Our Mission

The Center for Collaborative Conservation (CCC) helps create innovative and lasting conservation solutions for people and nature through collaboration. We believe that a collaborative approach can better address contentious conservation issues by representing the diverse voices, diverse needs, and diverse challenges involved in conservation and livelihood decisions.

hiker in the mountains

Our Approach

Leveraging the resources of Colorado State University, the CCC uses a multifaceted approach that reflects the university’s land grant mission of teaching, outreach, and research. We train future conservationists through university coursework, support conservation practitioners in developing skills in collaboration, and investigate how and why collaboration succeeds or fails in achieving desired outcomes. Through our Fellows Program and a partner initiative, Peaks to People, we are expanding the reach of the CCC into communities around the world.

Our History

For almost 50 years, faculty, staff, and students at Colorado State University (CSU) have engaged community members in collaborative conservation in Colorado and across the globe. Northern Colorado also has a long history of collaborative conservation, like the long-term work of ranchers, Larimer County, The Nature Conservancy, the City of Fort Collins, CSU and others to conserve the Laramie Foothills Mountains to Plains Corridor north of Fort Collins.

Building on this experience in scholarship and practice, a founding team of big thinkers in CSU’s (then) College of Natural Resources began brainstorming in 2005 about taking this work to a higher level of impact.  They decided to form the Center for Collaborative Conservation to promote collaboration on tough conservation issues on both public and private lands, with people at the center of these efforts across Colorado, the American West, and the world.  The founding team emphasized that conservation needs to cross boundaries to conserve large landscapes, and it also needs to link people, ecosystems and the economy in forests, rangelands, watersheds, oceans, and wildlife habitat. They highlighted the need to bring together scientific, local/indigenous and practical knowledge to support collaborative multi-stakeholder decision-making at local, regional and national levels.

Our founding team included Ed Warner, Joyce Berry, Tony Cheng, María Fernández-Giménez, Rick Knight, Barry Noon, Indy Burke, Dave Theobald and Kathy Galvin. Ed catalyzed the creation the CCC by providing seed funding to establish the CCC with the promise of a future endowment.  Our founding Director, Robin Reid, joined and launched the CCC with administrative assistant, Beverly Johnson, and research associate Shauna BurnSilver, in 2008.

In the spring of 2008, the CCC held its first major design workshop to create the initial strategy and plan for the CCC. The workshop attendees established the CCC’s philosophy, approach, and roles, described below.

CCC Philosophy and Approach

  • Engage, both inside and outside of CSU, with conservation practitioners and other stakeholders and with CSU faculty and students.
  • Don’t be an advocate of collaboration, but rather evaluate when and how it works, when it does not, and why.
  • Create a space where dissenting voices and views can coexist and include diverse stakeholders from all aspects of society: government, indigenous groups, business, conservation, non-profits, policy makers, concerned citizens and others.
  • Focus on large and complex problems and landscapes that are worth the effort of collaboration, and compare lessons learned from Colorado, the American West and around the world.
  • Take risks and promote innovation in all our programs.
  • Take an evidence-based approach and measure outcomes.
  • Focus on ecosystem and people-centered conservation that addresses renewable and non-renewable resource issues in rangelands, forests and watersheds.
  • Recognize that people are both the problem and solution to conservation issues and that real trade-offs exist.

Four initial CCC roles: 1) Convening people around critical issues in collaborative conservation, 2) learning with and teaching existing and new leaders, 3) doing participatory research with communities, and 4) implementing flagship projects with diverse stakeholders that link conservation action with research and education.

The CCC team then developed initial programs and a governance structure to put this approach into action.  Our first program activities included CCC Research (2008 onwards), the Fellows Program (2009 onwards), and Communications and Networking (2009 onwards).  Our governance structure started with a Design and Development Team (2008-09) which evolved into an Executive Committee of advisors from conservation practice and CSU (2009-present).  A huge landmark for the CCC occurred when Ed Warner endowed the CCC in the fall of 2013.