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Award Recipients


2021 NREEL Career Achievement Award Recipient AJ Olsen

During the past almost-40 years of practice in these areas, Mr. Olsen has promoted NREEL’s purposes by providing those with whom he works with information and dialogue concerning issues affecting natural resources, energy, and the environment; as well as sharing ideas, legal research, and networking (in attempts to expeditiously and beneficially resolve cases and find the best experts and third party support to aid in his presentation of his clients’ claims and defenses) in the course of providing the highest possible quality of legal services to his clients.  Mr. Olsen has also provided education mostly in the area of water law, but also many other areas of litigation and transactions, to numerous attorneys and staff members and local, regional, and State officials with and against whom he has worked.  By doing so, Mr. Olsen has advanced the knowledge, skills and interests of all.


2021 NREEL Inaugural Career Achievement Award Recipient Steven Hernandez

Steve received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Arizona where he studied water law under Professor Robert Emmet Clark who was the author of the widely recognized Treatise on Waters and Water Rights.  He worked for the National Park Service in the Western Regional Office in Santa Fe quantifying the water rights for the national monuments and parks in the region.  He returned to Tucson to become a water attorney for the City of Tucson.  He dealt with Central Arizona Project issues, the implementation of the new Arizona Groundwater Management Act, and the purchase of ground water rights for the city utility.  In the early 1980’s he served in the Solicitor's Office, Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. and then transferred to Sacramento CA.  He moved to New Mexico to help coordinate the defense of the first case to deal with the export of ground water from New Mexico to Texas on behalf of Elephant Butte Irrigation District. He also played a major role in the adjudication and settlement on the Pecos River involving the Carlsbad Project. Steve is also a member of the Arizona bar and was involved in the first state adjudication of water rights in Arizona representing ranchers in the San Pedro reach of the Gila River. He has testified extensively before the New Mexico and Arizona legislatures on water issues.  He has authored, testified and had passed federal legislation involving low head hydro as well as the Title Transfer of Project facilities back for the two major reclamation projects in NM. He has served as President twice since his appointment to the NREEL board in 1988. He has been recognized as a Best Lawyer since 2007 and also as a Southwest Super Lawyer. He was selected to be included in the inaugural class of the Best of the Bar in New Mexico. Steve is a board member and former chair of the litigation review committee for the National Water Resource Association. He lives in Mesilla and in his spare time tends to his small pecan orchard.