Northern Chapter Leaders

Justin Cross - Regional Director3cNorthern_CO-Justin_Cross-Ducks_.jpg

Justin was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. “I started fishing as long ago as I can remember with my grandfather and uncles,” he said. “Growing up I would watch ‘Hunting with Hank’ every Saturday and fell in love with bird dogs and signed up for Hunter Safety. From there I jumped at every chance to get out in the field and was lucky enough to have a couple of junior high school friends who were from hunting families.”

“One of my best friend’s dad, Jim Keller, took me to South Dakota to pheasant hunt in high school and hosted me in their goose pit every weekend growing up,” Justin says. “This access and mentoring really paved the way for me to become passionate about hunting.” Justin is also an angler, but he’s first and foremost a duck hunter. More recently, he’s started archery elk hunting. “I love talking to game!” he said.

After high school Justin graduated from Culinary School at Johnson and Wales and then Colorado State University (CSU) with a degree in Restaurant Management. Following college, he transitioned out of the restaurant industry and worked for a recruiting firm and, then, OtterBox for three years as a Senior Recruiter. He’s been with New Belgium Brewingfor the last five years, first as a Senior Recruiter and currently as Recruiting and Workforce Planning Manager. Justin has also volunteered for multiple non-profits, including networking and fundraising roles for Ducks Unlimited, Respite Care, Colorado Golf Association and Easter Seals.

Justin joined BHA after his first archery elk season. “I have been an avid duck hunter and fly fisher for 20-plus years, but my pursuit and newfound obsession of bugling bulls in our many public land mountain drainages really spurred my desire to be more active in public lands advocacy,” he said. “After a year of reading the Backcountry Journal and listening to Land Tawney’s Podcast I talked to Colorado BHA’s Front Range Sponsor/Events Coordinator, Russell Bassett, about hosting a Pint Night and creating a relationship with New Belgium Brewing Co. This has been a great success!”

Justin lives with his wife and three bird dogs on a small acreage in Livermore backing up to one of Colorado’s State Wildlife Areas. In Justin’s words: “I am a husband to a beautiful wife who enjoys fly-fishing on our public lands and am a dad to a pack of three great bird dogs.” 

Lora Heckman - Assistant Regional Director

lora.jpgLora was born and raised in central Indiana. “My parents were huge influences on doing things outdoors–they always took us to visit cool places when we were young,” she said. “I didn’t really start hunting and fishing until I met my future husband, KC, in Colorado in 2002. KC found a way to weave fishing and hunting into what at the time was my passion for bike racing and exploring the mountains. We’d catch trout to cool off after a bike race, bike our gear into our hunting spike camp, xc-ski to scout for hunting spots, hike to every ridge to scout, etc.”

Before she started hunting, Lora volunteered to video tape hunts so she could learn as much as possible prior to buying her first weapon. Hunting and fishing eventually took over, but she still loves to ride bike and do just about anything active outdoors. “My favorite things to hunt are elk (archery) and all other big game,” Lora says. “I love to eat pronghorn, so I never pass that up. I love spring turkey and rifle deer seasons too–ok almost any hunting.”

“In the winters, I like to do a ‘bunny biathlon’–ski into some good snowshoe rabbit areas and hunt them with snowshoes,” she added. “I began fly-fishing, but after fishing all over the place, I learned I just love to catch fish, no matter the tool (spear guns included)! If I could fish for Pike in Canada every day, I’d do that, but since I can’t, I’ll fish for anything else. I love to catch big fish, or lots of little ones. Saltwater fishing is amazing–you can always expect a surprise.”

Lora is an environmental engineer by education and used to work in the Northwest on things like fish passage systems, fish hatcheries, Environmental Impact Studies and various municipal projects. For most of her time in Colorado she has worked at New Belgium Brewing as a Process Engineer and IT Systems Analyst.

“I recently got my certification as a Personal Trainer, as I’m passionate about helping others be in functional shape to do things they love,” she said. “I joined BHA in 2017-ish after listening to a MeatEater podcast Episode 36 with Land Tawney on the way back from Turkey Hunting in Nebraska.” Lora lives in Fort Collins.

“Lora has been working on Women in the Woods and will be leading that initiative this year,” Justin Cross, Northern Colorado Co-Regional Director, said. “Lora was also a story teller at the Filson event at New Belgium Brewing last year and is passionate about hunting, fishing, conservation and Public Lands.”

“Lora’s passion for ‘anything active outdoors’ is representative of the breadth and depth of BHA members’ passion for all things outdoors,” added chapter co-chair, David Lien (a former U.S. Air Force officer). “She’s also known as a ‘New Belgium Brewery bad ass!’ We need many more like her.”

Sam Williamson - Assistant Regional Director

sam.jpgSam was born and raised on Colorado’s Front Range, in Loveland, and grew up fishing the Big Thompson River. “I’ve been a fisherman my entire life. I started fishing with my dad and brother when I was just a little kid,” he said. “Back then, all I knew about fishing was a spinning rod and lure and catching rainbows and browns from the local rivers and lakes. My parents introduced me to the outdoors and their appreciation for public lands was impressed upon me at a very young age. They took my brother and I camping, hiking, and fishing every chance they could, and for that I’m grateful.”

Sam first picked up a fly rod while completing a Bachelor’s degree in Geography at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “Since then, fly-fishing has become a huge part of my life,” he says. He is also an adult-onset hunter. “I grew up fishing but never hunting,” Sam said. “Learning to hunt later in life has been one of the more challenging and profound experiences of my life.”

