Thriving Cities Challenge announces 15 finalist teams

We're thrilled to announce that 15 teams from communities across North America have been selected as finalists for the Center’s Thriving Cities Challenge! Each finalist team will receive a $10,000 capacity-building grant this summer, along with training and mentorship opportunities to help strengthen and develop their proposed projects, and as many as five teams will be chosen as winners following a virtual pitch event on September 30.

The fifteen finalists were chosen from a pool of 52 applicants from across the United States and Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, as well as several Tribal nations and Indigenous groups. Proposals were reviewed and scored by a diverse committee of expert evaluators, drawn from leadership in philanthropy, academia, nonprofit and for-profit worlds. The finalists (in no particular order) are: 
  • “Rooting & Blooming: Cultivating a Fruitful Commons at Festival Beach Food Forest & Community Garden,” submitted by Festival Beach Food Forest in Austin, Texas
  • “Empowering Community-Based Organizations for Green Infrastructure Planning and Development,” submitted by the Council for Watershed Health in Los Angeles, California
  • “Anchoring Community, Resilience, and Equity through Rogell Park,” submitted by EcoWorks in Detroit, Michigan
  • “NYC Foodways Collective,” submitted by Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the Bronx, New York
  • “Catalyzing Watershed-Scale Change and Preserving Puebloan Lifeways in the Middle Rio Grande Corridor,” submitted by Trees, Water & People in the Middle Rio Grande urban corridor of New Mexico
  • “Resilience Ecology Shade Transit (REST) Stops for Community Climate Justice, Resilience, and Health,” submitted by LINK Houston in Houston, Texas
  • “Equitable Engagement in Climate Resiliency through the Albuquerque Backyard Refuge Program,” submitted by Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • “Addressing Climate Injustice through Community-led, Nature-based Solutions,” submitted by GreenRoots in Chelsea, Massachusetts
  • “Cleveland’s Urban Tree Hub,” submitted by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, Ohio
  • “Witness Trees,” submitted by Turner Station Conservation Teams in Baltimore, Maryland
  • “Montetik: The wooded crown that protects San Cristobal de Las Casas, a magical city,” submitted by Pronatura Sur in Chiapas, Mexico
  • “Connecting the C’s: Color, Class, Climate, Conservation, and Collaboration for a Thriving Community,” submitted by Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO) in Gulfport, Mississippi
  • “Alley Activation as a Neighborhood-Based Sustainability Strategy,” submitted by Canfield Consortium in Detroit, Michigan
  • “From Redlining to Green: Natural Solutions through Small Business Leadership,” submitted by the National Wildlife Federation in Denver, Colorado
  • “Connecting Canopies regional urban forestry conservation collaboration,” submitted by the Blueprint Foundation in Portland, Oregon
Meet the finalists

Save the date! Third annual symposium slated for Sept. 28-30, 2021

This year, the Salazar Center’s annual symposium will explore challenges and opportunities related to the United States’ first ever national conservation goal, America the Beautiful, also known as "30×30." This event will convene U.S. conservation leadership to explore what it means to protect 30 percent of critical lands and waters in the United States by the year 2030, with benefits for both climate resilience and human well-being.

The symposium will also serve as the goalpost event for a series of four cross-border conservation meetings along the U.S.-Canada border, bringing together policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers to identify opportunities and barriers for landscape conservation and to highlight lessons learned from Canada’s Pathway to Target One—a similarly ambitious goal to 30×30, in place since 2016.

The Thriving Cities Challenge final pitch fest will also take place as part of the symposium.

Stay tuned for announcements of keynote speakers, panels, and other agenda details in the coming weeks! If you are interested in sponsoring the event or supporting us as a partner, don't hesitate to reach out to Catie Boehmer at

In order to ensure the health and safety of all participants, this event will be held in a hybrid format with opportunities for both in-person and virtual participation.

Pictured: Waterton Glacier International Peace Park at the U.S.-Canada border.

Congratulations to our founder Ken Salazar!

