FORT COLLINS — Thanks to the vision of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and support from a significant gift from Bohemian Foundation, Colorado State University is establishing the Salazar Center for North American Conservation.
The Salazar Center, named for the former U.S. Senator and Attorney General for Colorado, will be housed in CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES). The Salazar Center seeks to build a bridge between science and policy that will inform conservation decisions for years to come.
Salazar, a native Coloradan and passionate public servant with a long and impactful history of service on conservation issues, has been working with CSU officials for nearly a year to lay the groundwork for the Salazar Center. He envisions CSU scientists working with conservation leaders in the private and public sectors from across North America coming together to discuss key issues, develop new approaches and evaluate policy options.
Recognizing that conservation is not simply an issue of land use, the center will draw on expertise from a variety of disciplines across the university. The center embodies CSU’s commitment to research that ensures the utility of scientific knowledge for the stakeholders that seek to implement it at local, state, national, and international levels.
“The preservation of our treasured landscapes requires the collaborative effort of our best scientists with our most devoted policymakers,” Salazar said. “Never before have evidence-based conservation practices been more crucial to protecting our resources and the people who depend on them. I am proud to partner with CSU to create a community dedicated to stewarding those limited natural resources.”
The center’s mission includes four planned activities: A Conservation Leadership Academy, specialized workshops and conferences, immersive fellowship opportunities, and cutting-edge communication tools.
Salazar endorsed a founding gift of $500,000 to get the project off the ground. In addition, the $1 million gift from the Fort Collins-based Bohemian Foundation will sustain the center’s early projects. CSU hopes to raise $40 million to sustain the center for the foreseeable future.
CSU President and CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank said the Salazar Center perfectly melds with the university’s land-grant mission.
“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,” said Frank. “The Salazar Center sustains this great legacy by creating a space for innovation, forward-thinking and collaboration around the most pressing environmental questions of our age. We are deeply grateful to both Ken and Bohemian Foundation for their extraordinary vision and support.”
CSU is a fitting home for the Salazar Center. The university has earned consecutive STARS Platinum ratings for sustainability, and BestColleges.com in 2015 named CSU the most sustainable university in the country. CSU is also home to some of the world’s leaders in conservation biology who are housed in various colleges across campus.
SoGES, established by CSU in 2008, is directed by biologist and professor Diana Wall, world-renowned researcher focused on Antarctic ecology, climate change and biodiversity. It promotes and supports sustainability-based research and teaching across all of CSU’s eight colleges.
Eighty percent of incoming CSU students identify sustainability as an area of interest for study. More than 300 students currently take classes through SoGES while working toward a minor in global environmental sustainability.
“We are very excited about the Salazar Center,” said Wall. “Improving conservation practices is one of the greatest sustainability challenges of the coming century.”
Bohemian Foundation is a longtime supporter of CSU, the Fort Collins community and the global community. Part of the foundation’s mission is supporting programs that address public health and/or economic stability while employing technologies that encourage clean and sustainable energy practices, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and more sustainable livelihoods.
“The establishment of the Salazar Center is an appropriate tribute to a man who has contributed so much to advancing conservation policy and public awareness,” said Joe Zimlich, board member of Bohemian Foundation. “CSU has long been a leader in conservation research, and the Salazar Center will enable a new level of collaboration among scientists and policymakers. Bohemian Foundation’s gift is an investment in our collective future and in the future of our precious natural resources.”
The Salazar Center soon will launch a search for its first director. Once a director is in place, SoGES plans to launch Salazar Center operations in 2018.