New leadership at the Center for Collaborative Conservation

New leadership at the Center for Collaborative Conservation

By John Sanderson

Everybody loves it when we get along and do great things together. In the West, everyone I know cares about our land and water, as places to recreate, to grow food, to support iconic species like elk and greater sage grouse. What does it take to work together to sustain our land and water? How do we support the ranchers, farmers, urban residents, hikers, and hunters who depend on them? How do we care for our plants and animals? Answering these questions is more urgent than ever. This is why I chose to become the new Director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation.

Fortunately, I’m building on a 10-year legacy of transformative research, world-class teaching, and community engagement that points where we need to go. In Kenya, Mongolia, Mexico and 23 other countries, 135 CCC-supported Fellows have engaged with communities to find locally relevant solutions to conservation challenges and to study the collaborative processes. Guided by CCC Associate Director Kim Skylander and many other mentors, the Fellows have built their own skills as conservation leaders along the way.

Back home in the western US, our Atlas of Collaborative Conservation in Colorado documented 183 collaborations working on conservation challenges. Among these is the Peaks to People Water Fund, co-founded by the CCC. Peaks to People aims to generate funding for forest management that sustains wildlife habitat, keeps homes safe, and ensures a clean water supply. Another is the Collaborative Adaptive Rangeland Management project, the focus of Associate Director for Research Maria Fernandez-Gimenez’s scholarly publication on how collaboration fosters learning. Heather Knight, CCC’s Associate Director for Practice, is now working with hundreds of individuals in the Western Collaborative Conservation Network to build peer-to-peer connections that transmit insights and skills to individuals and communities doing the hard work of conservation.

As I’ve moved into my new role, I’ve thought a lot about what “collaboration” means and how it shows up in my day-to-day actions. Things I must do personally include listening sincerely, trusting that most people want to do well by others, attending to both process and outcome, caring for both nature and people, and expressing gratitude. I especially want to express gratitude to Robin Reid, the founding Director of the CCC. Robin is a pre-eminent scholar, a passionate conservationist, and a wonderful, caring human being. From Robin I have inherited a tremendous legacy at the CCC. I am also grateful to Ed Warner—without Ed’s vision and generosity, the CCC would not exist.

I also owe much to the many people who have supported me along my path to the CCC, from my first days at the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, through my graduate work at CSU, and during my 14 years with The Nature Conservancy. Now I am beginning a new chapter at a large, world-class university, but with a small staff and limited resources. I’m clear that the CCC succeeds only if we work together. I invite you to continue as a partner on CCC’s journey, to build your knowledge and skills in collaborative conservation and to let us know what we can do to support you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to share ideas and opportunities.

With appreciation for all the work you do,