Celebrating the retirement of Salazar Center Director Beth Conover

After more than four years serving as the director of the Salazar Center for North American Conservation, Beth Conover has announced her decision to step down.

Conover has led the organization since its founding, and her tireless efforts have established the Salazar Center as a critical resource for a diverse and collaborative network of conservationists.

By creating dialog and supporting the hands-on conservation efforts of community leaders, policy experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, and more, the Salazar Center has forged a path for accelerating the pace and scale of equitable, innovative, and durable solutions for healthy natural and human communities across North America.

“Under Beth’s visionary leadership, the Salazar Center has become an indispensable hub for connecting people from all walks of life around conservation and advancing practical solutions, both in our region and beyond,” said CSU Chancellor Tony Frank. “Her dedication, passion, and expertise have been instrumental in shaping the Salazar Center into the dynamic, forward-thinking organization it is today. We are grateful for her countless contributions over the past four-plus years.”

As director, Conover set a bold strategic vision centered around empowering experts to create change, from those on the Salazar Center team to leaders in organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In doing so, she has laid the foundation for the Salazar Center to continue expanding the scope of its work and impact.

She has spent her entire career working at the intersection of environmental policy and community development. Before joining the Center, Conover served as senior vice president at the Gates Family Foundation in Denver, where she had worked since 2011. She also worked for John Hickenlooper from 2003 to 2007 when he was mayor of Denver.

A key focus of Conover’s work over the last five years has been to weave diversity, equity and inclusion into the DNA of the Center’s mission, vision, and values.

“Conservation is of critical importance to everyone. The idea behind the Center is, in part, to build a broader, more diverse constituency,” she explained. “Traditionally, conservation is associated with a small demographic: wealthy white people. But, people from all demographics care about clean air, water and natural areas. My hope has been to broaden the narrative, and to bring new voices forward including Native Americans and First Nations, city residents, young people and people of color. We want this broader constituency to see themselves in conservation issues and policies—many are already doing so—and to shape the narrative moving forward.”

Conover didn’t hesitate to take on some of the toughest conservation challenges during her time with the Salazar Center, addressing complex land, water and climate issues, and racking accomplishments that are too many to list.

Her departure is a momentous occasion that warrants celebration and recognition for all she has achieved as a champion for the protection and preservation of our natural world.

A few highlights from Conover’s tenure at the Center include:

  • Four international symposia featuring over 40% speakers of color, and including multiple cabinet secretaries, top elected officials, leading researchers and practitioners from across the continent. The fifth symposium will take place in October, 2023.
  • Two international incentive prizes-supporting dozens of leaders through mentorship and financial awards totaling over $600,000.
  • The launch of the Peregrine Accelerator for Conservation Impact in late 2022, building on the momentum and lessons of the impact prizes.
  • The development of Center staff from one to six full-time employees, and the creation of a high level international advisory board.
  • The publication of a variety of groundbreaking multimedia materials, including Elevating Voices, a short film developed in partnership with the Next 100 Coalition and Gates Family Foundation; Weaving the Strands Together – a report on inclusive leadership for large landscape conservation (with the Network for Landscape Conservation and SD Bechtel, Jr. Foundation); and digital booklets that highlight dozens of conservation innovation projects throughout North America.
  • Over $4 million in philanthropic support, including many sources new to the university.

“While this decision grew out of recent health challenges, I am confident in and excited about the Center’s current momentum, future potential, and continued innovation and growth under its next generation of leadership,” Conover shared in a letter to friends and partners of the Center.

As the Salazar Center moves forward in this time of transition, it will continue its programming in full while preparing for the future with an executive search led by Chancellor Tony Frank.