Who gets to thrive? A Metro DNA founding story.

The Spring 2018 issue of the University of Denver Magazine featured Metro DNA as one of several forward-looking sustainability solutions with which DU faculty and students have been engaged.

Susan Daggett, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute and recipient of the 2018 National Wildlife Federation’s Maggie Fox Award for women’s conservation leadership, began the conversations founding Metro DNA at their annual conference in 2014 when she co-hosted, with the Metropolitan Greenspaces Alliance, a featured track on Conservation in Metropolitan Regions and weekend workshop to envision local collective impact opportunities. Since then, Professor Daggett and other faculty and students have played a crucial role in supporting the alliance’s development, as well as continuing conversations advancing urban social-ecological research in Metro Denver through Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL) fellowships and class projects from geography to law.

Issues of sustainability and diversity go hand in hand. Faculty and students are working on solutions.

Metro DNA welcomes our new Alliance Director!

Metro DNA welcomes our new Alliance Director!

The Metro Denver Nature Alliance Steering Committee is pleased to announce Dana Coelho, as our new – and first – Alliance Director!

After an extensive national search we are so excited that Dana has decided to step into this role.  We all feel Dana is the perfect person to lead us through this crucial time for Metro DNA and our community. Please see Dana’s letter to us all below.

–  Metro DNA Steering Committee


Dear Collaborators,

It is my sincere pleasure to have been selected for this leadership adventure, working alongside some of my most-respected and creative colleagues to continue our evolution toward a region that is a thriving place for people and nature.

Having served on the Metro DNA Steering Committee for the past two years as a representative from the US Forest Service, I am committed to activating our small but mighty organization’s potential to connect, champion, and build capacity among the region’s many capable nature-based partners.

My most recent experience with the US Forest Service has been as Urban & Community Forestry Program Manager for the Rocky Mountain Region. In that capacity I worked alongside five state coordinators from CO, WY, SD, NE, and KS to build vibrant local community forestry programs. On a broader scale, I co-led the Western Urban & Community Forestry Network, co-founded the Denver Urban Field Station, and actively participated in the National Urban Technology & Science Delivery Team. These coalitions co-created products such as the Green Infrastructure in the West publication, the Urban Forest Connections webinar series, and the Vibrant Cities Lab, all freely available resources for conservation practitioners and allied professionals.

Closer to home, I am proud and humbled to have been part of the creation and continued development of Promotores Verdes and United Cultures for Arts + Nature, two partnership programs of Americas for Conservation + the Arts born out of the Metro Denver Latino community’s interests and needs surrounding nature, health, arts, and culture.

As I reflect on what I’ve learned over the past few years and throughout my 18-year career as a sustainability student and practitioner, I am fundamentally drawn to complexity – the dynamic and interconnected nature of the social, biological, and physical world we live in – and equity – the rights that each of us have to health, prosperity, and the opportunity to engage in decisions affecting our lives and our communities. This is precisely the lens that Metro DNA brings to regional conservation.

What we are doing as the Metro Denver Nature Alliance is not new, but it is radical. Our work is motivated by the belief that a coordinated alliance can achieve more than the sum of its parts: as partners jointly consider the intersections among key regional issues, we can develop and implement more equitable, effective, and sustainable solutions.

What we are doing is also place-based, but it is not place-bound. I am immensely thankful for our colleagues working in the US and abroad to affect real change in our urban and community ecosystems, especially the pioneering work of Chicago Wilderness, the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, and the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee; the successful alliance models provided by the Portland Intertwine and LA’s Amigos de los Rios; and the connectivity provided through the Urban Waters Partnership, Biophillic Cities Network, and Network for Landscape Conservation.

We are all in this together, so let’s keep moving forward, learning, and co-creating the future we most want, need, and deserve.

With humility,
Dana Coelho

Nature Narratives – Share Your Organization’s Story!

Nature Narratives – Share Your Organization’s Story!

We invite you to participate in Nature Narratives – Metro DNA’s inaugural collective storytelling project. This collaborative project provides an exciting opportunity for partner organizations to elevate our work and the ways we are promoting healthier people, communities, and natural places in metro Denver. Nature Narratives also will help us define a shared story of our ongoing efforts to make the metro Denver region a thriving place for people and for nature.

