Big conservation challenges require creative approaches and new ways of thinking. In response, the Salazar Center lends support to innovative conservation solutions and leaders.

The Challenge

The climate is changing, biodiversity and healthy connected ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate, and our growing world population now exceeds 7.5 billion people. Tried-and-true approaches to conservation—including traditional funding models—are no longer enough.

Our Approach

Each year since its inception, the Center has offered a Conservation Impact Incentive Prize to inspire innovative solutions and action across North America. We invite cross-disciplinary teams representing multiple sectors to apply.

The prize is not only an investment in potential conservation breakthroughs: the process serves to foster cross-sector collaborations, identifies relevant policy issues and opportunities for further consideration and advocacy, and forms the basis a library of case studies and resources for others to benefit and learn from—and for other funders to support.

The inaugural prize, the Connectivity Challenge, invited teams to submit proposals for innovation in landscape connectivity for habitat and community benefit. Five finalist teams were selected, and in September 2020, Borderlands Restoration network won $100,000 for their proposal to conserve agaves, protect pollinator bats, and increase economic sustainability in the US-Mexico borderlands.

In 2021, the Thriving Cities Challenge was created to fund innovative approaches for supporting and advancing equity, health, and resilience through green space in cities of North America. Fifteen finalist teams were selected in June 2021, and over the summer, each team received a $10,000 capacity-building grant, along with training and mentorship opportunities to help strengthen and further develop their proposed projects. In September 2021, $360,000 was awarded to eight winning teams, with grants ranging from $35,000 to $100,000.

The Center anticipates announcing its third incentive challenge in early 2022.

“The Salazar Center is designed, in part, to invest in cutting-edge ideas and world-class conservation leaders. The Conservation Impact Prize was launched with the understanding that human activities are fragmenting North America’s wild places and green spaces. Extraordinary innovation is needed to protect and enhance our most beloved landscapes and to support community health and resilience.”

Ken Salazar, former US Secretary of the Interior and founder of the Salazar Center