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Letter from Mary E. Burg

September 20, 2004
William F. Lincoln
Conflict Resolution Research Resource Institute and The Lincoln Institute

Dear Bill:

Before i leave my 20-year career with the Department of Ecology, I want to express my deep appreciation for all you have taught me that has contributed to my success as a manager and to my growth as a human being.

My first introduction to your teachings was your 5-day intensive negotiations training when I was a newly fledged wetlands ecologist just starting out with Ecology. The take-home lessons were many, among them: that if an issue continues to be raised, it is usually that because the listener has not fully appreciated or reflected the emotional significance of the issue to the speaker; that while interests and positions may be negotiable, values are not; and that if people are dissatisfied with the process, they will never embrace the final product. These and other simple and powerful truths have stood me in good stead and helped me to avoid or resolve many a conflict over the past two decades.

I also want to acknowledge how much your work for the Department of Ecology has benefited the citizens of Washington State. Your intervention in the Everett Smelter negotiation was instrumental in leading me, as Toxics Cleanup Program Manager, to a decision to terminate that process as one not likely to lead to a lasting agreement. Ecology was then able to take direct action to effect cleanup and decontamination of the neighborhood and address a major health risk to the residents of that community.

Your masterful mediation of the agriculture burning dispute brought out numerous, creative options that are being implemented today. As a result, last year in the Air Quality Program we received calls from thankful parents of asthmatic children reporting that our metering program was allowing their children to breathe freely for an entire burn season for the first time in their children’s lives. As Air Quality Program Manager, I likewise received calls from wheat growers grateful that they are still able to use burning as a tool for managing their crops.

On a more personal note, I have been deeply touched by your compassion for your fellow humans, your devotion to ethical conduct, and by your steadfast commitment to bringing about peace in the world.

Mary E. Burg, Program Manager
Air Quality Program
State of Washington Department of Ecology