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Center for Conservation Science & Strategy

Betsy Neely

Senior Conservation Planner

Betsy leads both regional and statewide conservation assessments and initiatives for The Nature Conservancy. She works with the Southwest Climate Change Initiative (SWCCI) to provide information and tools to conservation practitioners on climate adaptation in vulnerable landscapes across the Four Corner states. She coordinated the Gunnison Basin Climate Change Adaptation Workshop for Natural Resource Managers and leads the Gunnison Basin landscape adaptation project, a group of public and private partners that seeks to increase understanding of the threat posed by climate change to species and ecosystems, identify priority climate adaptation strategies, and promote the coordinated implementation. She is facilitating a basin-wide comprehensive vulnerability assessment, developing adaptation strategies, and will identify/design an on-the-ground adaptation demonstration project in the Gunnison Basin. With the SWCCI and the Conservancy’s Climate Change Adaptation Program, she also facilitated a workshop and co-authored a resulting report entitled Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments: Lessons Learned from Practical Experience

With the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Betsy co-leads the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative, a partnership among 23 organizations and agencies, to conserve Colorado’s imperiled plants and their habitats. She co-authored the first Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy to provide strategic direction for conserving plants in the state, developed best management practices for plants to reduce impacts from oil and gas development, and completed conservation action plans for priority plant areas with land trusts and agencies. She also conducts new project evaluations and leads wildflower field trips for staff, members, and donors. 

Previously, she facilitated the Central Shortgrass Prairie (CSP) and the Southern Rocky Mountains ecoregional assessments to identify conservation priorities in collaboration with multiple partners and experts. She conducted training for international staff in ecoregional planning and co-authored Designing a Geography of Hope: A Practitioner’s Handbook for Ecoregional Planning. She established the Shortgrass Prairie Partnership, a diverse partnership of federal, state and private landowners, to guide the development and implementation of the CSP ecoregional assessment. She led the CSP Species at Risk Conservation Project to develop innovative conservation tools and programs to conserve shortgrass prairie species at risk. 

After graduating from Colorado College, she worked at Arches National Park as a Student Conservation Association volunteer, served as community developer for the Peace Corps in the Philippines, traveled throughout Southeast Asia, completed an MS in Biology at Utah State University, and worked for the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Research Station. She has worked for the Conservancy for 23 years.


Betsy Neely

Senior Conservation Planner

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