A new education office has been established at Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to teach children and adults how to take care of natural surroundings.

Gov. Jim Gilmore announced the creation of the Office for Environmental Education while visiting First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.

“With this new office, we’re creating a nucleus for environmental education in Virginia,” Gilmore said. “This office will promote environmental education statewide and identify and leverage resources needed to strengthen environmental information and programs.”

The office was recommended in a new report by the Virginia Environmental Education Advisory Committee, which was appointed by Gilmore last year.

The new office will, among other things, explain how people can keep pesticides and fertilizers from washing off their yards and into streams. It will show how wetlands soak up pollution and suggest ways to reduce smog and help the Bay.

The educators in the office will take the messages to schools, businesses, civic groups and county board rooms in an effort to create a universal “environmental literacy” in the state, and promote life-long learning about the environment to improve decision making.

“This is the first time in a quarter-century that the governor and high-level people in the government have really paid attention to environmental education,” said Gerald McCarthy, a member of the advisory committee and director of the Virginia Environmental Endowment.

The new office expands a small program in the DEQ. The old program had two full– and two part-time workers. The new office will, within weeks, add five employees.

“I think you’ll see environmental education get a much higher profile in Virginia,” said DEQ Director Dennis H. Treacy.

Two of the new workers will be hired with more than $100,000 in federal grants the DEQ received recently. The other jobs will be created through internal adjustments.

Treacy said there will be no cuts in the agency’s primary mission — fighting air and water pollution.

The committee’s full report is on the Internet at http://veeac.smv.org