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April 23, 2009
Press Release: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Education, design and cooperation, along with regulations, are needed to protect natural resources.

That was the message that Jay Gilliam, master trainer for Virginia Save Our Streams, brought to the 22nd annual Thomas Jefferson Awards Program on Wednesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Well-designed regulations are important for a sustainable natural resources policy, Gilliam told the 60 people attending the program. And while a lot of people and groups are working on education, "we have a long, long way to go," he said. Also, good design can avoid problems such as runoff that can threaten the environment, he said.

But the hardest thing to achieve may be cooperation, he said.

"People need to be willing to sit down at the same table" with others on the opposite sides of issues "and be willing to solve the problems," Gilliam said.

Gilliam became interested in water quality issues in 1990 when a development would have created a discharge into a Rockbridge County stream where he often played with his 3-year-old daughter. When he investigated, he found no one knew whether the stream actually was as clean as he had thought.

He became involved with Save Our Streams, which taught stream monitoring techniques, and became a trainer for the program. In 1996, he created the Virginia Save Our Streams organization, and since then, he has worked in 75 Virginia counties and learned about Virginia's 13 river basins.

"I am convinced that to deal with problems, you have to find ways to collaborate," Gilliam said.

That also is the theory behind roundtable groups the state has created in several areas, he said. The roundtables bring together representatives of business, industry, agencies, colleges and grassroots groups to foster communication and tackle issues.

In the 75 to 80 water-monitoring training sessions he conducts each year, Gilliam said he always tells participants how important they are in solving environmental problems. Local people and stakeholders "will get things done," he added.

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