He started hunting in October of 2015. “My first hunt was a grouse hunt in the mountains above Boulder,” Sam said. “Colorado BHA’s Northeast Regional Director, George Robinson, was my main hunting mentor and the person who got me involved in hunting, as well as BHA,” he added. “I really got behind BHA and its mission while working as Operations Manager at RepYourWater, and I’m thankful to George and the folks at RYW for introducing me to BHA.”

“I enjoy hunting elk and deer all over the state. My first two elk seasons were spent archery hunting on the western slope of Colorado,” he said. “Last elk season I hunted close to home on the Front Range. I never fully appreciated how diverse a landscape we have in Colorado until I started hunting. Hunting has really opened my eyes to a new country, new people and the importance of public land. Colorado is absolutely stunning and I’m not just saying that because I’m from Colorado, it really has everything. I can now say I’m fully addicted to elk hunting,” he added.

Sam hunts with both bow and rifle. He has been archery elk and deer hunting in Colorado and rifle hunting in Wyoming for pronghorn. He lives in Fort Collins with his wife Lydia and dog Larry. “Without wild public land, public water, and wildlife my life would be very different,” Sam said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to the people who got me involved in the outdoors and guided me into hunting and fishing,” he said. “Now, I feel that it is my duty to pay it forward and help protect and support those wild places, waters and wildlife that mean so much to all of us. Proud Public Land Owner.”

“Sam is a welcome addition to the Colorado BHA Chapter Leadership Team,” said chapter co-chair, David Lien (a former U.S. Air Force officer). “I had an opportunity to chat with him at Colorado BHA’s recent 5th Annual Wild Game Cook-off and was immediately impressed by his commitment to protecting and perpetuating our great public lands hunting and angling heritage. Wildlands and wildlife need many more like him!”

Lauren Jaebker - Assistant Regional Director

thumbnail.jpgLauren was born and raised on the west side of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She started fly-fishing at a young age and some of her earliest memories are from exploring the streams that flow west of Colorado Springs in the Pike National Forest. “Actually, before I was allowed to tag along on the streams, my dad would ask me to watch him tie flies on his handmade fly-tying bench,” she said. “I eventually graduated from watching to doing, but to this day I’m still horrible at tying anything!”

“My greatest mentor was my father,” Lauren added. They would wake up before sunrise, drive 40 miles to the donut house to fuel themselves before hitting the streams, then hike several miles in before getting to their favorite spot on the water. “Most of our days on the river included my father unraveling knotted leader and tippet for me, but he didn’t seem to mind much—we were both happy to be outside, enjoying public lands together. My father taught me patience, respect, and love for wild places that I still value today.”

“Today, my hunting and fishing mentor is now my partner, Will. We actually met at a BHA story-telling night,” she says. Lauren’s passion and love for the outdoors eventually snowballed into a career. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University in Fish, Wildlife, Conservation Biology, with a concentration in Wildlife Biology. Her first wildlife-related position after college was investigating the effects of noise pollution from energy development on the bat community in the Piceance Basin of Colorado.

After that, she worked as a Wildlife Technician for Colorado Parks and Wildlife on a chukar reintroduction project. Most days were spent hiking public lands conducting telemetry or cruising in the Cessna doing aerial telemetry. Next, she worked for the USDA Wildlife Service where as a Biological Science Tech researching reproductive control methods in feral horses as well as strategies to help eliminate rabies in wildlife.

Currently, she is attending graduate school at Colorado State University studying Human-Wildlife Conflict as it relates to wild pigs. “My interests are mostly in social psychology, understanding various stakeholder groups, including hunters!” Lauren says. “The department I’m in is called Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, which is extremely interdisciplinary!”

“I didn’t start hunting regularly until after I graduated college—I had more time and money to add another outdoor hobby to the mix,” she explained. “I also didn’t take hunters safety until I was a senior in college, through a scholarship program I was nominated for by my professors at the time. However, I did tag along on a few deer hunts to be an extra set of eyes with my dad when I was a kid.”

Lauren’s first hunt on her own was for pheasant, which is still one of her favorite hunting pursuits. “Although pheasant was fun and instantly satisfying, I wanted more of a challenge for myself,” she adds. “I decided to take-up big game archery at 23 years old. My first step was purchasing a compound bow. For a while there, I would practice with it every day … My compound bow is my favorite, but nothing beats a good ole’ shotgun!”

She started attending BHA Pint Nights and Storytelling Nights during 2017 at New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins. Eventually, she started volunteering to help out good friend, Kylie Schumacher, the Northern Colorado Group Regional Director (at the time). “It wasn’t until the first Women in the Woods R3 event series, in February 2019, that I realized I wasn’t an official member—so I made it happen!” she said. “I was hoping to get a Sitka package from the raffle. Turns out I got a community of people that I share common values and love of public lands with—a way better prize than Sitka gear.”

Today, Lauren still loves fly-fishing more than anything. “It’s frustratingly challenging and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she says. “Some of my favorite places are up the Poudre Canyon near Fort Collins or in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just recently I began small game hunting for dove … We will see how that goes!” Lauren lives in Fort Collins.

“We are excited to have Lauren helping us further advance the BHA mission. Her expertise in surveying and analytics will enable us to better engage with Colorado BHA members on their interests and concerns surrounding wildlife, access and habitat,” Northern Colorado Regional Director, Justin Cross, said. “In addition to her surveying and analytical expertise, Lauren has been active with the CSU BHA community and has great relationships within the BLM, CPW, and USFS.”