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Environmental Science and Policy Program

New Initiatives | Annual Courses | Wildlands Management

Professional training by the OTS Environmental Science and Policy Program offers professional training to individuals from public, private, and non-governmental sectors from a range of countries whose choices affect tropical nature and natural resources. Training focuses on scientific understanding of the natural world as a unifying framework that can, when considered with social and economic factors, help to improve use, management and conservation policies and practices.

Founded in 1988, the ESP program trains individuals whose choices can have profound impacts on the natural environment in the tropics. ESP training events employ a mix of expert lectures, discussions, group work, and case studies that highlight the interdependence of social, economic, and ecological dimensions of environmental choices. Most ESP training is field-based, offering the opportunity for the hands-on, total immersion experience of tropical environments and issues that is the OTS trademark in education– a walk through a protected rainforest, a visit to a carbon sequestration project, a conversation with a local farmer or park managers, a plane ride over a fragmented landscape. The combination of these field experiences, discussions, and classwork combine for an irreplaceable first-hand perspective on the tropics.

The ESP program offers two tracks: training to enhance the understanding of environmental issues among present-day policy makers (decision makers), and training to strengthen the skill set of Latin American wildlands managers.

Decision maker training is designed for professionals who devise and implement policies that directly affect tropical resources but who often have minimal training in environmental sciences. Training equips participants (e.g., politicians, corporate executives, media directors) from North, Central, and South America with a scientific framework for understanding the concepts and connections among subjects as diverse as biodiversity loss, climate change, forest ecology, freshwater management, and ecosystem services. Recognition of what is scientifically known and unknown, about the natural world then informs consideration of policy issues and options, such as market mechanisms, protected area management, trans-boundary co-operation, or indigenous rights over natural resources, to name a few. OTS has offered decision maker courses since the late 1980’s and has trained over 700 people from 19 countries.

Since the late-1980s, ESP-OTS has offered annual short courses for US and Latin American policy makers. These courses have been highly successful in bringing United States congressional staffers and Latin American officials into direct contact with the environmental problems facing the tropics. In 1990, ESP-OTS expanded its educational offering and developed special weekend workshops for incoming legislators and administrators of the newly-elected Costa Rican government. One year later, OTS offered a series of activities designed to educate decision makers at the community level. This program empowered local leaders to deal effectively with regional and national governments through a program known as the Environmental Dialogue in Rural. In subsequent years, OTS offered training events for legislators, high-level governmental advisors and corporate executives in Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama. ESP-OTS most recently collaborated with World Wildlife Fund to produce a series of 4-day training events treating the Meso-American Biological Corridor – each catering to a different sector such as agro-industry, media, or tourism, as well as Central American legislators. The newest initiatives of the program include courses planned in 2002 for Peruvian congressional and corporate representatives as well collaboration with a Brazilian decision makers program.

Wildlands management training brings together resource managers and protected areas personnel from all over Latin America to explore the theoretical underpinnings and practical aspects of managing the region’s natural heritage. Scientific foundations of management are emphasized and are teamed with the practical situations (e.g., threat identification, community-park relations, restoration) and tools (e.g., ecotourism, fire management, GIS) and tasks (management plan development, fundraising) needed to effectively manage conservation areas. OTS has offered the wildlands management course since 1999 and has trained over 90 people from 13 countries.

Moore Foundation Andes-Amazon Initiative and OTS professional capacity building

  • Andes Amazon Iniciative
    • Training for protected areas managers, decision makers, and trainers in Andes-Amazonia
    • Tools to assist national institutions in delivery of training adapted to their needs
    • Knowledge to guide future training effort
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New and Recent Initiatives

  • OESI Seminars for Central American Legislators
  • Central American Decision Makers and Free Trade Agreements – 2004; 2005
  • Decision Maker Courses in South America - Peru 2003
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Annual Courses

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Wildlands Management: Information, Tools, and Manual (Spanish)

For more info please contact us at: infoweb @ tropicalstudies.org

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Last Updated ( 06/28/12 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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