Hallie Harriman, Potomac Watershed Field Representative
Hallie Harriman considers herself a “tree person.” She came to PEC in August 2021 with a master’s degree in agricultural and environmental education and a bachelor’s degree in natural resources conservation. Already, she’s enthusiastically coordinated riparian buffer plantings and penned articles on the nitty-gritty of native trees and plants.
As PEC’s Potomac Watershed Field Representative, Hallie covers Clarke, Loudoun and northern Fauquier counties, whose agricultural heritage reminds her of home in nearby Shenandoah Valley, where her conservation ethic was born. “I really enjoy seeing the natural bounty these counties still have and are working very hard to protect. This position checked off a lot of boxes for me: being outside, engaging with private landowners, working on conservation-based projects,” she says.
Though every day is a little different, she most enjoys building relationships with landowners during property visits. “Being able to make connections with people makes me happy, and that’s probably one of the best things about this job,” she
says. In addition to public outreach, Hallie also monitors conservation easements, is a lead for the Potomac Planting Program and Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, and executes four of PEC’s conservation funds.
In just a few months, Hallie has come to appreciate the region’s history, especially as it relates to a sense of place. “I have my own stories, but there are also stories that landowners have of their family on the property.” Those stories are as inseparable from the land as its natural history — and Hallie is glad to help others get to know both.
Laura O’Brien, Rappahannock County Field Representative
“The first time I drove out to Rappahannock I thought: ‘This is an incredible place’,” says Laura O’Brien, who grew up in the suburban sprawl north of Boston, Massachusetts and joined PEC’s land conservation team in December 2021.
“From an early age I was interested in the preservation of land, especially in areas where development is constant,” she reflects. In college, quickly taken with topics of environmental justice, she pursued more opportunities at the grassroots level. Now at PEC, she’s excited to continue learning how to engage people civically on environmental issues, starting with the community first. “What really strikes me about PEC is the really wide breadth of projects and programs we have. There’s no limit on how you can advocate for the community in the context of conservation.”
A community-based conservation approach also speaks to the identity of Rappahannock County, her geographic area of focus. “It has all of these amazing assets: working lands, historic connections and really passionate people,” she says. There’s also the landscape level impact, or scenic beauty, which reminds her of Ithaca, New York, where she went to university.
“I immediately fell in love with where I went to school because it was so beautiful,” she says. Appreciating the scenic beauty was the basis for a connection that soon included the ecological, cultural and historical aspects of the Finger Lakes region. That spark for conservation is a great place to start, and Laura hopes to encourage more of it throughout her time working here. “We’re driven to protect things that take our breath away.”
This letter appeared in 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 pecva.org/join.