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Piedmont Environmental Council turns 50

The view from Mistwood, an estate along the Rapidan River in Orange County
Piedmont Environmental Council
The view from Mistwood, an estate along the Rapidan River in Orange County

In 1972, Virginia’s population was growing, and developers had their eyes on acres of forests and farms south of Washington, D.C. People who had moved to the area for its natural beauty were alarmed and inspired to protect it by forming a new not-for-profit – the Piedmont Environmental Council. President Chris Miller says they began by defining their turf.

"They picked nine counties from Loudoun and Clark in the north down to the James and Albemarle and Charlottesville in the south – mostly on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge. Those are the counties that were under the most pressure from developers in the late 60’s and early 70’s," he explains.

There was, Miller adds, a lot to do. “Getting people educated and empowered to act directly – planting trees, doing conservation easements, participating in public policy at the federal, state and local level and when necessary taking on big actors in the courts and other places where you have to have these fights when everything is on the line.”

Fifty years later, much of the land remains as natural open space.

“We’ve helped to protect 435,000 acres of private land combined with 150,000 acres of federal, state and local public lands, you know you’re almost at 30% for nature – 30% for the rural area.”

This Saturday, the public is invited to see much of it from Mistwood – a mountain top property in Orange County where the council can show what it’s achieved.

“Protecting water from the Blue Ridge to the Bay, protecting land in one of the most fertile areas of farmland in America, protecting species diversity in forests and aquatic habitat for brook trout," Miller says. "All those things are right in the view shed, and we’re hoping that the view alone will inspire people to keep going.”

Admission to the event is $30 per person. That includes a workshop, a meal made from locally produced food and a talk by author and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams.

To learn more and to register, click here

Full Interview with Chris Miller
Sandy Hausman's interview with Piedmont Environmental Council's Chris Miller

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief