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Colorado: Big conservation groups announce merger

New organization will maintain West Slope presence.

Colorado Conservation Voters and the Colorado Environmental Coalition join forces to meet new challenges

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —In the second major merger of Colorado-based conservation groups, Colorado Conservation Voters and the Colorado Environmental Coalition this week announced that they will join together to form a new group called Conservation Colorado.

Last year, the Center for Native Ecosystems merged with Colorado Wild to form Rocky Mountain Wild. That merger resulted in several layoffs, including longtime national forest policy experts like Rocky Smith, leaving a big void in the conservation scene.

The latest merger has also resulted in some downsizing, partly through attrition and also through some layoffs on the administrative side of the operation, according to spokesman Chris Arend.

“Part of the benefit of the merger is that you create efficiencies,” Arend said, adding that there will be some “refocusing,” but that the new group has pledged to maintain a Western Slope presence to continue advocacy for the protection of wild lands.

Fundraising, which is a challenge for nonprofits in the best of times, has been especially tough during the stubborn recession and painfully slow recovery of the past few years.

The new organization announced this week that Pete Maysmith, formerly the head of Colorado Conservation Voters, will lead the new organization as director. Elise Jones, director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, will run for elected office.

“Conservation Colorado represents the next chapter in protecting Colorado’s air, land, water and people,” Maysmith said. “Different times require more nimble, strategic and effective organizations to address our conservation challenges.

Maysmith said the organization’s priority issues include addressing climate change, transitioning to a clean energy future, protecting rivers and outdoor heritage, and saving  public wildlands.

The merger combines the strengths of both groups — CEC’s strong policy, advocacy and organizing work, with CCV’s focus on electing pro-environment candidates to public office and holding them accountable.

CEC and CCV have a long and successful history of collaborating on the key environmental issues of the day, working collectively at the State Capitol, and forging strategic partnerships to find success on a variety of levels, including:

Ensuring that more than three million acres of wilderness will stay forever wild.

Setting a statewide renewable energy standard, then increasing it to 30% and making it one of the strongest in the nation.

Working to minimize impacts from oil and gas drilling by updating public health, drinking water and wildlife protections in 2008 and continuing to push for further reforms.

Passing more than 130 different conservation bills at the state legislature in the past six years on a host of environmental issues ranging from water efficiency to air quality to energy efficiency to transit.

“As conservationists, who love this state and this planet and want it to remain vibrant and sustainable for generations to come, we must seek new and creative solutions so that we can be even more effective, strategic and successful,” said Jones. “By merging program and politics under one roof, we aim to craft a conservation voice so powerful that future generations will honor the work and accomplishments we embark on today.”

“Elise Jones has long guided one of the most effective and high impact conservation organizations in Colorado,” said Maysmith. “As Elise continues her tremendous leadership fighting for the citizens and communities in Boulder County – the best tribute to her thirteen years of service is to expand upon the legacy of CEC and work to ensure new conservation successes for Colorado.”

Visit the new group’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/ConservationColorado and follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/conservationco

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