Check out what's happening in your county with our On-The-Ground issue. 40 years with PEC: Looking back and moving forward.
Another year has passed, and the holiday season is upon us once again. This is a time to celebrate and contemplate all that we have to be thankful for. Many of us have numerous blessings to count, but one that we all share is the Virginia Piedmont—this beautiful region that we call home. The Piedmont’s splendid natural settings, together with its distinctive towns and cities, make it a truly wonderful place to live, work and visit.
After reading the articles in this issue of The Piedmont View, it should be clear that this sense of place is no accident. Rather, the Piedmont has remained a wonderful place due to the diligence and hard work of PEC, partner organizations, and individual residents.
The Piedmont Environmental Council turned 40 this year. For individuals, a 40th birthday might be a dreaded event—where friends and families don black hats and tell jokes about getting older. For a regional, non-profit organization, however, it’s something else altogether. As our staff, board members, friends and supporters look over the last 40 years of hard work and collaboration—we are filled with pride and gratitude.
Albemarle County’s beauty is no secret. Resting at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, its sweeping farmlands and forests are enough to make one’s breath catch. But these stunning views are no accident— they are the result of collaborative planning and innovative regulations.
Clarke County’s Spout Run watershed is comprised of 14 miles of perennial streams, many of which are spring-fed. So, Spout Run has the potential to provide clean water and support a large variety of wildlife species. Yet, the streams are considered unhealthy due to the levels of nutrients and sediment from fertilizers, livestock, and other human-related activities. For this reason, the Spout Run watershed is on Virginia’s State Impaired Waters List. This is bad news not only for the wildlife and people living around the watershed, but also for those downstream—including the Chesapeake Bay.
Residents across the Common-wealth were shocked August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, centered in Louisa County, shook the east coast. Down-town Culpeper was one of the hardest hit communities—left with numerous damaged historic buildings. Some of these buildings had to be immediately condemned due to their instability, and the County’s total damages were initially estimated be over $6.5 million.
The historic downtown is the heart of the Culpeper community, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. PEC’s Director of State Policy, Dan Holmes, lives in Culpeper with his family and witnessed the dam-age firsthand:
PEC’s Sustainable Habitat Program Manager, James Barnes, often works with landowners in the Piedmont on a one-on-one basis—helping them find ways (and funding) to improve their properties to restore wildlife habitat and water quality. This conservation work is important, and Barnes has worked with many excited landowners. He’s realized, however, that to make a lasting difference in habitat resoration in the Piedmont, landowners will need to start looking past their property lines.
PEC has been busy in Greene County this year. We partnered with Trout Unlimited in the spring—contact-ing landowners about opportunities for trout habitat restoration. Last May, we co-hosted “A Hike in Lamb’s Hollow” with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and more than 80 hikers and history buffs came out to enjoy the outdoors and learn about the County’s past. In early November, we screened the acclaimed documentary “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time,” which tells the story of one of the pioneers of the modern environmental conservation movement. The screening was held in a packed room of over 60 people at the Greene County Library in downtown Stanardsville.
In the Eastern U.S., the crop that takes up the largest acreage isn’t corn, hay, or soybeans—it's mowed lawns.
Our manicured lawns have a major impact on our surrounding environment, especially since a majority of modern yards sport non-native grasses and plants. Non-natives often require fertilizers to thrive in this region— chemicals that make their way into our nearby watersheds. Then there’s the desire to have perfectly green, clipped grass—meaning today’s lawns can require of a lot of water and gasoline.
PEC has long recognized the impor-tance of supporting the Piedmont’s local agriculture to create and maintain strong rural economies and communities. About seven years ago, PEC brought the Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) program to the region—creating the local food guides and website (www.buylocalvirginia.org) to educate individual consumers as to where they can buy locally produced goods.
Since 2008, Orange County has had a subdivision ordinance that calls for time-phased divisions of land—limiting the number of divisions allowed on a property over a specific period of time. This aspect of the ordinance allows the County to regulate the speed of development in the rural area.