the same time, genocide echoes across the high desert and that’s impossible to forget. As beneficiary of that, I think it’s important to acknowledge that history more often, and support ongoing indigenous justice efforts like voluntary land taxes and land return.”

After finishing her undergraduate degree in biology from Cornell, Kristin headed west for law school in Portland—and, boy, are we happy that she did. As a student law clerk, Kristin helped ONDA build and litigate cases to restore damaged steelhead streams in the John Day River basin. ONDA was so pleased with her outstanding work and love of Oregon’s high desert that we asked Kristin to join as a staff attorney the moment she completed her law degree.

Kristin shined in one project after another, including ONDA’s first big wilderness victory, in a case involving Beaty Butte. That court decision established the Bureau of Land Management’s obligation to survey and consider impacts to wilderness values before approving projects that might impair those values. I still remember that thrilling phone call from Kristin in 2006, where she shouted, “We won Gulches!!!”

During her time at ONDA, Kristin appreciated visiting Malheur Wildlife Refuge to watch Steve Herman and his students banding birds, his joy contagious. She recalls adventurous monitoring trips to Louse Canyon, an area so remote you need to carry extra gas. “But most of my time,” remarks Kristin, “was spent in the Portland office writing briefs!”

After a few years in Portland, Kristin moved to Boise—to continue working on high desert protection, with Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West, and to be that much closer to the Oregon high desert.

She later shifted into immigration law, and for the last several years, Kristin has represented former refugees in immigration matters at the International Rescue Committee.

“It was fulfilling to empower people displaced by war to become US citizens, which provides a sense of permanency and belonging that their lives often lacked for a very long time. Human rights and biodiversity are bound up, as evidenced by the brutal treatment of indigenous land defenders around the world, and the environmental contributions of many refugee crises.”

Kristin has recently accepted a position with the U.S. refugee resettlement program and is looking forward to new challenges.

Over the years, ONDA law clerks and interns have gone on to become public interest attorneys, scientists, policy experts, congressional staffers, and leaders in their communities. Their continued commitment to public service and to making the world a better place inspires us every day.