Announced earlier today at its second annual symposium, the Salazar Center for North American Conservation at Colorado State University will seek proposals to advance climate resilience, green space, and equity in North American urban areas in 2021.

This incentive prize, known as the Thriving Cities Challenge, is designed to spur new thinking and network development around scalable and replicable approaches to improving community resilience and equity in North America. The Center invites community-driven projects that incorporate natural solutions, urban green space, and green infrastructure into innovative approaches to address climate change impacts and support human health and well-being.

The Thriving Cities Challenge is rooted in an increasing understanding and interest both in the United States and globally of the links between urban environments, health equity, and access to green space. Secretary Salazar prioritized urban and inclusive conservation while leading the U.S. Department of Interior, and as such, building resources and support for healthy, resilient landscapes and communities is a central goal of his namesake Center.

Through this challenge, the Center hopes to fund efforts that heal land and people simultaneously, with a key focus on supporting racial, economic, and health equity. The prize process will emphasize multi-stage capacity-building for teams who submit proposals. Regardless of who is ultimately awarded the prize, the Center aims to nurture a community of interest within the applicant pool to continue the conversation around innovative ideas in urban resilience and equity.

To achieve these goals, the prize process will focus on place-based efforts and prioritize projects led by BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) and community-based organizations. The Center encourages teams to engage city government agencies and other like-minded nonprofits whose resources can be leveraged to the benefit of the project, and to consider incorporating youth, workforce development components, and economic benefits.

“This incentive award will invite teams from cities throughout the continent to submit and develop ideas that advance climate resilience and racial equity through nature-based solutions in their own communities,” says Center Director Beth Conover. “Eligible ideas can come from a wide range of disciplines—data science, communications, governance, community organizing—and we will not constrain the criteria too tightly. What’s most important is that this process fosters innovation and creativity, and that it has the potential to realize meaningful, place-based change.”

The Challenge received initial funding from the VF Foundation, and was developed with the support of a diverse advisory committee comprising thought leaders from across sectors. Advisory members include Ronda Chapman, The Trust for Public Land; Happy Haynes Executive Director Parks and Recreation, City and County of Denver; Bruce Stein, National Wildlife Federation; Kristin Baja, Urban Sustainability Directors Network; Sarita Turner, Institute for Sustainable Communities; Lois DeBacker, Kresge Foundation; Laurie Mazur, Island Press; Steve Whitney, Bullitt Foundation; Benita Hussain, Independent; and Michael Berkowitz, Resilient Cities Catalyst.

The Thriving Cities Challenge will launch later this year, and applications will open in early 2021. In the meantime, interested teams can sign up for updates at