The Piedmont Environmental Council is a catalyst for shaping positive change in the Virginia Piedmont region, and relentless in the pursuit of a sustainable and resilient future. We take a comprehensive, high-level view of trends in policy, economics, and social change, while working on the ground in communities at the most granular level.
Now and moving forward, the region faces a set of challenges and opportunities of incredible complexity. Unprecedented state and federal funding for farmland protection, clean water and climate resilience provide a tremendous opportunity to accelerate land conservation and restoration efforts. At the same time, significant changes in land use patterns are being driven by new trends in energy and information technology, as well as continued and heightened residential, commercial and industrial development pressures.
To address these challenges and act on new opportunities, our Board of Directors and staff have developed a 2023-2028 Strategic Plan to guide our course.
Forces & Factors Guiding Our Thinking
Throughout PEC’s strategic planning process, we considered the current and emerging social, technological, economic, environmental, and political factors influencing trends in the Virginia Piedmont, and considered ways PEC might respond or adapt. For instance:
- Real estate development pressure in the Virginia Piedmont, already significant, is likely to grow.
- Increased electricity demand, tied to explosive growth in data centers, is causing a new round of electric infrastructure expansions that is also heightening pressure to convert greenfield land to utility-scale solar.
- Public policy objectives like clean water, biodiversity, food security, and climate change mitigation and resilience are increasingly dependent on accelerating the pace of land conservation.
- Opportunities to enjoy this place we love to the fullest, from access to nature to housing and land ownership, is not equitable for everyone.
- The impacts of global climate change, already being felt in our communities, will intensify.
Key Focus Areas
Our 2023-2028 Strategic Plan outlines four key focus areas:
Virginia’s Piedmont is a unique place for residents and visitors alike, with its exceptional natural resources, productive farms and forests, and landscape steeped in history. The abundant public benefits of these irreplaceable resources are multifaceted — individual, regional, global, economic, ecological, recreational, climatic. Our work centers around accelerating land conservation, ensuring clean water, enhancing wildlife habitat and expanding public access. We have an ambitious goal of helping protect more than 100,000 additional acres of farm, forest, cultural and other priority open spaces in our region by the end of 2030, reaching a critical threshold for sustainability, biodiversity and climate resilience.
A thoughtful approach to land use planning, paired with decision making that balances growth and development with natural and cultural resource protection, is vital to a healthy and vibrant Piedmont region. That is why, for each of our nine counties, PEC has professional staff who delve into development proposals, zoning, and comprehensive plans to plan for now and the future, fight bad projects and incompatible land uses, improve livability and strengthen communities.
PEC is working to support an energy system that is smarter, more efficient and better accounts for the negative externalities arising from the choices we make about energy consumption, generation, transmission and distribution. We are advocating for a more distributed system that is less reliant on distant generating sources and incorporates a mix of local renewable power — customer owned, community based and utility scale. Recognizing Virginia is in the early stages of its energy transition, we believe now is the time to reimagine and rebuild our energy system in a way that is just and fair to all residents and ratepayers.
PEC-owned properties provide a platform to demonstrate our vision, values, practices to community members and partners. We use them as a showcase for sustainable land management practices, such as native habitat restoration, soil health improvement, and livestock exclusion for water quality improvements. Through public access and structured onsite experiences, these properties inspire a greater conservation ethic in our region and foster an appreciation of nature and all of its virtues. In addition, PEC will consider a more active role in land acquisition to accelerate the pace of land conservation and prevent the loss of high value conservation opportunities.