University of Florida visits Fernandina BeachThe NRLI fellows conduct a break-out session on negotiation. Photo courtesy of UF NRLI Project Team.

Fernandina Beach, FL – Fellows in the University of Florida’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) visited Fernandina Beach and Nassau County from November 8 to 10, 2012 as part of their eight-month curriculum focused on responses to climate change in Florida. This is the first time the NRLI program has conducted a session in Nassau County.

NRLI is for rising leaders in business, agriculture, government, academia and the environmental community, and is designed to teach and enhance conflict management skills in the context of natural resource issues. This year’s class of over 20 fellows from across Florida represents many natural resource interests, including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Forest Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Sea Grant, local governments, and the agricultural industry.

City planner Adrienne BurkeCity planner Adrienne Burke speaks to the NRLI class. Photo courtesy of UF NRLI Project Team.

NRLI graduates are poised to help stakeholders in Florida collaborate on projects that try to balance environmental protection and economic development.

The Fernandina Beach session, held at the Amelia Hotel at the Beach, highlighted the topic of coastal resiliency to climate change and related effects. Discussions touched upon planning for and response to significant weather events and sea level rise. City of Fernandina Beach Senior Planner and NRLI alumna, Adrienne Burke, opened the session on November 8 with a contextual presentation regarding Nassau County. She discussed demographics, employment, natural resources, and unique sites in Nassau County, as well as City Comprehensive Plan policies regarding coastal management and the City’s experience with increased flooding because of recent tropical storms.

Ben Cazell of RayonierBen Cazell of Rayonier speaks with NRLI fellows. Photo courtesy of UF NRLI Project Team.

On November 9, the NRLI fellows participated in a field trip to Rayonier property, led by Ben Cazell, who discussed Rayonier’s sustainable initiatives and potential impacts of increased weather events on the timber industry. That afternoon, fellows conducted stakeholder interviews at Fort Clinch with local and regional representatives of the timber industry, shrimp industry, Department of Environmental Protection, Sustainable Fernandina, and the City of Fernandina Beach to learn more about individual perspectives on climate change and related impacts. During the program session, fellows also learned about consensus-based decision-making, negotiation, and focus groups as conflict management tools.

The session concluded on November 10 with a wrap-up of lessons learned from Fernandina Beach and Nassau County.

For more information, please call the City of Fernandina Beach Community Development Department at (904) 277-7325 or email Adrienne Burke at aburke@fbfl.org.

For information on the Natural Resources Leadership Institute, please visit nrli.ifas.ufl.edu.

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