Piedmont Environmental Council Earns Accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

(Warrenton, VA) — The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, announced that the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) has been awarded accredited status.  PEC is in the vanguard–one of only 130 land trusts, out of 1,700 nationwide, to have earned accreditation.

“Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever,” said Commission Executive Director Tammara Van Ryn. “The accreditation seal lets the public know that the accredited land trust has undergone an extensive, external review of the governance and management of its organization and the systems and policies it uses to protect land.”

“The Piedmont Environmental Council is delighted to be one of just 130 accredited land trusts in the nation,” says Chris Miller, President of PEC.  “As one of the oldest conservation organizations in Virginia, we have strived to uphold the highest professional and ethical standards for land conservation, ensuring that the work we do to protect the Piedmont will stand the test of time.”

PEC  was founded in 1972 and has worked with landowners throughout its nine-county region to help protect more than 336,000 acres of private land.  That rural preservation is the backbone of the culture, history and economy of the region.  In the past, PEC has largely helped landowners donate conservation easements to other organizations; however, with its new accredited status, it plans to accept more donations of conservation easements. By agreeing to hold conservation easements, PEC takes on the responsibility to uphold the integrity of these permanent conservation agreements over time.

“Accreditation is a mark of distinction, and with our new status recognized by this national accrediting organization we feel ready and able to take on more responsibility as a holder of conservation easements in our region,” says Heather Richards, Director of Land Conservation.  “We look forward to continuing our work with landowners in the region, and will help to ensure they are able to protect the land they love, whether with us or with our partner organizations.”

The decision to become a more active easement holder is part of a larger strategic plan, adopted by the PEC Board, which aims to reach an even broader base of residents in the Piedmont region and serve more citizens through all of our programs, from land conservation to land use and policy to the highly-successful Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign.

Conserving land helps ensure clean air and drinking water, food security, scenic landscapes and views, recreational places, and habitat for the diversity of life on earth.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., awards the accreditation seal to community institutions that meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance established in 2006, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. The Alliance, of which PEC is a member, is a national conservation group based in Washington, D.C. that works to save the places people love by strengthening conservation throughout America.

“Although we’ve been dedicated to upholding the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices for years, the accreditation process made us a stronger organization,” says Mike Kane, PEC’s accreditation manager.  “The changes we’ve implemented will help us protect more land in a smoother process, ensuring that we’ll be able to protect that land for generations to come.

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Posted by on Feb 9 2011. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

19 Comments for “Piedmont Environmental Council Earns Accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission”

  1. Jane Tallisman

    BEWARE OF THE PIEDMONT ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL (PEC)! It is unfathomable that the PEC was given accrediation. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission clearly is unaware of PEC’s abusive land management practices, frivolous litigation and the long list of questionable ethics. Clearly, substantial investigation was not done and the Land Trust Accreditation COmmission must be alerted immediately about the corrupt practices PEC is engaging in the Piedmont.

    Folks, Contact the Land Trust Accreditation Commission today and let them know the trust about the PEC.

  2. Alex Santana

    It is shocking that the PEC would receive such accreditation when they are embroiled in litigation and are under the microscope regarding their “non-profit” status The Land Trust Accreditation has requirements that must be followed in which the public must be made aware that the accreditation consideration is under way. Such “efforts” by the PEC have been non-existent in that this article is the first time many in the community have heard of this upon which we would have submitted comments. Worse, it is more of the good old boy network that Heather Richards, the director of land conservation for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) in Virginia is a board member of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. I would encourage folks to send comments in opposition to info@landtrustaccreditation.org even though it is after the fact.

  3. Jane Tallisman

    A conflict of interest indeed! Shortly after Heather Richards (PEC Director) became a “Commissioner” of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, she submitted PEC to the Land Trust for accrediation. Moreover, PEC is required to provide the Land Trust with FULL DISCLOSURE. The Land Trust is required to perform due diligence but is only able to do so based on information PEC provides. It is NOT TOO LATE! The Land Trust will revoke, suspend or place PEC on probation – CONTACT the Land Trust Accreditation TODAY! This is another example of PEC using the system and playing the American people!

  4. Bullet Proof Monk

    Isn’t this like asking the fox how the chickens are doing? These folks are bending rules for friends and family and litigating against certain parties with an agenda. Beware of easements. Loudoun County blogs are highlighting the shenanigans and the tax payer is starting to doubt the fox. The abuse and selective enforcement is an expense they do not advertise but will be real and painful if you haven’t paid the king’s ransom in advance. Watch out!

