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Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute To Kick Off Second Year Of Successful Program

April 26, 2001-- A new program to help Virginia's leaders in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors address community conflicts over environmental issues will kick off its second year-long program this fall.

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute trains people from industry, businesses, local and state government, and the environmental community. It is the result of a partnership between the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia, the Center for Economic Education at Virginia Tech, and the Virginia Department of Forestry. The first class of 27 fellows graduates at the end of May, and because of its successful first year, the three sponsors will conduct the program for a second year.

Graduating fellows give the program rave reviews. "I learned that once people are really communicating, all kinds of 'thinking out of the box' can occur," said Mike Roberts, an extension agent and Farm Business Management coordinator in Virginia's southeast district. "Because of the nature of my work and volunteer activities, I often find myself in situations that require mediation, negotiation, or facilitation skills. The institute offers education and hands-on experience in all three. I began using techniques learned as an institute fellow after the very first session."

Beginning this September, the institute will launch its second series of six seminar workshops, held throughout the year in various locations across the Commonwealth. Participants accepted into the program attend all six workshops, which run from Wednesday noon through Friday noon.

The Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute is seeking applicants from industry, business, local and state government, environmental organizations and community groups – specifically people who work with their communities and who are involved in some capacity with natural resource issues. The new class is limited to 30 people.

Participants will learn about conflict resolution and consensus building involving multiple stakeholders and will receive leadership training. In addition, they will delve into some of the more demanding challenges facing Virginia today, such as water quality and supply, human and animal waste management, urban and rural forestry, chip mills and coal mining, large-scale animal operations, growth and land use, and federal Superfund sites. Other natural-resource management issues are woven into the course, including environmental justice, wildlife management, land conservation, and rare and endangered species. Participants will learn of successful partnerships and efforts as well as protracted or unresolved conflicts.

Ed Daley, Winchester city manager and an institute fellow, said the program offers powerful tools to those seeking to improve their effectiveness as a participant and mediator of community conflict. "I'm leaving the program with an expanded toolbox of dispute-resolution and leadership skills and a broader understanding of the environmental issues confronting us at the community and global levels."

The Virginia Department of Forestry, a partner in the program, is eager to see the institute succeed. "The demands and pressures on our resources are becoming greater ever day," said Bettina Ring, deputy state forester with the Department of Forestry. "We need to develop new, innovative approaches to doing business. One way to do that is to build an understanding of each other and of the issues."

"One of the institute's goals is to bring people together who normally don't have the opportunity to interact on an informal, friendly basis," said Mike Ellerbrock, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Economic Education, one of the program’s co-sponsors. "The institute does not try to convince anyone of any particular solution or outcome, but it does aim to help people gain insight into different perspectives about the same issue."

"We hope to offer scholarships for the course," said Tanya Denckla, senior associate with U.Va.’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation and coordinator of the program. "We want 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. Cost for the year-long course is $1,600, excluding travel and lodging.

The deadline for applications is June 22, and fellows will be notified of admission decisions by July 15.

For an application contact Tanya Denckla at (804) 924-1970 or email: tdenckla@virginia.edu, or at the institute's Web site: http://www.virginia.edu/~envneg/VNRLI_home.html.

Contact: Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 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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