Leadership group comes to Suffolk

Published 11:08 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Suffolk is serving as a host location and outdoor classroom this week for a group of participants in the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.

Leaders from Virginia’s industrial, commercial, governmental and environmental communities will be in town through Friday for workshop during which they are set to learn about challenges related to the Chesapeake Bay from both local and regional perspectives.

The Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and Suffolk River Heritage are sponsoring a boat trip to provide a close-up look at some of the issues facing the Nansemond River region, including water quality, oyster restoration, public access, shoreline protection and collaboration with citizens.

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The group will also learn about sea level rise, an issue facing the greater Bay region, from panelists including Skip Stiles of Wetlands Watch; Carl Hershner of Virginia Institute of Marine Science; Joe Bouchard, a former commander of Norfolk Naval Base; and Ben McFarlane of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

Panelists will discuss coastal flooding, its effects on residents and businesses, local government responses and problems that are unaddressed.

Leaders will also hear from guest speakers about the historic, cultural and natural resource management challenges at the Dismal Swamp. Speaker and Suffolk resident Byron Carmean will lead the group on a walking tour at Lake Drummond.

The Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute is a partnership program of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Department of Forestry.

The institute is designed to foster communication and understanding between environmental leaders representing different interests in Virginia’s natural resources. The program guides and challenges leaders to grow in their personal leadership and collaborative problem-solving skills.

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.

In addition, participants gain deeper understanding of key Virginia environmental issues through panel discussions and field trips.

This year’s program began in September in Madison County and, following the visit to Suffolk, 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, mountaintop reclamation and sustainable forestry.