Letter to the Editor in the Culpeper Star Exponent: PEC working with Boneta to resolve issues

Every month, for the past five months, guest columnist Bryant Osborn has published an attack piece targeting our non-profit organization, The Piedmont Environmental Council. Free speech is amazing, rants disguised as journalism are not.

Following Mr. Osborn’s repeated accusations, we feel an obligation to our members and supporters in Culpeper to respond.

Mr. Osborn has been writing about a conservation easement that PEC holds on a property in Fauquier County — a property that PEC worked hard to raise the money to purchase and protect back in 2000. It is part of one of the most scenic landscapes in Virginia, one that tens of thousands of people pass through each year. It’s also visible from a highly visited section of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and is part of the open space that surrounds the village of Paris, one of the anchors of the Crooked Run Rural Historic District.

Ms. Martha Boneta bought a piece of this property from PEC in 2006 with knowledge that the land was protected by a conservation easement. The specifics of the easement were acknowledged by Ms. Boneta in her purchase contract, and the easement itself was signed, accepted and acknowledged by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. Everyone recognized the important conservation values protected by the easement, including the historic barn and shed located on the property. As recently as Nov. 2014, Ms. Boneta and her lawyers publically accepted the terms of the easement.

There’s no truth to the claims that PEC has tried to shut down Ms. Boneta’s farm or that we’ve entered her residence. We have not prevented her from farming, and there is no living residence currently on the property. Monitoring visits are required by the easement, and PEC has only been on her property (and within the historic structures) with notice and with Ms. Boneta’s consent.

All of Ms. Boneta’s allegations to the contrary have never been proven in court, and when given the opportunity to provide evidence, she voluntarily dropped her case.

We are currently working to resolve Ms. Boneta’s issues with both her and her lawyers, and we hope to find a positive resolution. If you’d like to know more about The Piedmont Environmental Council and its mission, please take a look at www.pecva.org. If you’d like to know more about the conservation easement that Mr. Osborn keeps writing about, please visit www.pecva.org/ovoka-easement