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NREEL Lawyer of the Year

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Each year, the Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of New Mexico (NREEL) grants two awards to accomplished practitioners in the fields of natural resources, energy, and environmental law.  The first is the NREEL Lawyer of the Year Award, which recognizes a lawyer who has had a phenomenal year or few years of achievement in the practice of natural resources, energy or environmental law.  The second is the NREEL Career Achievement Award, given to a lawyer who has made significant contributions to natural resources, energy, or environmental law over the course of a career. 

An Award Committee comprised of members of the NREEL Board of Directors will solicit and review all written nominations for these awards to select the recipient.  While the focus of the awards differs, recipients must be individuals who have promoted the stated purposes of the NREEL: to provide Section members, the State Bar, and the public with information and dialogue concerning issues affecting natural resources, energy and the environment, and who have shared ideas, legal research, and networking with the goal of providing the highest possible quality of legal services to New Mexicans in the areas of natural resources, energy, and environmental law. The successful nominee should have demonstrated:

1. Professionalism and integrity by:

a. Promoting the honor, dignity, and professionalism of lawyers;

b. Promoting ethical conduct and collegiality within the practice; and

c. Being held in high regard in the profession.

2. Superior legal service by, for example:

a. Demonstrating superior knowledge of the substantive legal area in which he or she practices; and/or

b. Providing excellent legal representation to clients.

3. Exemplary service by, for example:

a. Making significant contributions to natural resources, energy, or environmental law generally in the State of New Mexico;

b. Expanding the resources of natural resources, energy, and environmental lawyers or law students or both by providing educational, networking, or mentoring opportunities;

c. Serving in leadership posts or on special projects and committees related to natural resources, energy, or environmental law;

d. Assisting natural resources, energy, and environmental lawyers and law students by evaluating jurisprudence, legislation, and regulations;

e. Advancing the knowledge, skills, and interests of natural resources, energy, and environmental lawyers and law students; and/or

f. Demonstrating innovative thinking or leadership skills related to natural resources, energy, or environmental law.

4. Service to the public in the areas of natural resources, energy, or environmental law by, for example:

a. Supporting the public interest in a fair and effective system of justice; and/or

b. Demonstrating outstanding community or pro bono contributions.

Past Recipients


2020 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Charles Nobel, Nobel Law Office

"Though he retired several months ago, for most of the past decade Mr. Charles Noble has worked as counsel for CCAE, which is a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting the environment in an economically responsible manner. He has practiced law in these areas for decades and has always dedicated his expertise to advancing the public good. Mr. Noble’s word is his bond and all who have worked with him respect his ability and integrity. He is a pleasure to work with: thoughtful, funny, knowledgeable, and skilled. He is a public servant in the highest sense of the word."   - S. Michel, Western Resource Advocates

2020 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Jeffrey Wechsler, Montgomery & Andrews PA

"Mr. Jeff Wechsler has be practicing for more than 15 years. His substantive knowledge and expertise in water, environmental and natural resources law and public utility regulation in combination with his litigation experience translates to exceptional legal services to clients. Mr. Wechsler is held in high regard by all whom he encounters, whether partner, opponent, client, or judge for his professionalism, ethical conduct, and collegiality within the NREEL practice and legal community." - J. Brent Moore, Montgomery & Andrews PA

2019 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Eric Jantz
Eric Jantz is a Staff Attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit, environmental justice law firm based in Santa Fe. Eric began addressing uranium mining’s impacts on Diné (Navajo) citizens when he worked in a legal aid office in the Eastern Agency of the Navajo Nation. Since he took the helm of the Law Center’s indigenous mining program in 2001, he has become one of the country’s leading public-interest attorneys to work on uranium mining issues at the local, tribal, state, federal and international levels. Under his leadership, the Law Center’s has successfully fought uranium mining proposed for a drinking water aquifer that underlies several Diné communities in western New Mexico and for Mount Taylor, one of the most culturally significant sites in the Southwest. In addition, Eric is at the forefront of a growing national effort to use federal civil rights laws to address environmental racism; his current focus is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he is working to prevent decision-makers from a long-standing practice of concentrating air polluting facilities in low-income neighborhoods of color.

2018 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Stuart Butzier
Stuart Butzier has assisted mining, energy, high-tech, industrial and ranching clients throughout his thirty year legal career with Modrall Sperling. His counsel has included helping clients strategically navigate the maze of environmental and mining regulatory and permitting regimes, the morass of litigation, and the unique challenges of complex deals and real property transactions involving private, Federal, State, Indian and split-estate lands.

2017 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Amy I. Haas
Amy I. Haas is the Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel for the Upper Colorado River Commission where she represents the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming on Colorado River matters.  A 2000 graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law, Ms. Haas has focused her practice on water law, beginning her legal career in private law firms and joining the state of New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission in 2005 as the Rio Grande Bureau staff attorney.  In 2009, Ms. Haas became General Counsel of the Interstate Stream Commission, representing the state’s interests in 8 interstate stream compacts, as well as advising the 9-member Commission, its Director and bureau chiefs on all legal matters.  She served in that capacity until May of 2017.  While at the Interstate Stream Commission, Ms. Haas became Acting Director while also fulfilling the role of General Counsel for a six-month period spanning 2014 and 2015.  From 2015 to 2017, Ms. Haas served as New Mexico’s Upper Colorado River Commissioner and its Colorado River Basin States Principal.


2016 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Gregory C. Ridgley
Ridgley was selected for for his display of professionalism and integrity, superior legal service and because he is a life-long public servant. Ridgley is held in high regard by water law practitioners throughout the West and is a master of the nuanced area of Western water law. He is able to maintain a high degree of integrity and professionalism in a position that can be extremely difficult and unfathomably demanding.

2015 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Greg J. Nibert
Nibert was selected for the award because of his service to oil and gas law, his devotion to NREEL and the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, and his outstanding professionalism in the practice of law. His highly successful career has focused on oil and gas transactions, in addition to oil and gas regulation. The New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization recognizes him as a specialist in oil and gas law.

2014 NREEL Lawyer of the Year Recipient Walter Stern
Stern, past Chair of the NREEL Section, was selected based on his career including practice in public lands law; environmental law, including work with the National Environmental Policy Act; historic and cultural resources issues; Indian law; water law; oil and gas; and mining. He is a recognized expert on historic and cultural resources and co-authored the American Bar Association's book, as well as numerous papers on the subject.