WASHINGTON – Rural development, health and education leaders from across the nation met on March 20 to 22 to explore innovative policies and practices that can help invigorate the country’s rural communities.

Deb Burd, executive director of Western Mountains Alliance, participated as an advocate for rural Maine. “This seminar was an opportunity to strengthen networks, learn from my colleagues and keep rural Maine on the national radar screen. It was an honor to be invited,” said Burd.

The meeting, “The State of 21st Century Rural America: Implications for Policy and Practice,” was one of a series of six seminars that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is hosting in 2005 to mark its 75th anniversary year.

The seminar looked at issues and opportunities impacting rural communities in all regions of the country. Keynoting the seminar was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, who grew up doing chores on his family’s dairy farm in Iowa.

Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the first female in modern history to lead a major Native American tribe, also spoke.

The Western Mountains Alliance works to bring people together in dialogue, in spite of differences; to foster sustainable development; and to honor rural values such as those based on Maine agricultural heritage.

The alliance unites and educates rural advocates across Somerset, Piscataquis, Oxford and Franklin counties. Burd is a founding member of the Western Maine Sustainable Development Collaborative, the Maine Women’s Agricultural Network and GrowSmart Maine.

“Western Mountains Alliance’s approach is to invest in human and social capital – we build the capacity of people to create change and growth in their communities, while honoring the rich rural heritage and natural resources of the four-county western mountains region in Maine,” said Burd.

The Western Mountains Alliance focuses on leadership and policy development, advocacy, education, programs and projects. For information, contact Burd at 778-7274 or visit the Web at www.westernmountainsalliance.org.

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