Looking Back and Moving Forward: 40 Years with PEC

The Piedmont Environmental Council turned 40 this year. For individuals, a 40th birthday might be a dreaded event—where friends and families don black hats and tell jokes about getting older. For a regional, non-profit organization, however, it’s something else altogether. As our staff, board members, friends and supporters look over the last 40 years of hard work and collaboration—we are filled with pride and gratitude.

Photo by John Lewis

PEC was formed in 1972 by a group of concerned citizens who knew that the Piedmont was an exceptional place—beloved for its scenic beauty, bountiful natural resources, diverse ecology, significance to American history, productive family farms, thriving communities and vibrant economy. These citizens recognized that a place this special had to be protected, especially as they began to see sprawling development seep into the Piedmont from Washington, D.C. They foresaw the irreversible damage that ill-conceived growth would cause in this beautiful place they called home. So, they took action and drafted PEC’s Articles of Incorporation.

Protecting the Piedmont

It is moving to read the founder’s words in this original document—words that were written four decades ago and yet still resonate strongly in today’s world. Forty years later, the Piedmont’s population and economy have grown tremendously. Yet, thanks to the foresight and proactive work of PEC’s founders, staff and supporters, it is still a beautiful and thriving place to live

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The late Francis Greene, of Warrenton, VA, was one of the 20 concerned citizens who founded PEC in 1972. PEC file photo.

Not only has PEC played an integral role in promoting the permanent protection of over 350,000 acres of privately-owned land in the Piedmont—but our professional staff have served as crucial allies and defenders in numerous battles.

We were there in 1980s, when uranium mining leases were negotiated on nearly 20,000 acres in four of PEC’s counties. We were there in 1994, when Disney proposed to build an amusement park bordering Manassas Battlefield. We were there in 1995 to provide alternatives to VDOT’s plans for unnecessary bypasses and interchanges on Rt. 50. We were there in 2004, when 21 development proposals were submitted to amend Loudoun’s Comprehensive Plan and explode the County’s growth even further. We were at the table in 2006— when Dominion began planning the giant TrAIL transmission line; and again in 2007 when Allegheny started discussing the even longer PATH line. We were there in 2009, when Walmart attempted to build a store adjacent to the Wilderness Battlefield National Park in Orange County.

PEC has been there to face the major threats to the Piedmont—and today is no different. We are currently fighting to keep the ban on uranium mining in Virginia (the same ban we helped get established in the early ‘80s). We are educating citizens about wasteful transportation projects—like the Outer Beltway through Loudoun and the Western Bypass around Charlottesville—and we are working to maintain, and even expand, the federal and state tax incentives for land conservation.

PEC’s staff is constantly staying attuned to local issues that affect our day-to-day lives, such as zoning laws, revised ordinances, transportation funding, and comprehensive plans. We’re also looking to the future—ensuring that our region continues to thrive as an agricultural hub and an appealing place to live—with access to natural spaces and a diverse ecological community.

Whether the battle is big or seemingly small, PEC will be there. Our founders created this organization “to ensure that the total environment of the northern Piedmont region of Virginia and its citizens is considered as an integrated whole.” This has been PEC’s mission, and we look forward to another 40 years of protecting and promoting the Piedmont—our home.