Natural Resource Leaders Gather in Madison County to Kick Off Leadership Institute

September 17, 2010

September 17, 2010 — Virginia's natural resource management leaders are gathering at Graves' Mountain Lodge in Syria on Sept. 22-24 in Madison County for a three-day workshop to kick off the 11th year of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute. The institute's program consists of six 3-day learning sessions offered in different locations throughout the Commonwealth.

Participants in the institute program, referred to as "fellows," are drawn from Virginia industry, business, local and state government, and the environmental community, and will work together to develop skills in conflict resolution, personal leadership and collaborative dialogue. Under a grant from the U.S. Forest Service's Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program, this year's class also includes participants from Ohio and Colorado, states that are considering similar institutes.

In addition to the core curriculum, in this first session fellows will hear from guest speakers about the displacement of families from lands that became part of the Shenandoah National Park in the early 1930s and the legacy that exists today concerning that displacement. The fellows will also hear from state 30th District Del. Ed Scott on leadership and natural resources.

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute is a 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 program is supported this year by a grant from the Dominion Foundation that supports collaborative decision-making for protecting Virginia's environment and natural resources. The institute receives additional funds from the George Beals Conservation Leadership Fund of the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Educational Foundation, the Ballyshannon Fund, Merck and Company, the Virginia Department of Forestry and individual institute alumni.

The institute is designed to encourage communication and understanding between people representing different interests in Virginia's natural resource issues. Each three-day 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.

After the visit to Madison County, the program will take leaders to the Northern Neck to learn about fisheries and issues impacting the Chesapeake Bay, 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.

For information about the program, contact Steve Talley at or 434-924-6569.

— By Jane Ford