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U.Va., Va. Tech And The Va. Department Of Forestry Join To Form The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute

May 31, 2000 -- To help Virginia’s community leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors resolve conflicts over environmental issues, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Forestry have formed a partnership to create the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.

The newly formed VNRLI will 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 VNRLI course is designed to be experiential, interactive and challenging. Participants will be exposed to various 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.

Those who wish to participate in the program must apply by July 15. 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, which is one of the program’s co-sponsors. "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."

In addition to learning about processes and strategies for conflict resolution, 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, one of the three co-sponsors. "Too often we see neighbors and communities torn apart by conflict that goes unaddressed and unresolved."

The Virginia Department of Forestry, the third partner in the program, is eager to see the VNRLI succeed. "The demands and pressures on our resources are becoming greater every day," said Deputy State Forester Bettina Ring. "We need to develop new ways of doing business, and one of the ways to do that is to bring people together to build understanding of each other and of the issues."

Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley has given his support to the program by offering to host VNRLI at state parks and by providing information about it on the Virginia Naturally 2000 website (, which focuses on statewide initiatives to promote lifelong learning about Virginia’s environment and stewardship of the Commonwealth’s natural and historic resources.

Participants who are accepted into the program will attend all six seminars, which will run from Wednesdays at noon through Fridays at noon. The seminars are scheduled for Sept. 27-29, Nov. 8-10, Jan. 10-12, Feb 28-March 2, April 11-13 and May 30-June 1. 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." She urges people to apply even if they’re not sure they can afford to pay the entire registration fee.

Applications may be obtained by calling Tanya Denckla at (804) 924-1970 or at the VNRLI website:

For more information, contact Tanya Denckla at (804) 924-1970 or

Contact: Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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