In 2020, the Salazar Center announced a new intergovernmental agreement with the City and County of Denver to advance Denver Parks and Recreation’s efforts in climate resilience, habitat, and equitable access to green space. One goal of this partnership is to leverage climate-related expertise at CSU to create actionable research that supports the city’s climate resilience management needs and decision-making.

The Center invited proposals from CSU faculty and research staff that address urban landscape and habitat resilience, urban tree canopy, soil carbon sequestration, and native pollinator habitat needs. In alignment with the Center and DPR’s programmatic priorities, proposals also addressed how the research will support solutions that deliver equitable benefits across Denver’s communities.  

Plants for Parks, Pollinators, and People 

In November 2022, principal investigator John Mola, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship in the Warner College of Natural Resources, and his team received $150,000 from the Salazar Center to optimize plant choices to maximize pollinator habitat, climate resilience and social values across Denver parks and neighborhoods. The project, called Plants for Parks, Pollinators, and People, supports DPR’s efforts to deliver equitable climate resilience solutions across the city’s diverse communities.  


While ‘pollinator friendly’ plant lists are readily available – it is rare that such a list consider other factors beyond the assumed preferences of bee species, such as climate resilience or adaptations to urban environments, never mind the aesthetic or cultural values of people who will interact with these plants daily. This project seeks to address these factors and provide well-balanced insights that consider social, ecological, resiliency needs that will benefit Denver parks, people, and pollinators. 

The Salazar Center anticipates that this pilot program will serve as a model that can be replicated for years to come, amplifying the impact of cutting-edge research, informing future partnerships between academia and the public sector, and inspiring other cities to act now to ensure a sustainable future.

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cornflowers in front of a cereal field with red poppies.

Bees and Butterflies in Denver Parks

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