October 19, 2009 — Virginia's environmental leaders will gather on the Northern Neck for the second workshop of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute, which is being held Nov. 4-6 in Kilmarnock, with field trips to area concerns to learn about issues related to the Bay.
The institute has selected the Northern Neck as a focus because of the daunting work required to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Leaders will learn about President Obama's recent executive order that requires Virginia and other Bay states to work together with federal departments and agencies to ensure the Chesapeake Bay meets existing state water quality standards and the "fishable and swimmable" goals of the Clean Water Act.
While environmental leaders discuss the challenges of restoring the Chesapeake to health, they will also tour the Reedville Fishermen's Museum to learn about the cultural heritage of fishing in the region, the Omega Protein plant to learn about the decline of the menhaden fisheries and efforts to sustain the fishery, and the Cowart Seafood's Oyster Aquaculture facility to learn about efforts to rebuild the oyster population. During these visits, leaders will struggle with ways of addressing complex environmental issues while also developing skills in conflict resolution, personal leadership and collaborative dialogue.
Now in its 10th year, the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute continues to excel and received a Resolution of Support from Virginia's 2009 General Assembly for its "outstanding efforts to improve the way environmental decisions are made" and its "many efforts to help build consensus and facilitate good environmental policy and leadership for the commonwealth."
The institute is a unique partnership of the University of Virginia's Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The leadership program is supported this year by a special grant from the Dominion Foundation to support collaborative decision-making for protecting Virginia's environment and natural resources.
The program is also supported with grant funds from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, the USDA Forest Service's Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program, George Beals Conservation Leadership Fund of the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Educational Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay License Plate Fund, Merck & Co., Inc. and individual institute alumni.
The leadership program is designed to foster communication and understanding between environmental leaders representing different interests in Virginia's natural resources. Each session offers interactive exercises that focus on a topic such as conflict resolution, facilitation, consensus building, interest-based negotiation, public involvement, environmental justice and collaborative leadership.
Following the visit to the Northern Neck, the program will take leaders to Richmond to learn about land use and growth management challenges and legislative priorities; to the Shenandoah Valley to learn about sustainable agriculture and impacts of agricultural waste management on water quality; and to Southwest Virginia to learn about coal mining, land reclamation and sustainable forestry.