Project goals are to:
▪ Elevate the unique and complementary work of organizations across metro Denver
▪ Highlight diverse definitions of nature and ways of engaging with nature
▪ Foster connections among partner organizations
▪ Start to define diverse values of nature to ultimately build toward a shared regional vision of people and nature

As facilitator, capacity builder, and champion, Metro DNA will provide several types of support to help partner organizations develop, articulate, and share their narratives through audio, video, photography, or other formats. This support will include training sessions, direct staff support, and marketing.
All Metro DNA partners are invited to participate in Nature Narratives. Metro DNA will host three trainings in June (more details forthcoming). In the meantime, please contact Chris Hawkins ( or Jessica Godinez ( if you have questions.

Nature Narratives – Thank you! And, finally, a huge THANK YOU to our partners! Over the past six months, many of you have participated in thoughtful and productive conversations that led to the development of Nature Narratives. Your excellent ideas and input have truly brought this collaborative storytelling project to life.

Get Involved: Volunteer on a Committee


We welcome you to join one of the standing committees that are helping to advance Metro DNA’s programmatic and organizational goals. Below is the contact information for committee chairs, as well as standing meeting times (if available).


Communications Committee: Second Tuesdays of the month at 3pm

Equity Committee: Second Tuesdays of the month at 2pm; meetings alternate between in-person and Zoom.

Fundraising Committee: Meets as necessary

Programs Committee: Fourth Wednesdays of the month at 9am

Metro DNA is Looking for Partners!

People Working Together

After several years as an informal, volunteer-led coalition, we are excited to transition to an official partner Alliance. As part of this transition, we soon will become a dues-paying Alliance. From August to September 2018, we will collect dues for the 2019 calendar year. We invite non-profit, government, research, and private sector partners whose work aligns with Metro DNA’s mission to join the Alliance and participate in its collaborative work. Benefits of Metro DNA Partnership

Metro DNA is cultivating a diverse, inclusive alliance dedicated to building healthier communities and natural places across the region. We are committed to providing partners with multiple benefits, including:
New connections: We will help partners establish relationships with a diverse set of individuals and organizations across the metro Denver region through collaborative working groups, regular in-person meetings, and online communication forums.
Greater alignment: We will support partners in forging connections across complementary programmatic efforts to share information, pool resources, and co-develop joint strategies.
Increased capacity: We will assist partners in accessing new resources to advance their work, including trainings, best practices information, and staff support for collaborative projects and working groups.
Expanded reach: We will elevate partners’ nature-based efforts and collaborative projects, so they gain greater visibility locally and regionally.
Leveraged resources: We will enable partners to attract more public and private funds for their work due to their greater strategic alignment.
Shared vision: We will facilitate partners’ collaboration to co-create a compelling long-term vision and integrated strategies that can guide efforts across the region toward shared long-term goals, ultimately creating transformative change.

Partnership Details

Metro DNA wants to ensure participation is attainable for all entities, regardless of staff size or operating budget. As a result, we have designed our dues structure to be broadly accessible. Below are key details about becoming an official partner of Metro DNA:
Minimal Dues: We utilize a sliding scale (attached). Organizations with an annual operating budget of less than $100K can contact Metro DNA to make alternative arrangements.
Signed Partnership Agreement: We ask all partners to sign a partnership agreement, outlining their alignment with Metro DNA’s mission and agreement to key values and principles.

2019 mDNA Partner Dues Structure.pdf (312 downloads)

If you are interested in becoming a partner, please fill out the Become a Partner Form.

Trust for Public Land Mapping Project

Trust for Public Land Mapping Project

With the help of the Trust for Public Land, the Metro Denver Nature Alliance has put together models that analyze access to existing parks and open space. The analysis incorporates a two-step approach:

  1. determines where there are gaps in public park availability across the landscape, and constructs a demographic profile to identify gaps with the most urgent need for public parkland, and
  2. incorporates natural space opportunities based on land use and cover characteristics, schools, community gardens, and potential for certified backyard wildlife habitat areas.

The two components are combined using an equal weighted sum computation. These maps were created using a weighted overlay analysis based on the following criteria:

  • Park Needs
  • Proposed Parks and Open Space
  • Vacant Lands
  • Natural Land Cover
  • School Grounds
  • Potential for certified backyard wildlife habitat areas
  • Community Gardens

Click here to see the maps.