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The History of the Fort Collins Science Center

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Fort Collins Science Center (FORT), has been a nucleus of research, technology development, and associated scientific activities for more than 30 years. FORT helps solve natural resource issues by providing sound scientific data and technical assistance to Department of the Interior bureaus and other natural resource agencies.

Aspen, by Sam Cox,
Photo by Sam Cox, Permission given.

FORT's historical activities are deeply rooted in federal biological resource research and its supporting disciplines, particularly as they relate to the needs of the U.S. Department of the Interior and its resource management agencies. The organizational framework and activities of FORT have changed and adapted over the years in response to shifts in the scientific issues and challenges facing the U.S. Department of the Interior and with the development of new strategies to meet these challenges. Thus, the history of FORT has been and remains dynamic.

FORT has been nested within the U.S. Geological Survey since 1996. From 1993 to 1996 FORT was a major unit of the National Biological Service (named the National Biological Survey at its inception). This was a period of great organizational flux. During that time the Center comprised multiple field stations and science functions that prior to 1993 had been scattered among the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rainbow at Lory State Park
Photo by Jill Mamini. Permission given.

In 1993, certain biological research components of these agencies were assigned to join with the National Ecology Research Center, formerly one of the major research and development hubs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This was the year when biological resources research in the U.S. Department of the Interior was consolidated by the Secretary of the Interior, who in an April 1993 memo explaining his intentions wrote, "Our Department has, without doubt, the best biologists in the world." Soon after formation of the new agency, FORT was re-named the Midcontinent Ecological Science Center, reflecting its geographic location within the new Midcontinent administrative region of the National Biological Service (the other three original administrative regions were the eastern, western, and southern). The change in name to the Fort Collins Science Center took place in 2002, soon after the center moved to new facilities on the Colorado State University Natural Resources Research Campus.