Spring Renewal – Letter from PEC’s President

Dear Friends,

The last few weeks of winter and the first weeks of spring are an amazing combination of both the opportunity for renewed life and the threat of damaging wind, snow and ice. Spring ephemerals like the iconic Virginia bluebells are pushing through the soil toward their flowery show. Salamanders are crawling into vernal pools. Buds are popping out on fruit trees and grapevines. At PEC’s community farm and produce farms across the region, planting has started in the shelter of the greenhouse where thousands of plants wait for soil temperatures to rise outside. All of these, though, are at risk from late season storms that can just as easily destroy what has begun.

PEC enters 2022 with the same sense of possibility and risk. Our work plan will increase momentum for conservation, capitalizing on expanded options for public access to open spaces, rivers and streams. We are launching new initiatives for soil health, local and regional food systems, native plant habitat and improved conditions for wildlife. Federal and state funding for conservation, trails, and greenways within the Chesapeake Bay region is flowing from several new sources. And our investment in beef processing and workforce training is buttressed by supportive federal, state and local policy to encourage local food systems.

We also look forward to coming together with you once again at a series of events and activities throughout the season ahead, including with our Bluebell Walk at Bonny Brook Farm along Cedar Run in Fauquier County, tree plantings in the Upper Rappahannock and Potomac watersheds and volunteer days at our Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows. Over the course of the year, we are excited to provide many other ways to connect with you, our steadfast supporters and partners.

a group stands at the site of a tree planting
Staff and volunteers from PEC and the Goose Creek Association come together to restore riparian buffers at Sky Meadows State Park. Photo by Sophia Chapin/PEC

Our 50th annual meeting on May 21 will be a celebration of The Land That Sustains Us, at Mistwood Farm on the flanks of Clark Mountain in Orange County, overlooking the newly conserved historic Horseshoe Farm and the future Culpeper Battlefields State Park at Cedar Mountain and Brandy Station and the rest of the incredible Rapidan River watershed. Come enjoy an inspiring presentation by acclaimed author, conservationist and activist Terry Tempest Williams and a lunch featuring a tasting menu that highlights locally produced food from farms throughout our region.

All of this positive possibility, though, is against a backdrop of instability within the policy frameworks that guide our work.

The legislature just stripped permitting authority from our citizen boards that oversee environmental regulations and permitting. At the local level, the proposed rollback of rural area planning and policy in several counties, couched as a path toward more housing and economic development, is at odds with public surveys and comments received over many years. Tens of thousands of acres of rural lands are increasingly threatened by the surge in speculative development proposals for dramatically more housing, data and distribution centers and utility-scale solar projects. And in recent months, we have seen the re-emergence of the “outer beltway” concept despite repeated analyses that an expanded highway corridor would result in more sprawl and more congestion. Each of these policy changes has the potential to undo all that we have collectively accomplished to preserve the beauty, history and rural economies of the Piedmont region.

Now more than ever, the Piedmont region needs the community-based champion and advocate that is PEC, with more than 100 board members and advisors, 15,000+ members and supporters, and countless partners and community members who help inform our priorities and take important action when it’s needed. Despite so much at stake, I believe that together, with perseverance and steadfast engagement, we can continue our good work in the Piedmont for this generation and the next.

We look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks and months.


Chris Miller, President

Chris Miller, PEC President, headshot

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.