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Conservationists meet in W.Va.

June 21, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Small groups working within their own communities will be the key for future efforts to save the environment, according to one of the organizers of this week's Millennium Conference in Shepherdstown.

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"People have more invested in their own communities and can be more effective in dealing with the those issues that affect them directly," said Laurie Lane-Zucker, managing director of the Orion Society.

The Massachusetts-based group has brought more than 500 people from the U.S. and Canada to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Conservation Training Center for a four-day conference on directions for the North American environmental movement, Lane-Zucker said.

"On the eve of the millennium we're bringing together some of the greatest environmental minds and people who are passionate about conservation to chart a course for the future," he said.

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit is slated for a discussion at 2 p.m. Thursday on getting people to work within their communities for watershed restoration, Lane-Zucker said.

The conference also includes appearances by several noted environmental writers, including Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams and Peter Matthiessen, said Lane-Zucker.

While Washington environmental lobbying groups have come to symbolize the conservation movement for some people, Lane-Zucker said the movement is headed toward the grass-roots level.

"It's about people working within their own neighborhoods and teaching their children the importance of the environment," he said.

Grass-roots work also removes much of the "us versus them" attitude that has a tendency to develop on the national level between corporations and environmental groups, Lane-Zucker said.

"There's less polarization on the issues when people work directly with a problem," he said.

While a $75 one-day pass can be purchased to listen to discussions on the issues, the conference will offer a cheaper alternative Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

For $5 each night, a tent on the Conservation Center grounds will feature musical performances and readings from some of the speakers at the conference.

The event concludes Thursday with the free "Mid-Summer's Day Celebration" at Antietam National Battlefield Park.

It will include music, readings and the lighting of 2,000 candles in the park, Lane-Zucker said.

"The candles will honor those who have given themselves for some broader concept. It's about active sacrifice for something you believe in," he said.

"The ultimate question is, how much do we love this place? and deciding what we need to do to work toward saving it," Lane-Zucker said.

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