Natural Resources Public Interest Leadership Development Program
With each passing year there are more people demanding more from the world's forests, ranges, waterways, and other ecosystems than ever before, and these demands are increasing not only in volume, but also in complexity and variety. This condition creates inumerable challenges for natural resource managers, students, advocates and others who care deeply about sustaining the quality and diversity of life not only for humans but for all of life on our planet, both great and small.
While our current condition is indeed daunting, we believe that each of us has the choice to see our socio-economic and environmental conditions as either or an obstacle or catalyst toward greater sustainability in the future. By thinking and acting in ways that leverage strengths while managing for “blind spots”, we are transformed from “victim” to leader, and our current predicament becomes the catalyst for profound change that starts within and results in positive influences in our world. Our leadership development philosophy and educational approach is centered on the notion that the practice of being a leader boils down to an essential choice we make each day to wholly engage in our lives, always striving to be the best possible version of who we can be. Taken in this light, a significant aspect of leadership development involves not only improving our technical and cognitive skills, but also our emotional intelligence and capacity to work with people in often contentious settings. We believe that leadership is a way of being in the world that can be learned and internalized by anyone with the desire to be the best leader they can be.
Our primary leadership development program is known as the “USFS Middle Leader Program; Being a Leader in the Forest Service”. Since 2003, the University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation (CFC) has offered this unique, cohort-based leadership development program to mid-career USFS employees through an informal partnership with the USFS Northern Region (i.e. Region One), and more recently, the USFS Southwestern Region (Region Three). Generally referred to as “Being a Leader", this program combines an academic perspective with the practice of leadership through a unique curriculum that pairs senior USFS leaders alongside University of Montana faculty and private consultants in a class room setting. We have found that "co-teaching" in this manner optimizes the relevance of topical discussions within the context of mid-level leadership challenges facing the USFS. Yet, the learning and personal growth that takes place within our program is not limited to the USFS context alone, and many graduates have expressed that the program is actually quite relevant and meaningful to most every area of their lives.