  5. Right Winger

    What is you problem? These people are trying to save open space and historic areas through perfectly legal means. Sounds like you have some sort of agenda you’re toting along…

  6. Julie M.

    Actually, it is a well known back door land grab with tax incentives paid for by the public. The wealthy rich do not need unrealistic tax breaks, based on inflated valuations of the land, to preserve and conserve land. Ask Crooked Run Farm in Purcellville just how much they want to save open space. Private preservation is a simple choice. Theses guys are a political machine creating ordinance and overlays to restrict growth.

  7. Peter J. Schwartz

    PEC has a long dark ugly history of dirty hands and unethical questionable practices. Most importantly, PEC’s 501(c)3 status is being challenged and PEC’s days are numbered as a nonprofit. What PEC does well is marketing and brainwashing “green” to poor naive saps like “Right Winger” above, but in fact PEC is the greatest scam in the history of the conservation movement.

    PEC allegedly wants to preserve agriculture, however, PEC does everything possible to make farming impossible and is driving farming in to extinction. Changes in science and nature could deem perpetual easements useless or harmful. As numerous legal scholars and policy experts have argued, conservation easements that bind landowners and their descendants in perpetuity ultimately become antiquated and, therefore, useless or even harmful. Plus, PEC is engaging in ruthless, unethical and illegal practices to achieve their objectives.

    BEWARE OF THE PIEDMONT ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL! DO NOT PUT YOUR PROPERTY in a conservation easement with the PEC! DO NOT DONATE TO THE PEC! Do not trust the PEC! Protect your family farm from the PEC!

    REPORT all unethical, illegal, questionable, abusive practices to the IRS and contact local government agencies and the media. TAKE ACTION!

  8. Alex Sanatana

    Peter, Thank goodness people like you (and others) exist to shed light upon easements and the abuse upon folks and the tax payer. I had an easement on my property and it was a litigious nightmare costing me hundreds of thousands of dollars because I wanted to replace the rotted siding on my home with the near exact same siding. I actually was threatened with jail time as they singled me out. Due to the extreme burdens, yes, I had to sell the property at a reduced cost and have since moved from the county. It was a five year nightmare. I did not know, admittedly foolish, that the easement was on the property. Readers need to know that the suffering is real. It certainly seems the wealthy insiders are not targeted in such a manner. They get the tax credit and do far more than replace siding without the batting of an eyelash by their friends that simply choose not to enforce the easement.

  9. WHAT IS LEGAL? READ JOEL SALATIN’S ARTICLE “Everything I want to do illegal!” When it comes to the controversial world of conservation and easements debate there is great speculation of what is legal and especially in the piedmont that is still the wild west. As easements are litigated more and more laws are still being created in this new frontier as they pertain to easement language and so what is commonly considered illegal may not be it all depends on whom you ask. The law in “Schwartzville” changes as the wind blows and what is legal today is illegal tomorrow and then can be legal the next day – inconsistency is the only constant theme when the law can be a phone call or an email sadly depending on what party has the most power and influence when it comes to land and money. It is not that PEC does illegal acts according to piedmont law, rather, it is that PEC has used poor judgment and has been ill advised at times. Perhaps it is because PEC is a young player as a conservation organization mostly led by young individuals with limited experience resulting in making very poor decisions causing great hardship. PEC also personalizes issues and attacks individuals instead of focusing on hard facts and this is unfortunate because it is hard to take PEC seriously under these circumstances. PEC needs to own up to past wrongs, take responsibilty and admit mistakes and move on instead of constantly blaming others for their own mess ups. If they don’t take ownership, they will lose all credibility in this global space and it will not go away. There are 2 sides to every story but orgs like PEC must be beyond reproach and not smell like rotten eggs. Just a humble opinion.

  10. Concerned

    Sounds like another questionable use of our tax dollars. Maybe the IRS should take a look at the activities to make sure they are following the tax code. Some of this stuff sounds overreaching.

  11. Peter Joseph Shwartz

    The statements: “PEC’s 501(c)3 status is being challegened” or “PEC’s days as a nonprofit are numbered” should not be interpreted as a threat or insight any kind of action or even suggest anything at all – A complaint/challenge to the IRS does not guarantee the loss of nonprofit status. The IRS receives complaints all the time concerning nonprofits and especially for highly litigious radical activists groups like the PEC. Environmental zealous rabid environmentalists invite criticism, investigation and more all the time by their actions. Keep in mind the IRS has removed conservation easements from its “Dirty Dozen” list of abusive transactions. That doesn’t mean they will stop auditing easements, but, for the first time in years, conservation easements are not specifically mentioned. The list still includes a category called “abusive donations to charities” and “Historic Preservation Easements” are very hot issues receiving substantial scrutiny. There are also many IRS Conservation cases and so in general these high dollar conservation easement matters are very controversial and constantly in the spotlight. My opinions are based on personal experiences and PEC invites this kind of debate by radical activism and questionable behaviors. This is not a reflection on all environmental groups as there are many sound rational organizations out there.

