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Conservation Leadership Seminar

Inspiring Leadership for Conservation:

InA Seminar at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation

May 9-12, 2019

We invite applications for “Inspiring Leadership for Conservation” (ILC) – an expenses-paid seminar for emerging leaders – to be held at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Upperville, Virginia from May 9th-12th, 2019. The seminar will be an opportunity for fifteen emerging conservation leaders to examine the most serious threats facing the environment, to discuss goals and challenges in their regions, and to learn from seasoned practitioners about strategies and tactics that have advanced conservation and changed public attitudes about environmental stewardship. The goal of the weekend-long seminar is to provide new knowledge, but also to share experiences, gain inspiration, and stimulate new friendships and networks that will enable emerging conservation leaders to be more effective and fulfilled in their careers.

The ILC seminar is ideally suited to emerging conservation leaders who are in the early stages of their conservation careers, with an emphasis on individuals operating at the local, state or multi-state levels in eastern North America on initiatives that have the potential to be models for the nation.  The participants will have demonstrated energy, creativity and persistence in pursuit of ambitious results, deploying innovative, cross-disciplinary measures to achieve beneficial, practical outcomes. Most will have founded new initiatives or organizations addressing critical environmental needs.

The fifteen participants will be selected from among the applicants for the ILC Seminar. There is no registration fee. Private accommodations and meals on-site will be provided at Oak Spring at no charge. All participants will also receive up to $500 on a reimbursement basis for their economy flights to Dulles Airport (IAD), Washington D.C or Union Station in Washington DC. Participants are responsible for arranging their own travel insurance.

To apply:

Complete the short (five-question) online application here:

The deadline for applications is MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2019.

We plan to respond to all applicants by Monday, March 11, 2019.


Please contact

Confirmed Guest Lecturers:

Dana Beach is the founder of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League ( and served as its executive director for almost three decades.  Over that time, the Conservation League won critical battles against serious threats to the environmental and  culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry – blocking industrial hog farming, defeating the last coal plant proposed in American and decommissioning harmful new interstate highways – while helping build a protected greenbelt in the coastal region that now covers more than 1.2 million acres.  From its beginning in 1989, the Conservation League has worked with a wide assortment of communities to achieve concrete and lasting results.

Sir Peter Crane, the Oak Spring Garden Foundation’s president, served as the head of Kew Gardens in Great Britain, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment, and now president of the Foundation.  His background as a scientist, scholar, educator and steward of nature provide the perfect background to understand and guide today’s young conservation leaders.

Dr. David Orr has been the inspiration and power behind Oberlin College’s nationally renowned environmental initiative in which the academic curriculum, institutional practices and community outreach have merged into an integrated conservation agenda that is now a model for communities nationwide, especially in the field of energy conservation and deployment of renewal energy sources.  His most recent efforts include organizing a series of conferences across the country designed to highlight the importance, and fragility, of democracy, and to identify paths toward its sustenance and enhancement.

Megan Desrosiers is the founding director of 100 Miles, an advocacy group promoting land use and environmental reforms on the coast of Georgia.  A triathlete with a masters in environmental studies from Brown University, Megan began her career at the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League where she eventually became the organization’s assistant director.  In that position, she oversaw the protection of thousands of acres of historic, ecological landscapes imminently threatened by urban sprawl.

Chris Miller has served as the director of the Virginia based Piedmont Environmental Council for 20 years.  The PEC has been one of the most effective land conservation organizations in the US, protecting hundreds of thousands of acres from development through better planning and zoning, and by utilizing private conservation measures to achieve permanent protection across the region.  The organization has been a leader in promoting compatible, community-based economic development in rural Virginia, reinforcing their land conservation agenda.

Seminar Introduction by Dana Beach

I had no formal education in “environmental science,” having instead majored in math in college and earned an MBA in finance.  My career in conservation began in the 1980s. It was informed, enhanced and inspired by dozens of authors, living and dead, in more than a half dozen different disciplines, including history, urban studies, biology, psychology, economics, ecology and philosophy.  

As a Sierra Club volunteer and then as an environmental assistant to First District Congressman Arthur Ravenel, Jr., I worked with citizens around Charleston and on the sea islands of the South Carolina Lowcountry to avert environmental threats and to raise the level of statutory protection afforded land and water.  I learned about the natural landscape of the region from a few extraordinary field botanists, ornithologists and forest ecologists.

Later, I benefited tremendously from mentors in urban policy and design, philosophy, communications and public advocacy; and I shared experiences with my colleagues across the country with local, statewide and national conservation groups.  Over the course of thirty years, I attended and spoke at conferences and seminars on growth management, environmental policy, philosophy, grassroots organizing, fundraising and organizational development.

These books, people and experiences formed the foundation I needed to analyze the challenges we faced in the Lowcountry and to envision and implement an evolving agenda to protect and sustain the region.  This seminar is designed to provide younger practitioners with the same types of knowledge and exposure that were so helpful to me over thirty years.

It is also my hope and intention that we, the seminar leaders, will come away with a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges facing conservation practitioners today.  Between the four seminar leaders, we have more than a century of experience in the field of conservation. Even so, we don’t pretend to have all of the answers. I envision this seminar as an opportunity to explore the ways historical sources of knowledge and experience can better serve today’s conservation leaders.  

Reading Material

(Please add books or articles you think would be helpful in the seminar.)

A Wholly Admirable Thing: Defending Nature and Community on the South Carolina Coast.   Virginia and Dana Beach, Evening Post Publishing.  2019

Ecological Literacy.  David Orr

Sand County Almanac, A Land Ethic.  Aldo Leopold

Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (selected excerpts)

Revisiting ‘The Problem of South Carolina.” Article by Princeton historian James Banner, S.C. Historical Society Magazine, January 2006 

The Shorebird: Rachel Carson and the Rising of the Seas.  Article by Harvard historian Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, March 26, 2018

Encounters With the Archdruid, by John McPhee (Part Two, “An Island”)

(More forthcoming)