Environmental Quality Protection, Beautification


Building a community of knowledgeable, capable, and motivated environmental stewards.

aka ACES

Aspen, CO


Educating for Environmental Responsibility

Ruling Year



Chris Lane

Main Address

100 Puppy Smith St

Aspen, CO 81611 USA


environmental education, sustainable agriculture, forest health & restoration





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

At a time when Americans are confronted with increasingly challenging environmental choices, we learn that we are generally uneducated about our environment. The average American adult, regardless of age, income, or level of education, doesn't grasp essential aspects of environmental science, important cause/effect relationships, or concepts such as runoff pollution, power generation, ecosystem services, or water flow patterns.

At ACES, we would like to address a lack of basic ecological literacy: no connection with nature (usually occurring in elementary school); no understanding of human dependence on ecosystem services (concepts learned in middle school); and no knowledge of even rudimentary environmental economics—where, in this case, short term economic gains will be offset by longer term external human health and mitigation costs (principles explored in high school and college).

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Ashcroft Snowshoe Tour

Potbelly Perspectives

Naturalist Nights

Winter Explorers | Snowmastadons

Winter Explorers | Fur Coats, Feathers, and Snow Caves

Winter Explorers | Through the Magnifying Glass

Birding with ACES

Astronomy Nights

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

For almost five decades, ACES has worked to “inspire a life-long commitment to the Earth by educating for environmental responsibility" and to “advance the ethic that the Earth must be respected and nurtured."

In the next 50 years, ACES seeks to help society become a community of ecologically literate citizens, so that children, parents, consumers, decision-makers and leaders can make ecologically informed decisions in an increasingly complex world. We want people of all ages to understand the environmental implications of their actions with a special focus on functioning ecosystems, food systems and energy production.

We will be a beacon of science-based environmental leadership and education for all ages and cultures, creating a deeper connection between humans and the natural world. Our facilities will be world class hubs of science education.

As ACES moves forward and grows, we will focus on advancing our mission beyond our physical boundaries. We will contribute to a national agenda for environmental science education while retaining our core values. Our inclusive culture of place-based education will help cultivate community consciousness and environmental stewardship on a broad spectrum.

We will remain fiscally responsible, conservative and sustainable, and build a strong philanthropic culture within the ACES community by creating a long-term financial feasibility plan to enable ACES to meet strategic planning goals. We will continue to cultivate a strong and engaged Board of Directors and staff, which will drive ACES fundraising and programmatic goals. We will develop and implement a major gifts plan and create a legacy board, as well as design and successfully execute a fundraising campaign that includes the 50th Anniversary celebration.

ACES will by refine, grow and create forward progress with our education programs to a statewide and national level by engaging low income, underserved and minority populations, employing the most sophisticated social and digital media, and measuring and tracking results with both quantitative metrics and qualitative anecdotes that show our progress toward impacts and educational outcomes.

We plan to make ACES a place that attracts the brightest and most dedicated staff and board members by enhancing professional development, improve staff productivity, and further develop the educator career path. We will continue to value the importance of maintaining a work/life balance that is sustainable and attracts employees, which best embodies and embraces our core values. We will continue to promote economic, social, ideological, and ethnic diversity, as well as a diversity of professional expertise.We will provide ecological literacy and environmental education by analyzing our Tomorrow's Voices program for greater success, expansion, and donor opportunities. We will also foster cutting-edge educational technology in both classroom and field program development.

We will increase awareness of Sustainable Agriculture by improving and expanding local food production at Rock Bottom Ranch, open space parcels, and at partner farms. We also plan to expand sustainable food systems education through hands-on, classroom, and outdoor ranch experiences.

ACES will develop and grow the Naturalist Internship program to be recognized as a national training and mentoring ground for environmental professionals by creating an alumni network that stays connected and engaged with ACES.

We will provide cutting-edge, science-based information to the public regarding the state of our forests and climate change through publishing and education, and work to inform those that can affect policy change in forest management.

We plan to create ACES Facilities Committee to focus on prioritized facility needs to adequately maintain and ensure functional use of ACES' physical facilities, by deliberately designing and improving the visitor experience to provide an unparalleled educational encounter. This will establish each ACES site as a place to explore nature, ecology, agriculture, renewable energy and simply enjoy the outdoors.

Our capabilities lay within our beautiful sites, our expert staff, our growing education programs, and our relationship with our donor community to provide financial support so that we can achieve our mission.

ACES has four locations to leverage for success. Our main campus at Hallam Lake, located in the heart of Aspen, is accessible to a large community, and accessible by foot, bus, bike, or car. Hallam Lake is a 25-acre nature preserve that hosts our adult nature courses such as morning birding and astronomy, as well as our year-round children's programming, including camps and classes.

Our working farm, Rock Bottom Ranch, is a model for sustainable agricultural success. With this site, we have the ability to grow our production acreage and reduce carbon emissions. As with all of our sites, we are not at maximum capacity and have ample room for growth. We will be able to use this site to provide sustainable agriculture education as well as provide local and sustainably farmed meat and produce to our community while being a model for other farms nationwide.

