Municipal Forestry Institute

MFI 2021 class photo

The Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) is an exciting, high-level training opportunity for educating professionals in the leadership and managerial aspects of urban forestry. This week-long intensive educational program delivers a challenging opportunity to learn how to grow more successful community tree programs. Attendees will master leadership and management tools of program administration, coalition building, strategic thinking, program planning, and public relations by investing a week in their personal growth and development.

2023 MFI Focus Year

In 2023, SMA's MFI will take a Focus Year. The full institute will not be offered in 2023, but will be offered early 2024. Registration for 2024 will open mid-2023. The 2023 Focus Year will include ensuring the program meets modern standards for urban forestry leadership development and is positioned to evolve into the future. Throughout the year, SMA will pull together key stakeholders including academics, practitioners, partner organizations, past participants, and others to hear their ideas and insights on how MFI meets the needs currently and how it can grow. Now is the time to conduct a comprehensive review of MFI, the premier leadership course in the urban forestry field!

Review the 2023 Focus Year outline

SMA will share the progress of the Focus Year throughout 2023 and welcomes your feedback. Of course, we want to see you at the 2024 Municipal Forestry Institute likely held in February or March 2024. Want to be the first to know when registration is open? Fill in your information at the link below, and we'll send you an email to notify you when 2024 MFI registration is open. We look forward to seeing you there!

2024 MFI Interest Form

About the Municipal Forestry Institute

Note that the 2023 MFI Focus Year may open the possibility for some of this to change. SMA will keep you and this website updated as things evolve. However, the following represents many of the core principles of MFI, which at its core is, and will continue to be, dedicated to growing the professionals who are and will become leaders in urban and municipal forestry.  

Why you should attend
This is a unique leadership and professional development opportunity you won’t find elsewhere. A team of dedicated urban forestry professionals from across North America will help you gain insights for how you can move from a good urban forestry program to a great one. You will have the opportunity to learn from and network with urban forestry professionals from large cities and small towns, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. MFI is an investment in your professional future - one that will pay great dividends to you and your city.

MFI is designed for people who plan, manage, and administer urban forestry programs and who want to become more effective leaders and managers. Past MFI classes have included over 800 city foresters and city arborists, urban foresters, municipal arborists, planners, tree wardens, state urban forestry staff, municipal tree advocates, and urban forestry non-profit staff.

What to expect
MFI is an intensive learning experience. You must be able to attend the full week, which typically starts at 4:00pm on Sunday runs until noon on Friday. There are daily breaks and group events throughout the week. Your full attendance will be required at every session. Partial attendance is not possible. Pets, partners, dependents, and/or guests cannot be accommodated at MFI.

The MFI instructional staff comes with decades of experience in all phases of urban forestry at the municipal, state, federal, private, and non-profit levels.

The curriculum was developed by a team of dynamic urban forestry professionals and educators experienced in leading urban forestry programs at the local, state, federal, and non-profit levels. There are five major components of the MFI curriculum:

presentations from experienced instructors
  • Pre-Institute Training
  • Developing A Leadership Approach to Your Position
  • Thinking and Planning Strategically to Advance Urban Forestry Programs
  • Working Effectively with Boards, Coalitions, and Non-Profit Organizations
  • Managing the Relationship Between People and Trees

The curriculum is presented in a variety of formats including lectures, multimedia presentations, panel discussions, group exercises, and real-life scenarios.

The MFI Pre-Institute is an online forum of readings, videos and discussions that takes place in the month before MFI. Through a collaborative effort of SMA and Rutgers Urban Forestry Program the MFI Pre-Institute is a 4-week short course to introduce you to leadership concepts you will be expanding upon during your week in MFI. The pre-institute session will be hosted by Rutgers Urban Forestry on Canvas; a well-known educational management platform with models for each week with videos and discussion boards to interact with classmates and MFI Teaching Cadre members. Participants who complete the pre-institute before attending MFI will already be acquainted with other MFI participants and Cadre members and have an understanding of the foundational course principles.

Real-life problem solving sessions
The following CEU options are available:

  • ISA CA, BCMA, Municipal Specialist
  • SAF Certified Forester
  • APA/AICP Certified Planner

Registration Details
The all-inclusive registration investment covers the following:

  • Food and lodging for 5 nights and 6 days
  • Course materials, including a Learning Journal workbook, worksheets, and group exercises.
  • CEUs
Registration Investment:
  • $2299 USD for SMA members
  • $2399 UDS non SMA members

Registration does not include travel.

Scholarships covering registration and travel are available from SMA and may also be available from local and state-level sources. More details on how to qualify for these scholarships will be posted. 

Organizers and Sponsors
The MFI is a program of the Society of Municipal Arborists and is organized in cooperation with other groups such as Southern University and the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program. SMA and its partners are committed to increasing diversity in urban forestry and leadership opportunities for people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and others who have historically been underrepresented in our field. 

What Past Participants Say about MFI:
"The most valuable part of the entire process for me was hearing in some detail the lived experience of folks, whether they were in settings similar to my own or quite different. It was particularly enlightening to learn in more depth about the trials and triumphs of arborists working at city or state levels, dealing with bureaucracies and both public interest and public misperceptions." —Kathy Lawrence, Board Chair, Greater Newburgh Parks Conservancy, MFI 2021

"It was fantastic to reconnect with my MFI friends and to see the familiar faces of the cadre leadership [at the virtual 2021 MFI Day reunion]. Hearing about the leadership journeys of fellow MFI grads was inspiring. I learned so much through the presentations and personal stories. It felt great knowing that there is a family of professionals out there working hard for the people and places they serve. It reminded me why I love this profession." —Miche Palmer, MFI 2020, Street Tree Planting Forester, NYC Parks Forestry, Horticulture & Natural Resources

"MFI felt like a gulp of fresh air when you’ve been underwater just a little too long. I hadn’t known how starved I was for professional camaraderie, companionship, and acceptance. In addition to the peer support—including the encouragement to look for a new job, which I’ve since found and started—one of my favorite things about MFI was learning about the new technologies and practices people were using in their city forestry programs." —Sarah Hagan, MFI 2021

"MFI gives you the opportunity to experience a group of passionate advocates for our environment who have a wealth of knowledge to share. You will either learn new skills or sharpen the tools you already have in your tool box. It will revitalize you and spark new ideas for your work and life goals."—Kateri Savory, MFI 2019, Senior Project Manager for Metropolitan New York City, Davey Resource Group

For MFI registration or sponsorship inquiries, please contact [email protected].