The Team

CANA Foundation Team

Manda Kalimian

Founder & President

Manda Kalimian is the founder and president of the CANA Foundation, which for over a decade ago has worked to rewild America’s wild horses and land to promote environmental and climate sustainability. Through CANA, Manda has not only raised awareness of issues surrounding America’s wild horses and environmental destruction, she’s made major change in Washington, including effectuated rewilding language for managing America’s wild horses in the FY2020 Interior Appropriations budget bill. A frequent speaker, she’s presented about horse and environmental topics at Cambridge University at the Cambridge Conservation Forum in England. She’s appeared in leading media, including on MSNBC’s Morning Joe

Through her production company, White Feather Productions, she’s spearheaded music videos, TV spots, Times Square Billboards and live events to share the message about wild horses globally. She also founded a wellness line of skincare products, Naturally Considerate, whose profits go back to equestrian and environmental causes. Manda is also a founding member of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell, a nonpartisan institute which seeks to elevate the discourse and deepen understanding of volatile political and global events. 

On her private farm on Long Island, she works with animal rescues ranging from horses to goats and welcomes visitors to learn through special workshops and exclusive events at her Rewilding Space. Manda is a passionate advocate for preserving the Native American culture and supports educational and health initiatives benefiting indigenous communities.

Erin King-Sweeney

Executive Director

Erin King Sweeney is the Executive Director of CANA, where she leads efforts to help communicate CANA’s messaging to a multi-platform audience. An attorney with over twenty years of experience in the aviation industry, Erin also serves as President of King Sweeney Strategies LLC which advises clients on business strategy in the transportation, security and equine fields. For 5 years, Erin served as a Councilwoman in the Town of Hempstead, New York, winning election, and was selected as majority leader.  Erin’s work focused on downtown development and transit-oriented growth. Erin is a Member of the Board of the Cradle of Aviation Museum and serves on the Advisory Council for the Belmont Childcare Association. As a breast cancer survivor, Erin has chaired and organized events with elected officials and health care professionals to raise awareness about the importance of early detection. Erin graduated manga cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and is a graduate of Notre Dame Law School. 

Ross MacPhee

Scientific Advisor

Ross MacPhee PhD, is CANA’s scientific advisor and a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Ross is a biologist specializing in mammals that are now extinct, especially those that lived in recent prehistory (last 2 million years). He has searched for recently-lost species all over the world, seeking to explain not only their biological relationships but why they died out. Using both fossils and modern genomic methods, he and his colleagues are seeking to show that all modern horses, whether domestic or wild, have ancestries that ultimately originated in North America. He was curator of the AMNH exhibition The Horse (2008) and the author of End of the Megafauna (Norton, 2019), an account of species disappearances worldwide after the end of the last Ice Age–– including mysterious loss of the horse in North America.

Michael Connor

Legal Advisor

Michael Connor is a partner at the WilmerHale law firm where he advise clients seeking to initiate projects and activities involving the use, development, or conservation of public lands, water resources, the outer-continental shelf and federal infrastructure, to effectively address the statutes and regulatory requirements managed by federal, state and local agencies.  With more than two decades of government experience, Mr. Connor is well equipped to provide clients with strategic advice regarding regulatory, public policy and legislative matters related to natural resources and Federal Indian law.  Michael served as Deputy Secretary of the US Department of the Interior, addressing some of the most complex natural resource issues facing federal agencies across the nation. Mr. Connor earned a reputation in government as an authority on water resources law and policy, and is a trusted source for legal advice and policy support regarding water resource use and sustainable development.

Additionally, Mr. Connor supports Native American tribes seeking to gain legal recognition of long-standing rights, assess opportunities for the sustainable use of their land and water resources, develop projects to provide services and economic development opportunities, and protect their interests in government proceedings that could affect their rights and interests. He is an enrolled member of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. 

Before joining WilmerHale, Mr. Connor held an array of positions within the federal government, including high-level positions in the Obama Administration. As noted, he served as Deputy Secretary of the US Department of the Interior from 2014-2017, as well as Commissioner of the US Bureau of Reclamation from 2009-2014, leading efforts to develop strategies, build coalitions and implement actions to carry out President Obama’s energy, natural resources, conservation, climate change and Native American policies. He previously served as counsel to the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which included managing the Water and Power Subcommittee. In this position, he developed, negotiated and enacted legislation involving water resources, energy, and Native American issues. Mr. Connor also served as director of the Indian Water Rights Office at the Department of the Interior.

Mr. Connor previously served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law. 

