Cindy Montañez

Cindy Montañez

Executive Director

Cindy was appointed executive director of MRT in February 2020.

As a lifelong Angeleno raised in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, she began volunteering with local community organizations at the age of 12. Her parents ignited a passion for the environment in Cindy at an early age when they pointed out environmental injustices in their neighborhood. As a family, her parents participated in tree plantings and encouraged the kids to pursue careers in social justice.

At the age of 25, Cindy was elected as the youngest mayor and council member of her hometown of San Fernando. At 28 years old, she made history by becoming the youngest woman elected to the California State Legislature, where she became a champion for the environment, sustainable urban planning and social justice.

Cindy then moved on to serve as Assistant General Manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where she was a core part of the team transitioning the nation’s largest publicly-owned utility to cleaner energy and a more sustainable local water supply.

Cindy is currently a Board Member for the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and a Legislator In-Residence at the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. She also serves as chief executive officer of TreePeople.

Some of Cindy’s favorite things to do are to hike our local mountains, explore California and give back to Los Angeles. She is inspired by the magic of California’s ancient 2,000-year-old giant sequoia trees, the delectable taste of the fruit from her mother’s trees and the ability to live and work inside oak woodlands within a major metropolis.

Kevin Gaston

Kevin Gaston

Deputy Director

Kevin Gaston joined MRT in 2015 and currently serves as our Deputy Director. Prior to joining the Trust, he worked in various roles for California State Parks and the National Park Service, and received his B.S. in Environmental Science & Resource Management from CSUCI. Kevin enjoys the mix of creativity and analytics involved with managing projects at MRT. He believes in our mission because true environmental action requires local commitment and enthusiasm, and non-profit organizations are the best medium to harness that energy. Outside his work, you can find Kevin surfing, cooking, and reading in his backyard with his wife, Emily.

Mark Fiege

Mark Fiege

Restoration Project Manager

Mark Fiege joined MRT in 2017 and is our Restoration Manager and Site Captain for the La Sierra cluster and Voiss sites. Prior to joining the trust, he was a paralegal and received a bachelor of arts in English from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He eventually found an internship with National Park Service Santa Monica Mts and began his career in restoration ecology in 2016. Mark enjoys many aspects of his job at MRT, specifically learning new species and being able to watch our sites grow and transform into native habitats. He believes in our mission because of the passion of our crew, our close ties with the community, and the drive of our leadership. Outside of his day job, you can find Mark gardening at his house, hiking with the dog, or playing drums in a progressive funk band.

Manny Gomez

Manny Gomez

Restoration Tech & Equipment Manager

Emmanuel Gomez joined MRT in 2011 and is our Restoration Tech and equipment manager. Prior to joining the Trust, he had 22 years of experience in landscaping, and tree pruning, while also working part time doing construction in Downtown LA. Emmanuel is extremely passionate about the history that surrounds the Santa Monica Mountains, and considers his work field his second home. He believes in our mission because throughout the years he has witnessed the changes in vegetation growth and believes Mountains Restoration Trust has come a long way. Outside his day job you can find him talking about aliens with his wife and kids.

Walter Householder

Walter Householder

Stewardship Coordinator

Walter Householder joined MRT in 2020 as our Stewardship Coordinator. Prior to joining the trust, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy from California State University, Long Beach, and a Master’s Certificate in Scientific Illustration from California State University, Monterey Bay. Walter’s involvement with the Trust began as a Restoration Technician back in 2013, working hard to restore native plant communities in the Santa Monica Mountains. Since then, he has worked for the Trust intermittently while travelling across the Western United States as a seasonal field biologist with the National Park Service. Walter has acquired a vast degree of knowledge and experience in the fields of restoration ecology and vegetation biology over his many years of environmental work. He is thrilled to be able to bring his expertise to the important work that MRT does every day. Outside of his position as Stewardship Coordinator, Walter also works as a freelance scientific illustrator and fine artist for a wide variety of organizations.

Karen Harper

Karen Harper

Senior Accountant.

Karen Harper joined MRT in 2019 as our Senior Accountant. Prior to joining the trust, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from UCLA and has worked in the accounting and finance arena for over 30 years. Karen’s involvement with MRT began when she completed the MRT Cold Creek Docent program which sparked a new love for nature and a particular interest in the native plants and animals of the Santa Monica Mountains. She went on to earn her certificate in both the Chaparral Institute Naturalist and the UC California Naturalist programs. Karen really enjoys connecting her love for nature with her prior accounting and finance skills to help further MRT’s mission of educating the public about land conservation and the important and ongoing work of acquiring, restoring and protecting open spaces in the Santa Monica Mountains. Outside of work, you can find Karen spending time with her family, cooking healthy meals or hiking through the chaparral with her dog in the Santa Monica Mountains.