Governor Northam has signed into law important legislation preserving the integrity of conservation easements throughout Virginia.
Since the advent of Covid-19, Charlottesville area greenways and open spaces have seen unprecedented visitorship as people have gravitated to the outdoors in search of the physical and emotional benefits of nature and fresh air. That’s why the creation of the new Heyward Community Forest is so timely.
Two Years, Two Acquisitions and a Multigenerational Legacy:
In 2019, the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and the Virginia Department of Forestry helped the City of Charlottesville acquire 142 acres adjacent to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area through a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Forest Program grant of $562,500 to purchase the land. The city contributed $37,500 to bring the total purchase price to $600,000. The owner, Louisa Heyward, agreed to donate the remaining value.
Carl and Elise Siebentritt’s 29-acre “mountain oasis,” two miles west of Lucketts along the Catoctin ridge and 3.5 miles northeast of Waterford in Loudoun County, was the hub and the heart of their large family for more than 30 years. Daughter Heidi and her husband held their wedding party there. Eldest son Carl III was married there and made it “home base” between overseas assignments with the State Department. Two other siblings, in Maryland and Georgia, moved their families in for a few years to help care for Elise and Carl in the years before each passed away. All 13 grandchildren and one great grandchild knew the woods like the backs of their hands from years of hiking, foraging, and camping.
Stretching 15 miles from the village of Aldie in Loudoun County south to New Baltimore in Fauquier County, the Bull Run Mountains have stories to tell. The mountain range is home to 10 unique plant, forest and woodland ecosystems supporting uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. Its hills were the scene of the Battle at Thoroughfare Gap during the Civil War. The rocky ridges and quartzite cliffs on its western side, along with the shadow of its eastern toe and its hollows, are said to have once guided slaves fleeing bondage via the Underground Railroad.
The last six months has been a whirlwind of legislative action. The 2020 special session extended into mid-October, creating a mad scramble at its conclusion to prepare for the 2021 regular session. PEC was busy drafting bills and budget amendments, finding sponsors and having the conversations necessary to set up our initiatives for success before the new session began on January 13. The 2021 regular session was eventually extended into a special session that concluded on March 1.
The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Catoctin Creek Conservation Fund assists with the costs of conservation easements and land purchase transactions to protect the agricultural, historic, rural, and scenic character of the Catoctin Creek watershed in Loudoun County, Virginia.
An advisory committee, composed of local residents and PEC staff, helps identify properties; assists landowners; provides information to landowners about protecting their land; and supports agriculture through outreach and connecting landowners and farmers.