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

April 27, 2005 -- A program to help Virginia’s leaders address difficult environmental and community issues will kick off its sixth year this fall.

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute trains people from industry, businesses, local and state government, K-12 and college educators, and the environmental community. Patti Jackson, former executive director of the James River Association and a 2003 fellow of VNRLI, said the institute fostered changes such as “better listening, understanding other perspectives and being more open to new ways of solving problems.” Gavin Sanderlin, a watershed protection specialist and organic farm manager, credits the program with “giving me the courage to take on projects that I could not predict the outcome of, but doing so while living by my ethics. [It] exposed me to tools that I can use to move through conflict, not only with other individuals or at the group level, but also within myself.”

VNRLI is a partnership with the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Virginia Tech’s Center for Economic Education and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Beginning in September, it will launch its sixth series of workshops, held throughout the year in various locations across the state. Participants accepted into the program will attend all six workshops, which generally run from Wednesday through Friday. 

VNRLI administrators are encouraging applicants from business and industry; state, local and federal government; American-Indian tribes; environmental and civic organizations; African-American and Latino communities; and individuals who are involved in some capacity with natural resource issues and are catalysts in their communities.

Participants will gain personal skills in leadership and collaborative problem-solving. Each session offers interactive exercises that focus on a topic such as conflict resolution, facilitation, consensus building, interest-based negotiation, mediation, environmental justice and special group processes. In addition, participants will gain deeper understanding of key Virginia environmental issues and discover opportunities for dialogue and collaborative problem solving.

The overall focus for the 2005-2006 program is land use, and each session will offer panel discussions and field trips associated with issues such as open space conservation, smart growth, environmental justice, water quality, Superfund site cleanup and redevelopment, and sustainable agriculture and forestry.

Karl Bren, founder of GreenVisions Consulting and a 2004 institute fellow, recommends the program to “anyone who wants to grow in their knowledge and passion for Virginia’s natural resources.”

IEN Director Frank Dukes said, " Since the program was first offered in 2001, we're seeing concrete results as alumni are using their new skills and relationships to resolve conflicts and build authentic consensus concerning environmental issues around the commonwealth."

The Virginia Department of Forestry is eager to see the institute thrive. “The demands and pressures on our resources are becoming greater every day,” said Mike Foreman, program manager for land conservation, riparian and forest policy at the Virginia 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.”

Mike Ellerbrock, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Economic Education, one of the program’s co-sponsors, said one goal is to bring people together who normally don't have the opportunity to interact on an informal, friendly basis. “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.”

The deadline for applications is June 1. The new class is limited to 30 people, and those accepted will be notified by July 1. 

Cost for the yearlong course is $1,850, excluding travel, lodging and some meals.

 “We're pleased to be able to offer scholarships to the next class,” said Tanya Denckla Cobb, senior associate with U.Va.’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation. “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 the entire registration fee.

For an application, contact program manager Caroline Wilkinson at (434) 924-6569 or e-mail: The application also is available on the institute’s Web site:

The leadership program is supported in part by the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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