August 21, 2023 |Gretchen Hoffmann

Learning the Business of Conservation From a True Professional

Officially titled “Intermediate Topics in Business: The Business of Conservation,” this undergraduate course was cross-listed in both the business and economics and environmental science. While not all students arrived with a well-defined interest in conservation or the environment, each one showed a significant level of engagement and enthusiasm and finished the course with a broader perspective on what conservation is and can be.

Many of the topics that Professor Paul Hurt explored with his students through his lectures, class discussions and reading assignments are central to The Conservation Fund’s mission and work, from the “nuts and bolts” of transactions and projects, to thinking about land ownership and the wider impact of conservation on communities.

Paul Hurt, second from left, with his students. Photo courtesy Paul Hurt.

Paul also enlisted several of The Conservation Fund’s talented staff members to be guest lecturers for the course, including Montana State Director Gary Sullivan for a discussion on conservation along the Rocky Mountain Front and our Minnesota Associate State Director Emilee Nelson for a look at complex land conservation issues. Georgia State Director Stacy Funderburke’s presentation on the Working Farms Fund and the idea of working lands being part of a conservation matrix was a new concept to many students. And in a course highlight, fellow Colorado College alumnus and the Fund’s Colorado State Director Justin Spring did more than just lecture about conservation projects — he took the class on a field trip to experience Fishers Canyon in person.

“It was a privilege to be invited by Paul to speak with his class. The students’ engagement was impressive and I was proud to show them Fishers Canyon — a real life example of The Conservation Fund’s work in right in Colorado College’s backyard.”

- Justin Spring, Colorado State Director for The Conservation Fund and Colorado College graduate

Fishers Canyon. Photo courtesy Justin Spring.

Two additional guest lecturers with ties to both The Conservation Fund and Colorado College also contributed to the class. Kendall Delyser, another Colorado College alum and a former Stanback Forestry intern for The Conservation Fund, guest lectured about forest conservation and carbon offsets. And Mike Strugar, parent of a Colorado College student and long-time partner of the Fund, educated the class on Colorado’s transferable conservation state tax credit program.

“The students really enjoyed meeting and hearing from the guest lecturers who are actually out there practicing in the field,” remarked Professor Hurt. “Without any prompting or coordination, the presenters all stressed the importance of building support and trust within communities, and maintaining your reputation within those communities and in the industry. I was proud to have that message about integrity and values come across strongly.”

Paul also asked the guest presenters to share a bit about how they personally came to work in conservation. “A few were focused on conservation from the start, or at least from the time they graduated. On the other hand, several speakers (including me) did not have it on our radar as a career path until much later. I think the students found those discussions useful.”

Paul further reflected on teaching this course for the first time and his future plans in his humorous, humble and gracious manner that we’ve come to know so well. “Nobody dropped out or lapsed into a coma, so I’ll take that as a sign it was pretty well received,” he joked. “But seriously, I really did enjoy the students and felt incredibly lucky to be working with them. I hope I can teach this course again or other courses, especially since I’m about to be unemployed.”

The Conservation Fund staff gathered to celebrate Paul’s retirement. Photo by Val Keefer.

And by unemployed, Paul is lightheartedly referring to his last day as a lawyer for The Conservation Fund, as he retired in July 2023 after more than 20 years of incredible service. Paul’s legal support enabled the Fund to protect just over 2 million acres of land in 38 states! Among Paul’s most memorable projects are the Royal Blue project in Tennessee, our beloved Sabine Ranch in Texas, and work to protect Reed Plantation in Maine and Brunswick Forest in North Carolina. And as if his real estate transactions didn’t keep him busy enough, Paul also served as counsel for many years to several key programs of the Fund.

Sabine Ranch in Texas. Photo by Callie Easterly.

Paul, from everyone at The Conservation Fund, congratulations on your incredible career accomplishments and thank you for your guidance and friendship. We wish you many new adventures playing your ukulele, teaching, fishing and exploring. You never know, you might find some of us enrolling at Colorado College just to keep learning from you!

Written by

Gretchen Hoffmann

In her role as Blog Manager, Gretchen Hoffmann helps share unique perspectives, projects and people from across The Conservation Fund and our partners. She enjoys being able to combine her passion for storytelling with her love of nature and conservation, and has worked on our blog, Redefining Conservation, since its launch in 2015. Gretchen holds a Master of Science in Biomedical Journalism from New York University and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. She lives in Westport, CT, where she enjoys playing tennis, working in her garden and being on the water with her family.