Regional Vision for People + Nature

Project updates!

September 30, 2020 – The Regional Conservation Assessment project core team – Metro DNA, The Nature Conservancy, and Biohabitats – is pleased to share that we now have the resources in place to begin the metro area’s first regional scale ecological assessment.

This project, to be completed over the next 18 months, will develop a novel scientific analysis and suite of decision-making tools to identify high-priority places in the metro Denver region to protect, connect, restore, and enhance land and water for people and nature.

We are currently assembling a Technical Advisory Team that will comprise technical experts from a range of institutions and disciplines (vegetation and wildlife ecology, climate resilience, etc.) working together to shape the analysis and project outcomes.

We will also facilitate a Leadership Council of decision makers from land and water management agencies and other Metro DNA partners committed to project implementation and collaboration across jurisdictions and missions.

Project partners are committed to ensuring equity for people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic status in the Regional Conservation Assessment. The project core team will make an intentional effort to include representation on both the Leadership Council and the Technical Advisory Team of people and organizations that have historically been left out of processes like this. For this work, we are including funding to ensure that this data-driven project is inclusive, transparent, and will uplift people with marginalized identities.

You are encouraged to this summary information about the project, which was shared this week at the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers annual conference and is being used to ground conversations with current and potential partners.

2020-0929 CASFM Presentation Slides

2020-0929 CASFM Recorded Presentation

March 31, 2020 – We are actively engaging current and potential partners in further refinement of the Regional Conservation Assessment. Want to learn more and get involved? Check out our presentation slides and schedule a Zoom meeting!

February 7 – STEW-MAP has finally launched! The Denver Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project will paint a picture of the region’s environmental stewardship “landscape”, documenting where the many private and public sector organizations work, how they are connected, and from where they source information and tools.

Care of shared natural resources in urban areas increasingly relies on the work of environmental stewardship groups and coalitions. We see it as core to our role as convener to understand this work and connect it to the sustainable and regenerative management of public and private lands throughout Metro Denver.

If you haven’t received your survey link yet or have any questions, please reach out to us at to get connected and put your organization and your work on the map! 

December 19 – In collaboration with our partners at El Laboratorio and Lincoln Hills Cares, Metro DNA is co-hosting a youth workshop on December 27 to inform a proposed public art installation crossing the South Platte River at the new National Western Center.

Youth applications are still being accepted! Please download the flier and reach out to Paul Hellmund with El Laboratorio for more information.

This event marks the beginning of outreach for a South Platte River Youth Advisory Council, supported by and informing this Regional Vision for People + Nature. The initial outline for what this Youth Advisory Council might look like was crafted by the TRIO Upward Bound Summer Program at Colorado State University.

A culturally diverse group of seniors and juniors from Denver Public Schools (Bruce Randolph High School, John F. Kennedy High School, and Abraham Lincoln High School) produced a Sourcebook, making recommendations for how youth and community can come together advocate for the restoration and maintenance of the South Platte River as one of Metro Denver’s key natural and cultural assets.

December 13 – Our project core team met this week with leads on a few related regional planning projects to explore opportunities for collaboration when pursuing funding, data, and implementation actions.

September 26 – Thank you Mile High Flood District (formerly Urban Drainage and Flood Control District) for becoming a project sponsor.

August 29 – We are proud to announce Metro DNA’s selection as one of 14 recipients of the Network for Landscape Conservation’s Catalyst Fund grant! These financial resources and participating as a member of this national collaborative conservation network will move our work forward in a big way and support the creation of a Youth Advisory Council focused on the South Platte River as a significant environmental and cultural resource. The Youth Advisory Council will be build in partnership with Colorado State University, Lincoln Hills Cares, and El Laboratorio.

August 12 – We held our introductory meeting for project stakeholders and the Technical Advisory Team at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Meeting attendees, presentation slides, and notes will be available soon.

Why do we need a Regional Vision?

Colorado’s natural beauty has inspired more and more people to call our State home. According to the State Demography Office, the Denver metro area population alone has grown 20 percent since 2010 and is projected to grow by 40,000 people every year from now through 2050.