Moses Brings Plenty

American Indian Liaison

Moses Brings Plenty works to secure large tracts of private and reservation land to rewild the tens of thousands of wild horses currently standing in BLM holding facilities. As a Lakota, Moses works through a vision of the future of tribal America to share best practices and cultural understanding with CANA and CANA constituents. A gifted musician and actor, Moses’ credits include Paramounts “Yellowstone,” AMC’s “The American West” BBC’s “Custer’s Last Stand” and more.  He is a tribally enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. He is a direct descendant of Brings Plenty.

Steve Israel

Legislative Advisor

Steve Israel was a Member of Congress for sixteen years and currently serves as CANA Foundation’s legislative advisor. He also heads the non-partisan Cornell University Institute of Politics and Global Affairs in New York City. A regular political commentator on MSNBC, Steve appears regularly in The New York Times, The Atlantic Magazine, as well as The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. He wrote the popular books “Big Guns” & “The Global War On Morris” and is a regular at horse shows and events with his children and grandchildren, as well as being a horse lover and advocate.

Judy Fuson

Wild Horse Liaison

Judy advises CANA Foundation on wild horse behaviors and is a gifted teacher, author and horse trainer with over twenty years experience in “talking with animals.” She works with pet owners on behavior problems, illness and unsoundness in dogs, cats, horses and other animals. She is the author of “Wagging Tails, Swishing Tails, Fluffy Tails and Other Tales,” a book about animal communication. A lecturer at Whole Life Expos, Victory of Light Expo in Cincinnati, Ohio and Universal Light Expo in Columbus, Ohio, she has also been a presenter at Equine Affair in Columbus, Ohio. Popular in the media, she’s been a guest on radio shows including Transitions Radio Magazine in Santa Fe, New Mexico and currently appears with Jill Reynolds on Critter Chatter in Boulder, Colorado.

Karla LaRive

Communications / Cultural Liaison

A long-time advocate for preserving the legacy of wild horses, Karla LaRive comes to the CANA Foundation with a background in photography, communications and marketing.

Her production company, PK Productions, LLC was founded in 2006 with a focus in media production, music management and cultural awareness. In 2015, PK Productions LLC was nominated for a Grammy (NARAS) for “Best Regional Roots Album” as Producer on GENERATIONS featuring Windwalker and the MCW. Her company has also won two Native American Music Awards (NAMA) in addition to other memorable music nominations.

During this tenure, Karla served as Communications Director for the Institute of Range and American Mustang (IRAM) working alongside wild horse conservation pioneer, the late Dayton O. Hyde, at his 11,000 acre wild horse sanctuary in western South Dakota.

In 2016, Karla ran for South Dakota District 30 Senate (Black Hills region.) She is an activist and animal advocate in Government, including State and Tribal relations on behalf of wild horses in South Dakota and around the country. She has been a passionate voice in bringing attention to current issues.

Karla, a California native, has called the Black Hills of South Dakota home for nearly 20 years. She lives there with her family and extended family of various wildlife.

Elise Lowe-Vaughn

Workforce Policy / Wild Horse Advisor

Elise Lowe-Vaughn serves as the CANA Workforce Policy Advisor. In her day job she is the Colorado Director of Workforce Programs and oversees a large portfolio of federal and state workforce programs. She is an appointed member to several national workforce associations and serves on several state and county boards. Elise has testified before a Congressional subcommittee and presented internationally on challenges facing the future workforce. She uses her knowledge of western issues facing communities, and her expertise in policy and legislation to promote an integrated wild horse advocacy strategy for our wild horses and their legally designated lands with a goal of ecological balance so all can thrive. Her two horses continue to be her teachers and guides.

Gayle Hunt

Federal Agency Consultant

Originally from rural Western Oregon, Gayle has spent the last 30 years in Central Oregon––a world apart. The desert and pine forest ecosystems of the drier climes east of the Cascades were the logical landscape for a career in the U.S. Forest Service and a commitment to the preservation of America’s wild horses and burros.  

As witness to the weak approach of Federal Agencies to the management of wild equines, Gayle founded the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition to consolidate the random interests of area citizens into a more formidable, solution-based advocacy front. Particular areas of emphasis, in addition to protection of the Forest Service-managed Big Summit herd, are the Native Species status of the Horse in North America; the potential contributions of equines to the restoration of Western rangelands; the strengthening of legal protections of wild equines and universal adherence to those protections; and the creation of partnerships with Veterans and underserved communities to accomplish on-range work which keeps wild herds intact on their homelands.