Our site, the Catto Center at Toklat provides a respite and tranquil connection to nature. We are able to transport adults and children into a remote space where they can really connect to nature and observe the natural beauty of the world.

In addition to our own sites, we also provide education programs within 57 regional schools, where we can make a significant impact on our community without being limited by our own space. We are aware of the transportations constraints that some of our target populations may have, and we realize that the best way to have an impact it to “meet them where they are". We also have not expanded as far we could geographically - and again, we have the capabilities to grow. Applying for our ACES 'Educator' position is competitive, and we are able to attract talent that keeps our programs engaging and effective.

Within our community, we have many opportunities to grow our membership as well as our funding base. We are expanding our fundraising efforts geographically as we expand our programs, and finding that there are many untapped sources of funding and membership. We are also upgrading the technology we use to attract and retain donors so that we can maximize our impact while minimizing our time and resources.

We believe that we have the capabilities to achieve our goals, as well as the ability to grow because of our locations, resources, and engaging programs.

ACES has developed a 5 year strategic framework with our short term and long term goals, as well as quantitative and qualitative measurables for each goal. We will measure our success by if we achieve the following goals:

Environmental Education:
Reach over 70,000 students per year with four full-time environmental science classrooms in regional schools.
Assist CAEE (Colorado Alliance in Environmental Education) in acheiving environmental science education in all Colorado public schools by 2020.
Retain quality over quantity for our regional school programs as well, with enrollment at 70+ kids (200% increase) at RBR and 70+ kids (10% more than 2017) at Hallam Lake.
Maintain existing relationships with the Aspen School District, Roaring Fork School District, and develop at least one new partnership program with a regional public school.
Over 1,000 kids/750 adults enrolled in summer programming.

Sustainable Agriculture:
Increased gross sales at Rock Bottom Ranch. $300,000 by 2022.
Increase our production acreage to 30 aces in the next three years.
Add an on-site farm stand at Rock Bottom Ranch.
Add private farm tours and increase farm tour 10% each year for the next 5 years.
Double Naturalist Internship program in the next 5 years.
Complete all capital projects at Rock Bottom Ranch.

Forest Health:
Invest $20,000 in invasive weed management by 2018.
Create prescribed fire partnership with United States Forest Service.
Implement agroforestry project(s) at Rock Bottom Ranch by 2021.
Integrate youth and veterans into forest projects.

Organization Growth:
Double our number of ACES members by 2022.
Facilities renovations and programmatic enhancements at Toklat, Rock Bottom Ranch, and Hallam Lake to be completed.
Raise $5 million in a capital campaign by 2020.
Increase diversity within staff - double the percentage of minorities employed within the organization by 2020.

In the last year, ACES continued to do what we do best: educate youth. ACES taught life, earth and environmental sciences every day in regional schools to an annual total of 5,445 students, teaching more than 2,800 in-school classes and 403 outdoor field programs in partnership with 62 schools, helping schools meet state science standards and connecting thousands of youths to the natural world through hands-on outdoor experiential education.

ACES continued our 35-year old, ACES Naturalist Internship Program, which brought twenty-two (22) of our country's most ambitious recent college graduates to Aspen to prepare for careers in environmental science. ACES Naturalist Internship Program enables our nation's brightest, young environmental leaders to gain leadership experience in their field of interest and apply concepts studied in college to real-life situations, as well as make valuable contacts and network with experts and organizations in their field. The second goal of this program is connecting visitors, residents and students to nature and the outdoors in informative and inspiring ways through meaningful experience in the backcountry. In the past year, ACES Naturalists made 42,250 contacts and guided a total of 2,250 miles of trail. The more people ACES can connect to the natural world and its values, the more society members will love and support our wild places and participate in the fight to protect them to reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet.

At ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch this year, we taught 15,000 children and adults alike that food is not something that comes from a grocery store, but from an ecosystem that must be protected. ACES provided replicable, scalable models of sustainable agriculture while producing 30,000 pounds of local meats and vegetables this year for valley residents. This year, the Ranch was the first in Colorado and one of only a few in the country to receive the Wildlife Friendly certification in addition to our Animal Welfare certification.

ACES partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Aspen, and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails to conduct a 900-acre prescribed fire in Hunter Creek valley. This controlled, low intensity burn of gambel oak and aspen stimulated new vegetative growth, reduced buildup of hazardous fuels, and enhanced wildlife habitat, resulting in a more diverse, resilient forest. This decreased the chance of catastrophic wildfires, which pose a significant risk to the Aspen area. This is groundbreaking work for an environmental organization to lead, and hopefully will be a replicable model for other communities around the west dealing with climate change and fire mitigation.

External Reviews



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

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  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2014
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Not Applicable


Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable

Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Race & Ethnicity

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.

Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.


This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity