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The Fearless Lawyer and TNC Trustee Who’s a Bridge Between Worlds — The Nature Conservancy in Washington


“No job was beneath me to pay my payments and get myself by faculty,” Maia mentioned of her expertise. “I used to be humbled, and now I really feel lucky to be the place I’m in my profession.” Nevertheless, when Maia realized she wasn’t content material together with her tutorial observe, she utilized for and obtained an internship with the late Olympia Congresswoman and environmentalist Jolene Unsoeld, which sealed Maia’s ambition to observe environmental regulation

“I had an unbelievable expertise together with her, working to help constituents with a number of environmental emergencies like a mysterious fish kill and the aftermath of a flood occasion,” she mentioned. “I fielded the calls that may move in for Congresswoman Unsoeld and helped her constituents navigate these conditions.”  

After ending her internship and graduating from TESC, Maia enrolled within the Sandra Day O’Connor Faculty of Legislation at Arizona State College, the place she mastered environmental regulation, specializing in Tribal regulation. Right here, she discovered her calling to pursue ecological conservation, taking an curiosity in environmental points going through Indigenous individuals, who endure increased publicity to poisonous pollution, contaminated air, and unsafe water.  

Earlier than becoming a member of Cascadia Legislation Group and TNC, Maia first joined the Ecology Division of the Washington Legal professional Normal’s Workplace in 1994, and finally touchdown the place as the pinnacle of Ecology’s Water Assets Program in 2010. Governor Jay Inslee appointed her Director of Ecology in 2013, the place Maia made historical past by not solely changing into the primary Native American to serve within the state Cupboard, but in addition because the longest-running Director of the Washington State Division of Ecology till January of 2020. She oversaw a crew of 1,700 staff and managed a biennial price range of $2.3 billion. She achieved success in carbon emission discount, water sources, and water high quality administration.  

Maia championed stringent water high quality requirements on behalf of her weak populations, confronting the Trump Administration’s makes an attempt to overturn clear water protections. She additionally tackled the problem of containing leaking radioactive waste on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. She thwarted the development of a large coal export terminal. Furthermore, she fought for local weather change adaptation, supporting tasks addressing sea degree rise and adopting a state regulation to cut back carbon air pollution.  

Maia first encountered TNC whereas engaged on a joint mission to amass greater than 50,000 acres within the Teanaway Watershed, one of the crucial vital land purchases within the historical past of Washington State. The watershed in Japanese Washington is a tributary to the Yakima River and has traditionally been a invaluable but contentious useful resource amongst neighboring communities. The mission was a collaboration between the state of Washington, the Division of Pure Assets, the Yakama Nation, The Nature Conservancy in Washington, and different companions. In the present day, the realm is preserved as a neighborhood forest whereas sustaining vital habitats for wildlife, together with endangered species comparable to bull trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon.  

Maia’s position within the bipartisan legislative effort to lift funds for the acquisition was “bringing characters along with completely different pursuits that put particular person pursuits apart for the larger good.” She collaborated with an “unlikely ally” for environmental preservation, Republican Senator James Honeyford, as a key within the transaction who introduced farmers to the desk to help a sustainable, cool, clear water provide within the face of drought and local weather change.  

“When you discover a frequent curiosity, you’ve got a basis for connection,” she mentioned about her method. “After you have a basis, yow will discover a second or third frequent curiosity. You slowly peel the items again and find yourself with individuals who like and respect each other.”  

As Accomplice at Cascadia Legislation Group, Maia is an efficient facilitator bridging individuals’s variations and fostering understanding to succeed in frequent targets. Her position spans numerous environmental issues, together with power coverage, local weather change, and air high quality, guiding municipal, authorities, and Tribal purchasers. The Nisqually Tribe, which welcomed Maia’s household to the Olympia space when she was a teen, is one in all her purchasers. Now, she advocates on their behalf to make sure the Federal authorities upholds the rights reserved within the 1854 Treaty of Drugs Creek.   

“The Nisqually Tribe’s dedication to collaboration and constructive engagement resonates deeply with me,” Maia defined. “I think about this method as ‘quiet work,’ which yields quicker outcomes and paves the way in which for significant change.” Notably near Maia’s coronary heart is her position on the board of the Nisqually River Basis, the place she helps steward a wholesome watershed. 

Past Maia’s skilled endeavors, preserving and celebrating her Indigenous ancestry is a part of her life’s function. She connects together with her roots by conventional beading and collaborating in Tribal dances and singing, actions bonding her together with her household. She additionally fiercely helps her daughter’s budding profession as an artist in movie and media exploring the Indigenous youth expertise. To keep up an lively way of life and forge a bond with the pure world, Maia finds solace in actions comparable to beachcombing and the game of pickleball. When issues get powerful, she depends on kindness, a cornerstone perception guiding all features of her life.  

“Kindness is an amazing supply of energy for me,” Maia affirms. “I genuinely consider that every individual possesses an exquisite capability for kindness inside them. This perception units the stage for constructive transformations and lasting change.” 




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