Environmental negotiation pioneer Richard Collins to retire
|Richard Collins, founder of IEN, will be honored at a symposium on Nov. 19, which also marks the 25th anniversary of the institute. Collins, who will retire later this academic year, is proud of the institute’s work preserving Virginia’s natural resources.
Richard Collins seized an opportunity to help disparate parties interested in the 1970’s environmental movement who were frustrated with litigation and lawsuits that were then common.
With funding from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, created as a result of Allied Chemical’s pollution of the James River, Collins created the Institute for Environmental Negotiation with support from other members of the Architecture School’s Department of Urban and Environmental Planning. The premise was that by bringing people together to talk about their often opposing needs, they could arrivve at a resolution that was agreeable to all, and most importantly, benefited the local, state and regional environment.
Throughout the years, “VEE has contributed more than $1 million to keep the idea alive,” Collins said. Today they still provide base funding. Monies from grants and other institutions and fees for mediation provide the remainder of the operating budget.
IEN’s first big project centered on a uranium-mining proposal for the Virginia Piedmont. State legislators were divided on the issue and called on the institute. Collins brought together the opposing groups along with scientists and detailed technical data. As a result of the institute’s work, the uranium-mining project did not happen.
“The project allowed us to demonstrate, study and bring together perspectives and various parties that marked us as a group who could get things accomplished,” Collins said.
The group developed close relationships with state legislators and was successful in influencing the outcomes of numerous environmental issues. Collins is particularly proud of the IEN’s involvement in the passage of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which protects resource areas adjacent to and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.
Collins always kept in mind the educational value of the institute in developing students’ consciousness as active players in achieving planning goals.
“It’s an important part of our citizenship and role as a public institution,” he said.
IEN also has had a tremendous impact on education and curriculum in urban and environmental planning programs throughout the country, and has influenced national and international groups to view consensus building and dispute resolution as a central process of legislation and education.
“We did this not by writing and theory, but by actually doing it,” Collins said.
Although he is formally retiring, Collins expects to continue to work with the institute, teach a few courses and be active in local issues as a citizen working with Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population.