Our Expert Staff

WRA’s team of experts has three decades of working where decisions are made, sweating the details, creating evidence-based solutions, and holding decision makers accountable.

Mike Gheleta

Michael Gheleta

Senior Attorney


Healthy Rivers

Office Location

Boulder, Colorado

Area of Focus

As Senior Attorney with WRA, Mike uses his national experience and deep expertise in water and natural resources law to develop and advance effective and equitable policies improving regional and interstate water governance and management in ways that benefit rivers and the communities, recreation, and environment they support. His focus is on the Colorado River Basin, while also working to address legal and policy issues on other key western rivers. He collaborates with the Healthy Rivers team, conservation community partners, water providers, federal and state agency officials, and other key water decision makers to advance the next generation of water management strategies.


Prior to joining WRA in February 2023, Mike worked for several decades in the public and private legal sectors, handling litigation, negotiations and policy advising for clients across the West and nation. He served as a Trial Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division for 15 years, litigating in federal and state courts some of the country’s most significant water and public land cases involving federal agencies and officials. Mike also held attorney and management positions over 10 years with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor, based in Denver, Sacramento, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

Prior to his legal career, Mike worked as a commercial whitewater rafting guide on rivers in California, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado. He continues to enjoy guiding rivers throughout the West, as well as navigating the challenges of western water law and policy.


Among Mike’s accomplishments in western water law was litigating federal reserved water rights to maintain instream flows in National Forests and National Parks in Oregon, Idaho and Utah, and achieving a settlement of water rights for Zion National Park. He also sat on several Indian water right settlement teams in Arizona, and was the lead federal negotiator for the Hualapai Tribe Bill Williams River water right settlement approved by Congress and signed by President Obama. In the area of public lands, Mike served as litigation counsel for Presidents Clinton and Bush for seven years in multiple cases challenging Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, as well as national monuments in Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and California, which ultimately resulted in protection of 4 million acres of western lands.


  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley
  • Master of Arts in Political Science from Colorado State University in Fort Collins
  • Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado Boulder

Favorite thing about the West

Running rapids on a challenging river, while taking in the incomparable western natural scenery.

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