May-June 2015
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Director's Corner
Jonathan Dain, NRLI Director

The Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute has over 250 alumni trained to listen to diverse perspectives and understand the interests that lie behind them. Graduates across the state and across sectors have the tools, skills, and networks to steer potentially destructive conflict toward opportunities for collaborative problem solving. NRLI alumni know how to help people work together and how to help them negotiate in constructive ways. But so what?

Almost 20 million people live in Florida (Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida). An average of about 360 of us inhabit each square mile of our 53,600 square mile state. Projections suggest that in just 15 years, over 23 million people will live in those same 53,600 square miles. That is a lot of human beings with a lot of resource needs. More people in the same space* implies increased pressure on our natural resource base. It means new challenges for agricultural production, ecosystems maintenance, and city, county, and state infrastructure, all of which are being impacted by climate change. Credible and thoughtful experts have sounded the alarm about these and other vital issues, but there is another important and little talked about challenge that NRLI graduates are particularly prepared to address: more people means increasing numbers of natural resource stakeholders with competing interests and differing values.How will our leaders and citizens make decisions and negotiate with each other in constructive ways? A "communication climate change" has also been occurring in our state. The strategy du jour is disdain and disregard, listening only to those who think like us and creating caricatures of "the other side" as extremists. There are indeed extremists on all sides, but their numbers are few, not many. Floridians DO care about Florida's natural resources whether they have been here for 6 generation or 6 months. They DO want clean water and clean beaches regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas. They DO want trees and birds and green spaces and fresh food no matter their age or ethnicity. They DO care about the future whether their sector is private or public. They may articulate it in very different ways, but they care. And they want someone to do something about it.

Our state's resources are neither limitless nor impervious to irreversible damage. Lecturing without listening is not helping us manage these resources more effectively or sustainably. NRLI skills are important because we need to change the climate of natural resource management from threats and finger-pointing to joint problem solving. It is not a simple task, but the 250 NRLI alumni can have an impact; they can "do something about it"; and there are more and more alumni every year.

What will you do to change the climate?

*Note: In places like Key Largo and Pensacola Beach, class XIV saw that the "space" that is the State of Florida is shrinking due to sea level rise. Many of our most populated urban areas will be those most directly affected by changes.


Photo by Amy Stuart, UF/IFAS Photography.

Graduation & Practicum Presentations


Practicum Presentation Abstracts

Burl Long Award
Patricia Hutfles
Class XIV Graduation Speech
Gregory Gibson

Five years after Deepwater Horizon
By: Kat Diersen, Society for Conservation Biology;  NRLI Alumna, Class X


Five years ago today, just before dawn, I was kneeling in the pristine white sand of a beach in the Florida panhandle, digging up a loggerhead sea turtle nest.  Normally this sort of thing is discouraged. After all, most sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act and it is a federal crime to disturb their nests. Federal and state wildlife officials go to great lengths to protect these nests from harm by hapless beachgoers and their pets.  But on that morning five years ago I was part of a team working to systematically locate as many sea turtle nests in the Florida panhandle as possible and translocate their precious contents to a storage facility halfway across the state. 


Click here to read the entire article via National


Food and Resource Economics Department