Municipal Forestry Institute

The Municipal Forestry Institute (MFI) is an exciting, high-level training opportunity that guides professionals in the leadership and managerial aspects of urban forestry. This week-long intensive educational program delivers a challenging, yet rewarding, 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.

MFI 2024 Applications Being Accepted!
February 25-March 1, 2024

Applications are now being accepted for SMA's Municipal Forestry Institute 2024! Registration opens on 8/1/2023 and closes 11/1/2023. The Institute will be held on beautiful Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia. Swaying live oak trees and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean will serve as the perfect backdrop for a week of inspiration, leadership growth, and community-building with fellow urban foresters. MFI is the only leadership program focused on the people who make or support daily tree planting and care decisions. You'll learn and network with the people who know and understand your work, all while building your skills and confidence to lead your urban forestry program to the next level!

General information about what MFI covers can be found below on this page. For more detailed information and logistics about MFI 2024, and to apply, click the button below. An informational flier is also available here. We'll see you in Georgia!

Apply for MFI 2024!


2023 MFI Focus Year

In 2023, SMA's MFI will take a Focus Year. The full institute will not be offered in 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

About the Municipal Forestry Institute

MFI Statement of Purpose
The Municipal Forestry Institute is an inclusive, immersive and transformative educational experience that empowers urban forestry leaders to gain valuable and practical insights from prominent figures, experts and peers in the field of urban forestry. 

MFI Goals
The goals of the Municipal Forestry Institute are to:

  • Establish a solid understanding of personal leadership styles and the human dynamics of urban forestry to advance urban forestry within communities.
  • Stimulate personal and program advancement through greater understanding of the context within which urban forestry leaders operate
  • Cultivate sustainable urban forestry programs through networks, partners and coalition building
  • Foster long-term success, support and engagement through education, skills building and mentoring.

Why you should attend
The MFI curriculum focuses on the human side of urban forestry and the development of leadership skills rather than the technical aspects of urban forestry or arboriculture. Principles and practices gleaned from a wide range of disciplines are incorporated into training sessions. Participants are challenged to expand their personal and professional boundaries and develop their role as a leader in the urban forestry profession.

The Institute curriculum features a multi-dimensional leadership focus with a progression that concentrates on:

  1. Individual development
  2. The context and reality of their municipal urban forestry program
  3. External collaborations and partnerships
  4. Developing a growth mindset for long-term success.

This progressive education and learning model is designed to stimulate the participant’s thinking about their own professional and personal growth, then about how to improve their own program, and finally how to synthesize this understanding and knowledge to facilitate change.

This is a unique leadership and professional development opportunity you won’t find elsewhere. A team of dedicated urban forestry professionals help you gain insights for how you can move from a good urban forestry program to a great one. MFI is an investment in your professional future - one that will pay great dividends to you and your community.

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. The MFI training will cover these four themes.

  • Leadership: Looking inward to know and understand your professional self and others
  • Strategic Planning: Looking outward to know and understand the context you work in
  • Partnerships: Creating connections, partnerships and coalitions
  • Practice: Keeping momentum by developing a growth mindset

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

An MFI Pre-Institute is required for all attendees. The Pre-Institute takes place virtually, 2-4 weeks in advance of the MFI training. The Pre-Institute is an online platform for participants to connect and communicate with fellow participants and the MFI Education Facilitators and engage in concepts and topics that will be discussed during MFI. The Pre-Institute begins with a virtual welcome meeting and continues to include an online forum for communicating with the MFI participants and a series of readings and discussions that lay the groundwork for a successful week of teaching and learning. 

Real-life problem solving sessions

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 (ISA CA, BCMA, Municipal Specialist)
Registration Investment:
  • $2,299 USD for SMA members
  • $2,399 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 the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. 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].