Urban Extension: A Professional Development Offering

core group of the TBFWB consist of forest and wildlife managers, extension agents, and bio-physical as well as social scientists.

The Tampa Bay Forest Working Group (TBFWG) has expanded its work into other urban regions of the state, providing strategic planning assistance for urban forest conservation to numerous municipal governments. The initial step in the development of all strategic plans is neighborhood- scale assessments of residents’ values and attitudes toward urban trees/forest and their management. These assessments take the form of full surveys and nominal group sessions. Focus groups are conducted in low income and disenfranchised neighborhoods to ensure all residents have a voice in urban forest planning. Community-Based Social Marketing Plans have been developed to support efforts to restore and maintain the urban forest and urban natural areas. Periodic monitoring of social values and perspectives is now seen as integral to the successful use of adaptive management for urban forest conservation, as is the monitoring of bio-physical elements, ecological functions, and processes.

How the Tampa Bay Forest Working Group (TBFWG) attracts, develops, retains, and structures competent talent:

Urban forests are primarily assessed in terms of the range of services and values they provide to urban and suburban residents (Nowak, 2001). Assessing these services and values often go beyond the traditional disciplines of forest and wildlife management. They require skills in social geography; epidemiology; conflict resolution and mediation; urban design and planning; urban hydrology; and land use law, to name just a few. The practice of urban forest management is relatively new. Strategic planning for urban forest conservation is designed as an experiment. Deliberate use of the scientific method within an adaptive management framework guides development of learning organizations, in this case the University of Florida IFAS Extension and local governments. The dynamic interaction of the urban forest and human health and wellbeing require the ability of engaged extension agents and scientists to be flexible, willing to learn, adapt to novel work environments, and accept the limitations to their knowledge, even within their own fields of expertise. Through 15 years of experience the TBFWG has grown in its use of critical thinking to identify and creatively address emerging problems in urban forest management. This has included the incorporation of individuals and disciplines not typically found working on natural resource-based issues. Much of this new talent has been supplied through the University of Florida IFAS Extension, other University of Florida Colleges, and state and federal agencies.

Innovation, creativity, and success in assessments and management have drawn attention to the work of the TBFWG, attracting professionals and scientists from across the nation.


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