Conservation Catalyst

Ken Salazar overlooking a river in western Colorado
Ken Salazar, former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is a leading authority on natural resources conservation. He is a founder and namesake of the CSU Salazar Center fro North American Conservation.

Salazar Center leads research, policy, and practice

One of the state’s most respected public servants, from one of its most deeply rooted agricultural families, has helped to establish a Colorado State University center to stimulate leading ideas in natural resources conservation across the continent.

Ken Salazar – fifth-generation Coloradan, rancher, lawyer, policymaker, and pre-eminent mind in conservation – is a founder and namesake of CSU’s Salazar Center for North American Conservation. He is best known for serving from 2009 to 2013 as secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the federal agency charged with conserving and managing the nation’s natural resources, honoring its Native American heritage, and promoting energy security.

The Salazar Center for North American Conservation will extend that expertise to activate linkages and innovations in conservation research, policy, and practice. In particular, the center will promote a broad, systemic view of conservation that recognizes connections among environmental health, economic strength, and quality of life.

The center is part of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability; in coming years, it will be based on the CSU Campus at the National Western Center.

“The center will serve as a clearinghouse of best ideas in conservation, and it will serve as a catalyst to action,” Salazar said in September, as he opened the inaugural International Symposium on Conservation Impact, the center’s first major event.

The symposium in Denver helped publicly launch the Salazar Center and attracted more than 200 elected officials and conservation experts to explore the issue of landscape and ecosystem connections across the continent.

It would be hard to match Salazar’s credentials on conservation. Before heading the U.S. Department of the Interior, Salazar served as a U.S. senator from Colorado, as Colorado attorney general, and as executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Complex conservation issues – crossing the realms of economy, environment, and society – threaded through those high-profile roles. He developed independent-minded ethics on conservation while growing up on a family ranch in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The new center is steeped in those values.

“Throughout his life and career, Ken Salazar has exemplified the spirit of service, reasoned leadership, and commitment to the public good that are at the heart of CSU’s land-grant mission,” Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System, said. “The Salazar Center sustains this great legacy by creating a space for innovation, forward-thinking, and collaboration on the most pressing conservation questions of our age.”

The need to protect air, land, water, and wildlife is growing increasingly urgent in the face of climate change, species extinction, the disappearance of healthy connected ecosystems, and a rapidly growing global population, Beth Conover, recently appointed director of the Salazar Center, said. These changes are increasingly pressuring and fragmenting landscapes.

“The center looks to invest in cutting-edge ideas and world-class conservation leaders to pioneer projects that address these challenges,” Conover said.

That work is already underway. During the center’s first symposium, leaders announced the availability of a $100,000 Conservation Impact Prize to be given annually, starting next year. Through the competitive grant program, funds will be awarded to proposals most likely to drive innovation in landscape connectivity, benefiting habitats and communities.

Read more at Connectivity Challenge and Salazar Center