Ken Salazar, our founder and former Interior Secretary, Senator, and Colorado Attorney General, has been nominated by the Biden administration to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. The Center applauds this nomination. Secretary Salazar's strong record on conservation - including his leadership role in the creation of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative - is just one many assets he'll bring to the ambassadorship. Read more about the nomination.

Meet our new program director

Jen Kovecses is our new program director, and she brings nearly two decades of conservation experience to her role at the Salazar Center. Jen grew up playing in lakes and streams in Canada building a life-long interest in aquatic ecosystems and conservation. She pursued this interest in university, completing a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Master of Science in aquatic ecology at McGill University. After completing her graduate degree, she continued to work on a variety of watershed conservation projects on the shores of Lake Ontario and the coast of British Columbia. While living in California, Jen had the opportunity to work for local non-profits, offering science and policy analysis to help protect water quality and habitat in California's beautiful coastal watersheds. Most recently, she was the executive director for Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed for over seven years.

An update from the CSU Climate Adaptation Partnership

In December 2020, the CSU Climate Adaptation Partnership for Policy Innovation and Research Coordination (CAP) , which includes the Salazar Center, was awarded funding through the university's Office of Vice President for Research. The partnership was formed with the intent to foster collaborations among CSU researchers and center leaders that work on climate adaptation with two core emphases: coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts and building connections between researchers and policymakers to facilitate the application of climate adaptation research in policy venues.

Over the past six months, the CAP has been team building, strategic planning, and undertaking some initial activities in policy work, research coordination, and institution building. In April, the partnership led a virtual policy training on campus to educate researchers on how to engage with policymakers. It has also been communicating with state and federal policymakers and different agencies to determine avenues for working together more effectively moving forward.

The team is also working on several research proposals and engagement activities. Partners with expertise in Forestry and Ethnic Studies are collaborating on a project investigating how wildland fire recovery can better incorporate the priorities of Tribes in the Southwest. They are exploring team publications, and drawing on interdisciplinary strengths to bring diverse insights to climate adaptation challenges. For the fall, the CAP is planning its inaugural seminar series to bring together researchers and the campus community to discuss current challenges and opportunities in climate adaptation.

If you are interested in the partnership and would like to join the mailing list, please visit, or contact the program manager,

Photo by William A. Cotton/CSU Photography.

Preview: Elevating Diverse Voices in Conservation

A new program of the Salazar Center launching later this year, Elevating Voices is a joint effort by the Center and the Colorado chapter of the Next 100 Coalition, funded by the Gates Family Foundation. The program has been designed to illuminate and share stories from conservation leaders of color in Colorado, who will work with CSU students to develop and capture stories on film, with support and technical instruction from professional filmmakers. Students' participation in the program will be supported with scholarship funds, and the program will take place during the Fall 2021 semester. This program will connect CSU students with the Next 100 Coalition's robust network of conservation leaders and provide mentorship and hands-on learning opportunities related to conservation, storytelling, and film production. The scholarship application will open to CSU juniors and seniors in August. We we encourage you to share this opportunity with any students who may be interested! Please direct any questions to

Photo courtesy of Next 100 Colorado.

About the Center

The Salazar Center supports and advances the health and connectivity of the natural systems and landscapes of North America – be they urban or rural; working or wildlands; public or private. We know that healthy natural systems support climate adaptation and resilience, protect biodiversity, and support long-term human health. Our intersectional approach builds bridges that connect academic research, community practice, and policy development.

We envision a future where healthy, connected landscapes in North America support a rich diversity of life, play a critical role in responding to climate change, support the production of clean air, water and other economic benefits for human communities, and are conserved and protected across political borders throughout the continent.
The Center benefits from the active engagement and leadership of former US Secretary of Interior, US Senator, and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar.


Copyright © 2021 | Salazar Center for North American Conservation, all rights reserved.

Contact info:
Our offices at CSU in Fort Collins are in the NE corner of Johnson Hall on the second floor (Room 201), where we are hosted by the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES). The Center also has an office in the CSU Denver Center at 17th and Glenarm.

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