  12. Allegation Nation

    Can someone tell me exactly how you know that PEC is “under the microscope for their non-profit status”? Please? Because without proof of this (or any of the many other allegations being posted here), this is just ridiculous chatter.

  13. Out 2 Pasture

    Right on! Where’s the evidence? All these negative posts sound suspiciously like they are from the same person grinding his axe. There is no evidence. Guys like this get their jollies off “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

  14. Observer

    This is taken directly from the article at the above link discussing the Biscuit Run scandal:

    Scenic treasure: How conservation lines the pockets of the rich
    March 3, 2011

    This is a ponzi scheme of epic proportions – Maddoff would be proud!

    Before the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we had Enron.

    Before The Virginia Zero Tolerance Act for Conservation Easement Abuse, there was Biscuit Run.

    In Enron, it was raining billions of dollars on the fat cats until SEC investigation (thanks to a whistle blower) resulsted in Shareholders losing nearly $11 billion, Enron execs went to prison, employees lost billions in pension and retirement and together with Arthur Anderson believed to be the greatest fraud on Americans in History. SarbanesOx made accountability and unbias mandatory and solitified repercussions sending a chill across the nation.

    In Virginia alone, over $1.3 billion on conservation easements, Albermarle county alone pays over $17.4 million in one year plus over the top tax deductions based on appraisals forcing the state to reduce money to the schools by over $30 million. In Biscuit Run alsone, The Virginia Department of Taxation issued $11 million more in conservation tax credits on top of $9.8 million based on an appraisal (now under investigation) alleging the property doubled in value from $46.2 million to $87.7 million – all under the veil of secrecy and on the already burdened backs of Virginians while the fat cats get richer on conservation easements. Virginians would never have known if it wasn’t leaked.

    The Virginia Zero Tolerance Act must be passed to prevent this disgrace from ever happening again.

    • Dennis P.

      This is conspiracy theory at its finest and based on circular logic.

      You say these are sweet deals only for the wealthy. Who else has large tracts of undeveloped land? You can’t put subdivisions into easements. Dave Matthews made tons of money and bought beautiful tracts of land around Charlottsville. Now local governments can ensure that they won’t end up looking like Sterling Va. I say go for it. It saves tax burden forward for infrastructure and schools that development always needs.

  15. Rational One

    These are all just opinions. Not all conservation easements are bad nor are all land trust organizations. But when Biscuit Run happens, it damages the universal integrity intended across the board and requires reform and change to make sure strict policy is in place to prevent it from ever happening again.

    TNC and PEC are not charged with any crime but orgs empowered with billions of dollors are held to the highest standards and practices and this is what is causing all the outrage. Warnings are based on personal experiences just like PEC warned against Disney or Power Lines – there are on going arguments on both sides.

    Opening up the forum to investigation, debate and exploration of new policy reform and practices to manage and control land trusts and conservation groups from running amuck are designed to prevent Biscuit Run from happening again and this is in the best interests of VIrginia

  16. PS

    Those that have been dragged into court, that have been threatened with criminal charges, and have been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for selective easement enforcement, know that we are not dealing with rational players/enforcers; we are dealing with selective and punitive abuse. Make sure you pay the grift or you will be taught a harsh lesson.

  17. Fat Cat Insider

    To “PS”, if you are talking about Shwartzville (Fauquier County also known as Corruption & Fraud Capital, USA amongst many), instead of complaining about it here why don’t you contact The AG. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is launching a massive investigation as a result of Biscuit Run and heads are going to roll all over the piedmont. This is just the tip of iceberg. Groups are organizing and wanting restitution and demanding zero tolerance before congress and to clean house in Virginia.


    BTW, LTAC receives money from no other source than the Land Trust Alliance that is mostly supported by conservation groups and the PEC (as well as fat cat donors that have benefited from conservation easements). PEC was already a Land Trust Alliance member before receiving accreditation. This coupled with the PEC’s director as a Commissioner of the LTAC at the time of the accreditation doesn’t past the smell test and makes the accreditation sound meaningless and lack credibility in my opinion.

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