With the metro area’s quickly expanding population, we are at risk of losing our natural spaces and the values they support: clean and abundant water, wildlife habitat, access to nature and recreation, carbon storage, and other ecosystem services.

Loss of these critical natural assets limits the broader benefits to people in cities – like improved air quality, lower temperatures, positive health outcomes, and flood protection – on which the region depends. Frequently, the loss of these natural benefits hits lower-income communities hardest, exacerbating existing inequalities in the region.

What is our ultimate goal?

Metro DNA, a growing coalition of more than 40 partner organizations and agencies, exists to facilitate collaborative work that supports a thriving region for people and nature.

Defining the ecological and community goals we share and articulating strategies to achieve those goals is critical to our success in building an active and aligned network of partners and empowering strategic, equitable, and conservation-forward land use decision-making in our region.

Where do we begin?

Metro DNA began facilitating conversations toward a Regional Vision in 2016-17 with the Trust for Public Land, leading to the creation of a Story Map, an interactive mapping portal, and a series of map products communicating gaps in public park availability and equitable access to nature.

We are now working on a Regional Conservation Assessment, which will use existing information and planning documents to identify high-quality, connected, and climate-resilient habitat across the metro area.

habitat connectivity diagram

This work supports the development of a more comprehensive and conservation-forward approach to land use planning that strengthens connectivity and equitable access to nature, protects important wildlife habitat, and maximizes the use of nature-based solutions like green infrastructure to address climate-related challenges facing our region.

What about equity?

Throughout this project and all of our collaborative projects, Metro DNA and its partners are committed to ensuring justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our work. In March 2019, Metro DNA’s Steering Committee approved a set of Equity Principles and Commitments that set the guiding standard for all of our initiatives. As we lay the foundation for strategic and conservation-forward land use decision-making in our region, we will continue to keep an eye toward how our regional planning efforts can address long-standing inequities.

Stories shared as part of our Nature Narratives project will be woven together with the Regional Conservation Assessment to give soul and community voice to the Regional Vision. We are also exploring qualitative and quantitative inputs that will reflect culturally significant spaces and wildlife species.

Who is involved?

Metro DNA is committed to being a learning organization and we value the contributions of those who have come before us and work alongside us. We have looked to initiatives both in other regions and close-to-home to ensure this effort is relevant and complementary to current and planned efforts.

Organizations and planning efforts with which we will be collaborating include:

  • Each of the seven Metro Denver county and large municipal open space agencies;
  • Imagine a Great Region, an initiative led by the University of Colorado – Denver (CU Denver) and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG);
  • Regional trail initiatives including the Rocky Mountain Greenway, Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership, and High Line Canal Conservancy;
  • Sister metropolitan greenspace alliances in Portland, Seattle, and Chicago; and
  • The Network for Landscape Conservation, a national nonprofit that advances cross-border, collaborative conservation as a vital approach to sustain nature, culture, and community;

Representatives from these various efforts will meet regularly to make certain any information created in the Assessment is aligned with and supportive of their goals and timeframes to the greatest extent possible.

Who is taking the lead?

Denver Parks & Recreation has submitted, in partnership with Metro DNA, a grant request to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to support completion the Regional Conservation Assessment.

Metro DNA will lead the project and ensure our work is consistent with the overall Metro DNA vision. The Nature Conservancy, a founding Metro DNA partner, will lead project coordination and management. Biohabitats, a contributing Metro DNA partner and leading conservation planning firm, will lead the technical aspects of the project.

Additional partners who have signed on to support the project through cash match and/or technical expertise include:

  • Adams County
  • Arapahoe County
  • City of Boulder
  • Colorado State University
  • Denver Regional Council of Governments
  • El Laboratorio
  • Lincoln Hills Cares
  • Mile High Flood District
  • Rocky Mountain Wild
  • Sand Creek Regional Greenway
  • University of Colorado, Denver
  • University of Denver
  • US EPA
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service

Where do I go for more information?

Please peruse the Metro DNA and partner resources below. If you have any questions or ideas to share, please contact us.

Downloadable Project Summary – June 2019 (PDF)

Partner mapping & data resources

City and County Open Space Plans & Related Resources

Regional & State-wide Plans