President’s Letter – Fall 2019

Autumnal view of the Blue Ridge from Albemarle County. Photo by David Anhold

Dear Friends,

At this summer’s Sunset Safari event, The Piedmont Environmental Council, the Shenandoah National Park Trust, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute recognized the Volgenau Foundation for its leadership and philanthropy in land conservation and restoration of native habitats in Virginia and beyond since 1994. Accepting the award on behalf of The Volgenau Foundation, Dr. Ernst Volgenau called upon the audience to accept the challenge of serving our country through a commitment to conservation. He compared this to his decision to enter public service by attending the Naval Academy and leading a lifelong career to improve government. Leading by example, The Volgenau Foundation focuses its philanthropy on conservation action in Virginia and around the nation. 

In a time when the threat of accelerated loss of habitat and species as a result of development and climate change permeates the headlines, the positive impact of conservation at the regional scale offers hope for the future.

With the support and leadership from individuals like Dr. Volgenau and institutions like The Volgenau Foundation, PEC is working with communities of the Piedmont to provide a model of change towards long term sustainability. PEC and our partners have helped private landowners in the Piedmont region permanently conserve over 400,000 acres, despite the area’s higher rates of population growth compared to the United States and the state of Virginia over the past three decades. This land is in addition to the more than 140,000 acres of public land in the region which includes Shenandoah National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and numerous state and local parks and wildlife management areas. Private land conservation extends conservation benefits across a broader landscape, enabling rural economic development to continue while protecting critical natural, historic and scenic resources. 

The recent conservation success stories that we’ve highlighted in this newsletter – from the 4,500 acres in Albemarle County, to the 1,024 acres surrounding James Madison’s Montpelier, to the 350 acres of historic farmland in Culpeper County – remind us that positive change can continue and that there is still an enormous amount of work yet to be completed.

PEC is committed to accelerating the pace of conservation and restoration in the region. Over the next five years, we will be focusing on working farmlands, pushing state, local, and private investment and philanthropy to leverage the federal support for conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

With PEC’s technical expertise and organizing support, and thanks to the tireless advocacy of citizens over the years, private land conservation is also recognized in each of the local comprehensive plans in our service area as an effective tool to balance growth and maintain quality of life that comes from the combination of values protected by open space.

The result is a region that has many positive indicators of a higher quality of life and improving conditions for current and future residents. It is our hope that we are providing a model for sustainability; one that demonstrates effectively how to achieve prosperity while conserving natural resources and protecting environmental quality, with the citizens of the Piedmont acting as stewards of our country’s lands. Thank you for being a part of this positive vision.


Chis Miller, President
The Piedmont Environmental Council

This letter was featured in our Spring 2019 member newsletter, The Piedmont View.