ACES joins forces with For the Forest | AspenTimes.com

ACES joins forces with For the Forest

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – For the Forest, a local nonprofit organization that first made a name for itself by proposing an effort to slow the spread of mountain pine beetles on Smuggler Mountain, is joining forces with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

For the Forest will be folded into ACES, with the center assuming For the Forest’s programming, ACES announced Tuesday.

“Both organizations found that their missions are fairly well aligned,” said Jeff Berkus, president of the ACES board of trustees. “We really do feel that this is the time for like-minded environmental organizations to bind together to do greater good.”

John Bennett, former Aspen mayor and the executive director of For the Forest since its founding in 2008, will become a member of the ACES board after the transition is complete early next year. So will other For the Forest board members, increasing the ACES board’s size from 21 to 25, according to Berkus. The group hasn’t yet decided whether the ACES board will shrink back to 21 as members rotate off.

Kate Holstein, For the Forest program director, will continue to oversee the organization’s programs within ACES.

Meanwhile, ACES is seeking a new executive director to succeed Tom Cardamone, who will become chief ecologist. Candidate interviews are planned next month, Berkus said, but in the interim, ACES will operate under the joint direction of Cardamone and Bennett.

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Both men were unavailable for comment Tuesday, according to ACES, but Cardamone noted the two organizations’ similar missions and goals in a prepared statement.

“For the Forest’s existing programs of forest stewardship and education fit well with ACES programs, including our school and naturalist programs. They will enhance our ability to educate the public about the importance of ecological restoration and will augment our local projects as positive examples for the region and beyond,” he said.

ACES, founded in 1968, is headquartered at Hallam Lake in Aspen and has several satellite sites, including Rock Bottom Ranch near Basalt. It provides programs in ecology and the natural sciences to children and adults.

For the Forest has undertaken various projects, raising money privately to help pay for such such efforts as the logging of beetle-infested trees on Smuggler Mountain and the restoration of the Hope Mine tailings pile on Castle Creek south of town. Both projects also involved public entities. For the Forest fundraising will now be part of ACES’ efforts in that arena, Berkus said.

For the Forest also has hosted several gatherings of forest experts and most recently held a public symposium on climate change and forest health earlier this year that featured former Vice President Al Gore as the keynote speaker. A similar symposium will take place next June under the ACES banner, according to Berkus.

And there are a couple of more phases of work to do on Smuggler, with ACES taking on what had been For the Forest’s role, he said.

The decision to fold For the Forest into ACES grew out of informal conversations among board members for the two organizations, according to ACES.

“We have tremendous respect for Tom and ACES and look forward to making For the Forest programs part of what ACES does on an ongoing basis. This is exciting,” Bennett said in a prepared statement.

“We’ve watched how they’ve come along. Tom Cardamone has been one of their advisers for so long, it’s not like we’re strangers,” said Jim Kravitz, ACES’ director of naturalist programming, on Tuesday. For the Forest’s growing educational mission in particular fits well with ACES’ activities, he added.

“We can do it better together, so we’re psyched,” Kravitz said.

“We think this is a nice template for other environmental organizations to follow – becoming more collaborative in the way we approach environmental issues in the valley and beyond,” Berkus said.

janet@aspentimes.com