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Russian visitors learning about natural resource management

Five delegates from Russia will see one American community's approach to protecting natural resources and expanding public lands during an eight-day visit to Hendersonville.

The visit, sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center and hosted by Hendersonville's Sister Cities organization, will explore how nonprofit leaders, volunteers and government officials work to protect and preserve nature through environmental regulations, clean water and clean air requirements, land conservation and the acquisition of public lands.
After landing at Asheville Regional Airport at 4 p.m. Saturday, delegates will attend a welcome party at Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, which makes wine and hard cider from locally grown grapes and apples. Over the next seven days, the visitors will visit Hendersonville's water treatment plant, Lake Jocassee, Twin Lakes in Saluda, Historic Saluda, the River Arts District in Asheville, Duke Energy's coal-fired power plant on Lake Julian, Pisgah National Forest, Bullington Gardens and DuPont State Forest.
Government and nonprofit leaders will talk about environmental regulations, land conservation and public lands. Among the speakers he visitors will hear from are the Mills River Partnership, which works with farmers to protect the Mills River watershed, the source of Hendersonville's drinking water; Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk and City Manager John Connet, County Manager Steve Wyatt, aides at U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, interim ECO Director Mary Jo Padgett, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Land Protection Director Tom Fanslow, Nancy Barnett, president of the Saluda Community Land Trust; Bill Wilkes, whose family donated the Twin Lakes property; officials with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional office in Black Mountain; Riverlink Executive Director Karen Cragnolin; UNC Asheville Department of Environment Studies Chair Barbara C. "Kitti" Reynolds, Ph.D.; UNCA Director of Sustainability Sonia Marcus; Bullington Gardens Director John Murphy; and Hendersonville City Councilman Jerry Smith, who will host the delegates at his social studies class at Hendersonville High School.
On Friday night, delegates will travel to the Transylvania County home of former U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor and his wife, Betty. Taylor, who represented the 11th Congressional District from 1991 until 2007, is a large landowner who operates a cattle farm and several tree farms and has set aside or donated hundreds of acres for conservation and public use. Along with Russian investors, he founded a bank and a hotel in Russia. Taylor while in Congress proposed and helped create the Open World Leadership Center.
The Russian delegates are Lyudmila Sergeyevna Kopendakova, an environmental researcher and teacher in secondary school; Yuliya Germanovna Nikitina, who works in rural development; Vitaliy Petrovich Shakhtin, a caterer and ethnic Udmur who is interested in rural tourism; Andrey Vladimirovich Sharapov, a graduate student studying environmental management; Olga Sergeyevna Soldatenkova, a biology and environmental studies teacher. The delegation also includes a facilitator and a translator.
The Planning Committee in Hendersonville was made up of co-chairs Karen Hultin and Mike Swartzlander; Marcia Grant, Bill Wilkes and Judy Wilkes.