Loudoun County, Virginia has long been a favorite weekend getaway destination for residents of Washington D.C. and nearby Northern Virginia suburbs – and for those from farther afield. The County’s natural landscapes and native wildlife are a key reason why.
This week, I made a grant from the Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund to help Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy protect “green infrastructure” as Loudoun County works to prepare its next Ten Year Plan. This county is one of the fastest-growing in the entire United States – and such rapid development puts native wildlife at serious risk. It is my hope that this county, so close to our nation’s capital, can find ways to balance human and wildlife needs – and thereby serve as a national model.
Greg and I had come to love Loudoun County so much during the ten years we lived in McLean and Arlington, that in 2010 we decided to make Loudoun our primary home. After two years of looking, in spring 2012 we found the perfect place and made an offer on our dream – a farmette just outside the town of Middleburg. While we were waiting for a response to our offer, I had occasion to chat about it with PETA founder and president Ingrid Newkirk, who then followed up with this note: “If you get that land, I do think the smartest, best way to preserve the largest number of animals is to think wildlife, they have almost nowhere to go any more.”
Our offer was accepted, we closed on our farmette in July 2012, and moved in March 2013. And inspired by Ingrid’s advice, we immediately began working to make it a welcoming environment for wildlife. We learned that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy coordinated an Audubon at Home Wildlife Sanctuary certification program, and reached out for advice. Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy representatives immediately came to gave us hours of free advice, and to take us on driving tours of other Loudoun County properties that had already been certified. Greg and I set to work – and by September 2013 we had identified the presence of ten at-risk animal species on our property, which qualified us for certification.
Greg and I were so impressed by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s work, that in August 2013 I accepted an invitation to serve on the organization’s board and also as conservation advocacy committee chair. My proudest achievement in that advocacy role was a successful campaign to persuade Loudoun County decision-makers to cease use of dangerous pesticides in our public parks. In the aftermath of Greg’s death, I found it necessary to step down from my committee chair role – but I continue to believe deeply in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s work, and am proud to provide monetary support to help the organization continue its advocacy work in Greg’s memory.