Workshop Series Teaches New Land Managers Practical Skills

By:
Ed Hunter (352) 392-1773 x 278
Source(s):
Martha Monroe mcmo@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 846-0878
Doria Gordon dgordon@botany.ufl.edu, (352) 392-5949
Pete Colverson pcolverson@tnc.org, (407) 935-0002
Media Contact for Nature Conservancy fnevill@tnc.org, (407) 682-3664)

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GAINESVILLE — Florida’s preservation-land purchases have outstripped the supply of people trained to manage them, prompting the University of Florida and The Nature Conservancy to create a program designed to teach the day-to-day skills needed to keep the sensitive acreage on an even keel.

Programs such as Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever have resulted in the of acquisition more than 11 million acres of vulnerable land and waterways. That has created an unprecedented need for people who know how to manage natural areas with specific experience in Florida, said Doria Gordon, state ecologist for the Florida chapter of the conservancy and a UF associate professor of botany.

“There is so much new state- and county-owned property coming online that new people are being hired to help with the management,” Gordon said. “The concern expressed by the various agencies responsible for this property was that these new managers needed a primer on managing natural areas in Florida.

“The Natural Areas Training Academy is providing information that was not available from any other agency or institution,” she said.

Martha Monroe, an assistant professor of forest resources and conservation in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said state agencies are hiring individuals with degrees in forest management who could still benefit from some additional, hands-on training.

“The academy workshops meet that need because they are taught by people who do that kind of work every day,” Monroe said.

The first workshop in the series, held in June, covered managing sensitive lands for diversity. Experts from UF, the conservancy and state agencies discussed Florida’s varied environments including the distribution, management and habitat needs of endangered species; habitat restoration issues; and combating threats to biodiversity such as invasive and non-native species. Other sessions deal with managing for biological diversity; managing volunteers and visitors; examining how political, social and ecological forces affect the long-term viability of protected areas; and the use of fire and prescribed burns as a land management tool.

Pete Colverson, who manages the program for the international, nonprofit conservancy, said the idea was to tap the experience his organization’s personnel have gained over 50 years of natural area management.

“The Nature Conservancy is in a good position to add our expertise through this training program,” Colverson said. “We want to help ensure these lands are managed effectively and the natural features we wish to protect will indeed be protected.

“This also is an opportunity for a lot of good connections to be made, for cross-fertilization among people in different agencies,” he said

But the workshops are not just for state and local government employees.

“The original need that was identified was to train managers for newly acquired public lands” Gordon said. “We’ve had people attend from the county and state levels, but we’ve also discovered that private individuals who are managing natural areas and employees from private environmental consulting firms are attending as well.”

People who complete all five workshops in the series will receive a certificate from UF in natural areas management, Gordon said.

Anne Birch, program manager with the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands program, said the fact that participants would earn a certificate encouraged Brevard County to allow employees to enroll in the academy.

“We wanted our staff to be able to receive a land management certificate because it isn’t offered anywhere else” Birch said. “This is one more level of professional training that our land managers can have.

“Also the workshops give us the opportunity to meet other land managers, see what they are doing and learn about issues that are not normally dealt with locally,” she said.

Most of the workshops are held at The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve south of Orlando. For course registration information, call Valencia Community College’s Continuing Professional Education department at (407) 299-5000, ext. 6700 or 6701.

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