Nature advocates with an interest in current area conservation issues should mark this Saturday on their calendars.

That's when the Lehigh Gap Nature Center will hold the ninth annual Northeastern Regional Conservation meeting from 10 a.m. to noon.

A wide range of area environmental and outdoor recreational organizations regularly attend these meetings to discuss current area conservation issues, what their own organizations did in the past year, and what the new year will and may bring for them, said Paul Schubert, Appalachian Trail Conservancy & the Philadelphia Trail Club.

Schubert said the meeting is the result of "an evolving conservation consciousness - among a variety of Lehigh Valley/Pocono region conservation and outdoor recreation organizations - that this overall region has a wide range of ecologically valuable resources in and of themselves, as well as the fact that these resources are very valuable to the area's residents as well."

There are several goals associated with the meetings, Schubert said.

"One, for the participant to share our individual organization's skills, strengths, news of activities and hopeful continuing partnerships with each other," Schubert said. "And, secondly, to build through our overall efforts a growing awareness and real appreciation of these natural resources among the general public."

Schubert noted that the Lehigh Gap Nature Center is a "stellar example" of such an effort, as is the immediate presence of the Appalachian Trail, which runs through the Lehigh Gap on its trace on up to the Delaware Water Gap.

The purpose behind this coming weekend's meeting, according to Shubert, is "mainly to continue what we've already been doing, evolving, growing, learning from each other."

Originally begun as the Nature Center and the Philadelphia Trail Club/Appalachian Trail Conservancy in March of 2004, Schubert said the groups "have evolved in our range of considerations and purpose well beyond those first fledgling ideas and hopes."

"Again, our main and real purpose is to speak to the region about its very valuable natural and wildlife resources," he said. "We are attempting to share here with the general public, and truly hope that this public will, over time, reciprocate in appreciatively as well."

Schubert said he believes regional conservation is essential to the area for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is the concept of "healthy lifestyles."

"Healthy lifestyles today is where the modern health industry is going in terms of assisting the people they care for and maintain their general health," he said. "So, in part, by appreciating and caring for the area's valuable resources, the area's residents actually have a real, vested interest in helping to maintain these resources."

This can be done, Schubert said, by walking/hiking/riding bicycles along the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor; the Appalachian Trail; hiking the paths of the Nature Center; and other area preserved open space properties.

"Simply getting out of one's house and breathing in fresh air is so important to a person's health," he said. "Further, these resources can be, and are, a real source of lifetime learning and growing for individuals and outdoor recreation organizations, in nature appreciation, natural resources learning, and birding in the overall area."

Schubert cited the long-term viability of the Allentown Hiking Club, as well as the Delaware Valley chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, which he said has a sizable local group in the general region.

Those who attend the meeting can gain many things from the experience, Schubert said.

"One, learning from those who have gone before them in general; specifically, about natural resources, who to go to about needed information, general support and teaching for fledgling conservation organizations, and new people in the general field," he said. "And related to all of this, one can potentially learn about larger and wider ranges of knowledge and values; levels of thinking and growth about nature; ecology and values to general society that one cannot really learn if one only stays within oneself and one's immediate group and local towns and communities."

Schubert said he began such immediate pursuits 13 years ago when he became one of two Philadelphia Trails Co-chairs for the Club's Appalachian Trail effort. Before that, he was "merely a hiker with some growing personal conservation interests."

"Many of us involved in this meeting and in related conservation organizations are personally very much about personal growth as individuals, as well as a deep dedication to nature, natural resource preservation, and its real value to overall society," he said. "We have found ourselves on a long journey of real value, and truly know that this journey has many well worthwhile miles and lessons to go before we are done."