This year's Conservation Edition of the Piedmont View highlights conservation success stories in each one of our counties, a uranium mining win at the General Assembly, PEC's Buy Fresh Buy Local work session, Virginia's transportation choices, and the benefits of lanscaping with native plants. You can continue reading the individual articles online or view a PDF of the whole issue if you prefer.
We’ve had some unpredictable weather of late, but the daffodils and crocuses in our backyards are signaling that spring is finally here. There’s nothing like spring in Virginia’s Piedmont. As the landscape comes alive with flowers, fresh leaves, song birds, butterflies and other wildlife — we are reminded of how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world. We are reminded that we are a part of something that is worth protecting.
In 2012, landowners in PEC’s nine-county region voluntarily conserved over 9,500 acres of land by donating conservation easements. This brings the region’s total to more than 357,000 acres of privately protected land, or 16.8% of the land in the region. That’s without accounting for the parks and other public lands, which add another 185,000 acres to the region’s tally of conserved land.
At its core, land conservation is about preserving our scenic landscapes, our economically productive working lands, and the crucial natural and cultural resources that make this region a wonderful, healthy place to live. Landowners who conserve their land are protecting numerous streams, rivers, wetlands, forests, prime agricultural lands, historic districts and battlefields. These resources not only make the Piedmont a great place to call home, but they are fundamental to the local and state economies.
In 2007, Virginia Uranium, Inc. (VUI) made their intentions clear: they were going to persuade lawmakers to lift the Commonwealth’s standing moratorium on uranium mining and milling. The company had their eyes set on a large deposit of uranium in Southwest Virginia, and they adamantly ignored the numerous warnings and unknowns. Determined to break ground in Pittsylvania County, VUI poured millions into a massive lobbying effort and PR campaign to make it happen. They pulled all of the stops— including flying legislators to France.
It’s no secret that the local food movement has picked up momentum in Virginia’s Piedmont. Yet, there are still a number of challenges that local food producers and distributors face as they try to create a sustainable local food economy.
We can use transportation dollars to invest in our cities, towns and neighborhoods—making them great places to live. To do so, we need to offer first-class transit options, improve local road networks, and enhance east-west routes to solve Northern VA’s commuter gridlock. Or, we can waste our funds on new highways that ignore existing traffic problems, spread sprawl, and ultimately put more cars on the road.
In late November 2012, a sold-out crowd packed the Middleburg Community Center for a Invasive Plant Symposium sponsored by PEC, the Sacharuna Foundation, Virginia Working Landscapes, and United Plant Savers. The event featured a panel of scientific experts, foresters and farmers to talk about methods for controlling invasive plants and utilizing native plants. Dr. Doug Tallamy, the nationally acclaimed speaker and author of the best seller Bringing Nature Home,was the keynote speaker.
Celia Porter Dollarhide and her siblings never quite had a hometown. Their father, Robert Porter, Jr., was a general in the U.S. army and the family moved often. So, when General Porter retired in the ‘60s and settled at Middle River Farm in Madison County—the 140 acre tree farm became the family’s home base.
Bob Porter, Celia’s younger brother, says Celia was especially drawn to the farm. When their father passed away in 2000, she stepped up and took over a lot of the property management:
“I believe she wanted to carry out father’s vision for the farm, and she fell in love with this area,” Bob explains. “With the rapid development in Northern Virginia, where she lived, this region is something special, and was special to her.”