Photo by Celia Vuocolo
Virginia’s northern Piedmont is an exceptional place. Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Piedmont is beloved for its scenic beauty, unparalleled in its significance to America’s history, and valuable for its productive family farms, thriving communities and vibrant economy. Its forests, fields and wetlands provide clean water for the people of this region as well as those downstream, and they offer bountiful habitat for numerous species of wildlife and native plants. This splendid natural setting, together with its distinctive towns and cities, make the Piedmont a wonderful place to live, work and visit.
The region, which includes several of the fastest growing jurisdictions in the nation, has faced serious challenges over the decades. Yet, the people of the Piedmont care deeply about it and have strived to protect its special places and natural values. In 1972, their energy, commitment and collaboration gave shape to The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC).
Now one of the most effective community-based environmental groups in the country, PEC works with the citizens of our nine-county region to conserve land, create high-quality communities, strengthen rural economies, celebrate historic resources, protect air and water quality, build smart transportation networks, promote sustainable energy choices, restore wildlife habitat, and improve people’s access to nature.
PEC is a leader -- empowering citizens to protect what makes the Piedmont a wonderful place and encouraging them to pursue a positive vision for the region’s future.
When citizens express a shared vision, it becomes a map for conservation efforts -- a defense against degrading change and a guide to creating better communities. Rather than leaving change to chance, PEC encourages active citizen participation in planning the future of this region. We help advance innovative concepts for context-sensitive design of roads and new development. We create opportunities for people to appreciate the natural world and help people identify special places that they want to see respected. We support initiatives that lead the way toward more energy-efficient communities, and we’re advancing local food initiatives that help renew healthy connections between people and the land.
PEC’s nine-county region stands out as one of America’s most successful areas for private land conservation. Our energetic outreach and assistance enables people of the Piedmont to act on their love for the land. As a result, residents of this region have protected more than 390,000 acres. As we progress toward our ambitious goal of one million acres protected, PEC’s commitment to stewardship of conserved lands will ensure that much of this region’s valuable farmland, forests, wetlands, scenic countryside and historic heritage are forever protected.
PEC’s work is grounded in citizen engagement. We serve as a vital ally for people when the places and natural resources that they care about are threatened; directing grassroots energy into effective strategies. PEC’s professional staff is on the ground in our nine counties, with the expertise to assist local governments. We also work in Washington and Richmond -- advising both legislators and agency officials. Our cutting-edge mapping, internet and advocacy tools help us communicate with and inform the public. All of these tools, coupled with decades of experience, gives PEC the ability to take on even the most overwhelming threats and persistent development pressure. We work with decision makers at the local, state and national level, and we mobilize citizens to take effective action on crucial issues.
PEC recognizes that the vitality of our towns and cities and the health of our environment are closely linked, and we bring rural, suburban and urban interests together to plan for the region’s future. By encouraging investment in attractive, livable urban centers and suburban areas, we relieve pressure to convert forests and farmland to speculative development. We direct growth where it makes sense -- reducing the number of miles that people drive. This cuts fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and traffic. When we protect our rural lands, we steward the natural resources that we all depend on -- bettering our health and quality of life.
PEC’s primary service area includes Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock Counties. Our work often benefits communities outside of this region as we join in productive partnerships, provide a model of grassroots engagement, and improve policies at the local, state, and national level.
We also support work in the Shenandoah Valley and the Washington Metropolitan area through the Shenandoah Valley Network and the Coalition for Smarter Growth.