James Dilzell to lead Eagle River Watershed Council

Dilzell fills the role left by longtime executive director Holly Loff

James Dilzell is the next executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council. The local nonprofit advocates for the health of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects.
Courtesy photo

James Dilzell, who has led education and outreach efforts for the Eagle River Watershed Council since 2019, has been named the new executive director of the local nonprofit.

Dilzell replaces Holly Loff, who left the organization in February to pursue a grant writing and consulting business. Loff served as executive director since 2013.

Prior to joining the Eagle River Watershed Council, Dilzell worked at Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, where he was the energy programs coordinator. Dilzell received his bachelor’s degree of science in environmental engineering from the University of Alabama and spent his summers with the Montana Conservation Corps, leading a trail crew in the Koontenai National Forest, before moving to Colorado.

“Based on James’ history with nonprofits in the valley, knowledge of the watershed, his enthusiasm and the fabulous job he’s done managing the Watershed Council’s education efforts, we are thrilled that he will be the Eagle River Watershed Council’s new executive director,” said Tom Allender, the board president for the Watershed Council, in a release announcing the news.

“I am so thrilled to be stepping into the role of executive director for the Watershed Council,” Dilzell said. “I’ve been living out our mission for nearly three years, and I cannot wait to continue that and lead this organization to the next level. Our staff and board is a strong team right now, and we have so many incredible and impactful projects coming up this summer and in the next couple of years. I’m looking forward to continue to protect our rivers with this community.”

Support Local Journalism

Dilzell currently lives in Gypsum and has lived in the Eagle Valley for five years. He spends his free time skiing, mountain biking, camping and paddle boarding, and has volunteered as a mentor with SOS Outreach in past winters. He also loves to cook, and can often be found at the nearest coffee shop.

Under Loff’s leadership, the Watershed Council more than doubled its annual fundraising totals arrived while tripling volunteer participation. The mission of the local nonprofit has evolved over the years since being formed in response to chronic spills of heavy metals from the Eagle Mine into the Eagle River, which turned the river orange and impacted the fishery on numerous occasions throughout its history.

In 1996, several existing groups unified under the Watershed Council name, and the organization attained 501c3 status in 2004.

The council’s river and highway cleanup efforts have become important community gatherings, and the group completed more than 20 river restoration projects in Eagle County during Loff’s nearly nine years with the organization.

Today, the nonprofit’s four major areas of focus include monitoring, advocacy, education and restoration efforts for local creeks and rivers.

Loff, in an interview with the Vail Daily in February after announcing her departure, said the decision to leave was extremely difficult, but she’s confident the organization is in a good place to enter its next chapter.

“The next 5-10 years are going to be particularly critical to our watershed, and I look forward to seeing this amazing organization continue to rise to the challenge,” she said.

“It was truly a pleasure to work with Holly at the Eagle River Watershed Council. She is not only a talented professional, but also a wonderful and good-hearted person who was able to build a great Watershed Council team and strong and effective relationships with other organizations throughout the county and region'” said Cliff Simonton, who was president of the board of directors of the Eagle River Watershed Council during Loff’s tenure. “She will be missed, but we look forward to having her continued counsel as the Watershed Council enters a new era.”

Eagle River Watershed Council encourages the community to attend its upcoming seventh Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival on April 7, with both virtual and in-person options available. The in-person event will take place at the Riverwalk Theater in Edwards, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and films showing at 6:30 pm. Tickets are available at

“This is event is one of my absolute favorites, and I’m stoked that we have both in-person and virtual components this year,” Dilzell said. “It’ll be so much fun to see folks at the Riverwalk Theater. Plus, this is the first time we’ve had a Q&A session with filmmakers, and I can’t wait for our community to experience it. I’m a little biased, but our silent auction has some of the best adventures and gear I could imagine, too.”

Learn more about the Watershed Council at Dilzell can be reached at or 970-827-5406.

John LaConte contributed reporting.

Support Local Journalism