Over the past year, I have re-learned the value of health, access to clean air, clean water, local food, and to the outdoors, but also the importance of understanding how decisions are made in our communities—decisions that affect all of these important elements of life. This, I think, is the work of conservation and the work of the PEC.
To an extent, there is broad recognition of these values in the Virginia Constitution, Article XI, Conservation, which states:
To the end that the people have clean air, pure water and the use and enjoyment of public lands, waters and other natural resources, it shall be the policy of the Commonwealth to conserve, develop and utilize its natural resources, its public lands and historical sites and buildings. Further, it shall be the Commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth.
In this time of the global impacts of a pandemic, climate change, and associated social and economic changes, the simplest acts of living have to be evaluated for the risk they pose to ourselves, our family and our communities. But in the same spirit, the simplest acts to conserve, restore and improve can bring about much broader, positive change.
Certainly, we have all learned how much we value each other and our ability to meet in person. Something as simple as a hug or a smile is precious. At PEC, we spent time creating safe spaces and practices at our office so we could continue essential functions and benefit from seeing each other from time to time. We are so grateful to the staff and volunteers who made the effort at the Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows, planted native plants and trees as part of the Headwater Stream Initiative, and improved public access at PEC’s properties. We are thankful to see the enjoyment of each visitor responding to the views from the Piedmont Memorial Overlook, knowing that moment was hopeful and restorative.
We have also learned that the investment in technology that allows us to hear and see each other online can help break down barriers of time and distance. More people can access our programs and information than ever before, and we have invested in new technologies to keep building on that widening of participation. We have worked hard to keep you informed by webinar, video, social media and email.
In this tough year, when there has been so much loss and such prolonged suffering, we have also had moments of great accomplishment. The Waterloo Bridge restoration and return to its place of crossing above the Rappahannock, all captured on video, was a testament to the creativity and commitment of engineers, local and state officials and generous donors. Many partners and supporters have come together to ensure the food-insecure throughout our region have milk and ground beef, supporting our local farmers at the same time. And our annual fish count with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources revealed the presence of new trout populations at several of our stream restoration project locations.
While there are certainly broader forces of change operating, each individual action, whether it is the planting of a native plant garden, the donation of a conservation easement, the investment in soil health, or simply the act of participating in a local meeting, is necessary for good things to happen. When all of us act within our capacity, great things are possible.
Chis Miller, President