Inspiring Conservation

June 1 was a beautiful day to welcome some 120 new and familiar faces to our 2024 Annual Meeting: Inspiring Conservation. Charlottesville’s LEED Platinum Certified CODE Building, with design features emphasizing principles of wellness, sustainability, and connections between nature and town, served as a perfect backdrop for a day of camaraderie and conversation among friends who share our conservation goals and commitment to strong and sustainable communities. We thank Brown Advisory for its generous sponsorship and support of this event.

Chris Miller presents at PEC’s Annual Meeting. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

Conservation Leadership

President Chris Miller presented PEC’s Conservation Leadership Award to Andrew Bowman for his work at the helm of the Land Trust Alliance for eight years. Bowman said that land trusts across the United States have conserved more 61 million acres of private land, more than America’s 63 national parks combined. Commending PEC for our model leadership in community-based land conservation, he emphasized the importance of this work in climate change mitigation. Bowman also said that PEC “was first in educating the rest of us” about the very real and very grave impacts of data centers on our renewable energy goals and water security. “At least we can take comfort that we have a group like PEC, with tremendous expertise and tremendous staff and a muti-facted approach to dealing with all of this. What you’re doing here will be a model for the rest of the country,” he said.

Keynote Speaker Travis Belote

The keynote address by Dr. Travis Belote, Senior Science Director at The Wilderness Society, was amazing in its breadth, depth of analysis and conclusion that our work in the Piedmont is nationally and globally significant. With fascinating mapping research, Belote illustrated the critical importance of large landscape conservation for biodiversity and wildlife survival. He explained that the greater Shenandoah ecosystem, a corridor that continues from one protected area to another, is part of the world’s top 20% of global priorities for retaining biodiversity, carbon and drinking water. “Nature does not adhere to boundaries,” he said. We were energized by Belote’s confirmation that PEC’s work is important to our world here in the Piedmont and to the world.

Inspiring Workshops

We received overwhelmingly warm and positive feedback about the concurrent workshops presented by PEC staff members. Kim Biasiolli shared PEC’s new strategic approaches to building and improving landscape connectivity, with terrestrial and riparian corridors, through our conservation work. During a walk along the Fifeville Community Trail, Peter Krebs told the inspiring story of community collaboration that built a publicly accessible pathway through private land, linking city neighborhoods and Tonsler Park. Julie Bolthouse told how PEC’s work is encouraging policies, zoning and individual actions to help meet the goals of Virginia’s Clean Economy Act, while the proliferation of energy-hungry data centers is shifting the goalpost.

This article appeared in the 2024 summer edition of The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit