The Land That Sustains Us: PEC Celebrates 50 Years

aerial image of a large lawn at the top of a mountain, with an event tent and parked cars
Mistwood. Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

On Saturday, May 21, PEC staff gathered together with more than 160 friends, family, and supporters on the gentle rolling slopes of a mostly-conserved Clark Mountain to celebrate PEC’s 50th year of protecting a special place: the Virginia Piedmont. Fierce heat and humidity did little to dissuade the enthusiasm during the five hours of festivities up at Mistwood Farm, near Rapidan, Virginia.

From engaging and informative workshops, to a locally-sourced tasting menu, to table displays featuring PEC’s accomplishments and ongoing efforts in the region, to the poetic and inspirational words of keynote speaker Terry Tempest Williams and PEC President Chris Miller, the day offered something for everyone.

Rave reviews for workshops highlighting PEC initiatives

Two concurrent workshops elucidated PEC’s holistic approach to conservation. The first, “Blue Ridge to the Bay,” was expertly led by Maggi Blomstrom, Don McCown, Peter Hujik, Linnea Stewart and Laura O’Brien. These staff wove a comprehensive tapestry of the importance of landscape-scale conservation in the Upper Rappahannock River watershed. “This was simply one of the best presentations, on any subject, I have ever attended,” commented Loren Hershey, of Oakton.

PEC Wildlife Habitat Restoration Coordinator October Greenfield gave a riveting talk about grassland bird decline on working landscapes and how we are working to bring them back through the Piedmont Grassland Bird Initiative—a partner initiative with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Virginia Working Landscapes, Quail Forever and American Farmland Trust.

Celebrating our shared home with Terry Tempest Williams

Combined with the vastly infinite blue sky above, the mountain-view setting was the perfect backdrop for our guest keynote speaker, Terry Tempest Williams. In a lyric address that began with a reflection on one of our region’s most high-profile victories—“I wanna thank you personally, for your spirited leadership beginning with Manassas and the Disney campaign… from the west, we were watching you, and you succeeded with an interdisciplinary conversation that took place between conservationists and farmers and historians. And it mattered to us. And it also showed us not only what is possible, but necessary.”—Williams’ message resonated with all. Her powerful words moved all who listened, and some, to tears.

Although no one could say it quite as eloquently as Williams, the one-word summary of her remarks would have to be “hope.”

Carole Napolitano, a dedicated conservationist who has engaged with PEC through a variety of conservation initiatives, echoed this sentiment. “[It] was a theme of the event and certainly at the core of Williams’ address… and the uninterrupted view of the mountains from Mistwood inspired hope for the preservation of our precious lands and the resources they represent.”

At the end of the day, it was clear to all that the Piedmont represents more than hope—it’s symbolic of the good that can happen when community action meets love of land.

This story 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