June 9-22, 2000
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U.Va. enters environmental education partnership

By Jane Ford

To help Virginia's community leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors resolve conflicts over environmental issues, U.Va., Virginia Tech and the state Department of Forestry have formed a partnership to create the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.

More information about VNRLI is available at the Virginia Naturally 2000 Web site, http://www.deq. state.va.us/education/naturally.html

The VNRLI plans to bring together community, business and environmental leaders to learn principles and strategies for resolving conflict over natural resources. In September, it will kick off its first program, a series of six seminars to be held throughout the year in various locations across the state.

The program -- designed to be experiential, interactive and challenging -- will expose participants to a variety of ideas and values in a fair and balanced manner, and speakers and panelists will be selected to represent different perspectives. Seminar topics include: leadership and relationship building, processes and strategies for conflict resolution and problem solving, personal communication, public policy and decision-making, Virginia natural resource issues and case studies and field trips.

The course will be limited to 30 participants and is open to anyone involved in natural resource issues, whether in small business, industry, local government, community or civic engagement, environmental activism, academia or state government.

"Our hope is to have a class of participants with diverse interests," said Mike Ellerbrock, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Economic Education. "We envision about one-third coming from business and industry, one-third from state and local government, and one-third from the community, civic and environmental interests. The goal is to have people gain better understanding of each other and the issues, not to convince anyone of a particular outcome."

Participants will delve into some of the more demanding challenges being faced in Virginia today: water quality and supply; waste management, including biosolids; urban and rural forestry; tobacco growing communities; chip mills and coal mining; large-scale animal operations; growth and land use; and Superfund and Brownfield sites. Other kinds of natural resource management will be woven into the course, including wildlife management, land conservation, and rare and endangered species preservation.

"There are social and practical costs for failing to address these kinds of environmental conflicts in a proactive manner," said Frank Dukes, associate director of the U.Va. Institute for Environmental Negotiation. "Too often we see neighbors and communities torn apart by conflict that goes unaddressed and unresolved."

The cost for the year-long course is $1,600, excluding travel and lodging.

"We hope to be able to have scholarship money available," said program coordinator Tanya Denckla, senior associate with U.Va.'s Institute for Environmental Negotiation. "We would like to make it possible for people to participate without a cost barrier."


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