Virginia’s northern Piedmont is an exceptional place. Part of the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Piedmont is beloved for its scenic beauty, unparalleled in its significance to U.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 natural setting, together with its distinctive towns and cities, make the Piedmont a wonderful place to live, work and visit.
Located just outside the greater Washington, D.C. metro area, this region’s natural environment has faced enormous development pressures over the decades. Yet, the people of the Piedmont care deeply about it, and, in 1972, their energy, commitment and collaboration gave shape to The Piedmont Environmental Council. Our nine-county region spans from Clarke and Loudoun counties in the north to Charlottesville and Albemarle in the south. Today, residents of this region have protected over 430,000 acres with conservation easements.
PEC is a locally based, donor supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit and an accredited land trust. We strive to make the Virginia Piedmont a model and leader on conservation, restoration, smart growth and climate action. At the core of our approach is a focus on educating, engaging and empowering people to effect positive change in their communities.
Protect and restore the lands and waters of the Virginia Piedmont, while building stronger, more sustainable communities.
We envision a Virginia Piedmont where people act on a belief that conservation is essential to creating and maintaining vibrant, healthy communities. Our region is characterized by connected natural and cultural landscapes, thriving villages, towns and cities, clean rivers and streams, and working farms and forests. It’s a beautiful place where residents across all walks of life participate in decisions about its future.
The Virginia Piedmont is our home. We value this region’s people and lands, its history and culture, its beauty and its future. Work we do beyond our nine counties and at state and federal levels is guided by our broad perspective on land uses, watersheds and ecosystems that ultimately affect this region.
We value a thoughtful and holistic approach to addressing the complex issues facing our lands and our communities. Being both idealistic and pragmatic, we consider the best data and research, look for unintended consequences, and pursue creative solutions, always guided by our commitment to a sustainable future for the Piedmont.
We value the broad experiences, opinions and motivations of the Virginia Piedmont’s diverse communities. We are grassroots and nonpartisan, striving to understand on-the-ground policy impacts that help us deliver practical, fair and just solutions to real-world problems.
We value collaboration and partnership. Our success depends on long-term trust, mutual respect and strong relationships with others at the local, regional, state and national level. We are proud to lead when appropriate and take a supportive role when others are better suited to the issue at hand.
We value the power of community engagement. We believe that local decisions matter and that informed and involved communities are vital to achieving positive outcomes. PEC acts as a catalyst and source of inspiration by equipping people with the tools and information they need to mobilize
We value public access to nature. Fresh air, clean water, and outdoor recreation are critical to the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Access also fosters a deeper appreciation for the earth and its systems, and is critical to achieving a widespread conservation ethic.
We value a strong rural economy. Agriculture and forestry are paramount for a resilient, healthy Virginia Piedmont. Without intentional planning and programs that recognize the value of open space and strength of the many industries it supports, the Virginia Piedmont will lose its local food systems, clean waters, wildlife, ecosystems and climate resilience.
We value smart growth that respects natural and cultural resources. Well planned towns, cities and villages are characterized by diverse housing options, nature-filled outdoor spaces, and walkable and bike-friendly connections to services, recreation and work. We believe that decisions about housing, water, energy, transportation and economic development must be made with an eye toward sustainability.
The opportunity to enjoy this place we love to the fullest is not equitable for everyone, including access to nature, housing and land ownership. PEC is reexamining the ways our organization recognizes, listens to and amplifies the voices of those most impacted by histories of injustice — and how best to include all communities in our work. We are an advocate for conservation and smart growth in the Virginia Piedmont that is increasingly inclusive, addressing housing, open space and healthy food needs, and expanding public access to the region’s rivers and lands.
The Piedmont Environmental Council’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan highlights the challenges and opportunities facing our region today, and outlines the organization’s four key focus areas in response:
- Conserving and Restoring the Piedmont’s Lands and Waters
- Creating Stronger, More Sustainable Communities
- Shaping and Advancing Virginia’s Clean Energy Future
- Setting an Example Through Land Ownership
PEC’s primary service area includes Albemarle, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties, as well as the City of Charlottesville. The Coalition for Smarter Growth, a division of PEC, focuses on land use, housing and transportation policy in the Washington Metropolitan area.
We regularly partner with other conservation-minded organizations on issues of regional and statewide significance. PEC is also an active participant in the Virginia Conservation Network of over 150 groups and organizations across the Commonwealth committed to building a powerful, diverse, and highly-coordinated conservation movement focused on protecting Virginia’s natural resources.