The Piedmont View

Summer 2011 Piedmont View

Dear Friends,

Now more than ever, sensible people need to get involved in the civic debates that shape our local communities -- because, throughout the region, valuable programs that have helped conserve land and improve quality of life in the Piedmont are at risk of being cut or dismantled.

Beneath the rolling landscapes of Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison and Orange are deposits of the radioactive mineral uranium -- potential mine sites. In the 1980s, companies filed mining leases on thousands of acres of land in these counties, as well as in southwest Virginia, with an interest in extracting the uranium, which can be processed into nuclear fuel.

Because uranium mining poses severe dangers to public health and the environment, PEC fought to prevent it, helping to secure a statewide moratorium on uranium mining in 1982. This ban is still in effect. But a Canadian-backed company called Virginia Uranium, Inc. is now pushing to mine a large deposit in southwest Virginia.

At lunch during PEC’s Wildlife Friendly Habitats and Gardens Tour in Clarke County, the group was joined by a barn owl, a screech owl, and a red tailed hawk. The sharp-beaked raptors sent smaller birds darting in agitation among the nearby trees, even though they were perched on the hands of their human keepers. The three raptors—called Lamont, Fiona and Briar—were rescued by the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Millwood, but unlike most of the animals rehabilitated at the center, they couldn’t be released because of injuries that leave them incapable of surviving in the wild. So, they’ve become part of the center’s educational programs—in this case, giving people who are interested in building wildlife habitat on their land a look at some of the species that might thrive there.

On May 21, PEC hosted a free Pond Management Workshop, at Clifton Farm near Warrenton, for people who have a pond or might build one, and want to know more about how to optimize fish and wildlife habitat, as well as water quality. The workshop was led by John Odenkirk, of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Tom Turner, of the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District.

In late May, Walmart announced that it has chosen an alternative site for its store in Orange County -- a successful outcome for preservationists who, for years, pressed Walmart to build its store at a location that would not negatively impact Wilderness Battlefield.

This spring, PEC sent our 2011 Buy Fresh Buy Local food guides to every home in our nine counties -- and this year's guides list more businesses than ever. Together, our guides for the Charlottesville Area, the Northern Piedmont, and Loudoun County include over 500 listings of places where people can buy locally grown food, including markets, farms, orchards, wineries, restaurants and retailers. Since PEC put out our first local food guides a few years ago, listings have increased by over 40%, adding over 150 more businesses.

Bev McKay's family has been farming the land that he just protected in Clarke County for over 200 years. Mr. McKay raises dairy cattle on the property, as well as crops, such as corn and barley, to feed the cows.

The land is good for farming, with gently rolling fields and rich loam soils. Because of its value as productive farmland, the USDA and PEC worked together to purchase an easement on 103 acres, over half of which are prime agricultural soils.

This May - without any technical justification, without public input and without a recommendation from VDOT -- an unelected body, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), approved a potential north-south highway between Leesburg and I-95 as a Corridor of Statewide Significance. This action brings back a long-cherished dream road for developers - a vast Outer Beltway around Northern Virgina that has been shot down time and time again, when subject to community input and expert review.

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