It seemed like the idea of wildlife conservation was always Chris’ focus. Birding at 6 years old, exploring every available woodlot, and spending an abundance of time with his family in the national parks and seashores of Virginia and North Carolina, he nurtured that focus, eventually receiving degrees in Biology and Zoology. Work experience in a zoological park, museums, and conducting ecological surveys increased Chris’ interest as he observed specimens and their field notes indicating that once common species were extinct or very rare. Serving as a zoologist with the newly formed Virginia Natural Heritage Program and later re-starting the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (his first Conservancy employment), he became intimately familiar with the fauna and flora of those areas, a skill that has cemented his interest and participation in conservation planning at regional, state, and local scales. While finding the last remaining homes of many species and exploring the most remote areas of Colorado’s eastern plains, Chris found a true love for grasslands – and an appreciation for their rapid and sizeable declines.
With more than 35 years of on-the-ground experience, Chris leads the science team for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, providing science leadership and support for conservation efforts, and assisting in the development and actions of the Center for Conservation Science and Strategy. He leads the programs international science participation having traveled to more than 15 countries to provide assistance in conservation planning, but also returning to Colorado with enormous lessons to be applied there. Current international work focuses on eastern steppe of Mongolia and the Patagonian grasslands of Argentina. Combined with extensive work in the prairies of Colorado, this experience has proven valuable for developing conservation strategies.
In addition to grasslands and aridlands conservation, much of Chris’ time over the past few years has been focused on a statewide development of conservation measures of progress and success. This innovative effort, conducted with our key partner, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, is for the first time assessing conservation status, challenges, and progress in protection for the entire state of Colorado. The resulting information has proven key to developing priorities for future work, focusing conservation efforts in a time where it is clear that focus is needed. In addition, Chris is the lead for many protection projects in the plains and the San Luis Valley, assuring that conservation agreements are in place and that conservation outcomes are assured. The model projects are foundations for future work in conservation in Colorado. Key areas of focus for Chris’ work include grasslands bird conservation, landscape conservation, sustainable/conservation grazing, bison restoration planning, development of new conservation tools, and endangered species recovery planning. Finally, he serves on the Colorado Program’s leadership team, developing strategies for future conservation success.