Attend USFS Open Houses And Speak Up for Protecting the Pisgah-Nantahala

Attend USFS Open Houses And Speak Up for Protecting the Pisgah-Nantahala


Attend USFS Open Houses And Speak Up for Protecting the Pisgah-Nantahala

The forests belong to all of us and we’re responsible for making sure they are protected for future generations.

As part of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests management plan revision process, the U.S. Forest Service will hold six open house events across the region from late June to early August to provide the public with opportunities to talk with Forest Service staff about local issues, district projects, and the forest plan revision.

If you care about Western North Carolina’s national forests, enjoy our beautiful mountain vistas and hiking trails, or playing in the many streams and swimming holes within Pisgah and Nantahala, this is your opportunity to talk directly with Forest Service staff one-on-one about how the forest will be managed for the years to come.

Each District Open House will highlight the areas within that district. District rangers and members of the Forest Plan revision team will be available to discuss the materials each of the following days and locations:

  • June 29, 6-8 p.m.: Grandfather Ranger District at Foothills Conference Center, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton.
  • July 11, 6-8 p.m.: Nantahala Ranger District at Tartan Hall, 26 Church St., Franklin.
  • July 13, 6-8 p.m.: Pisgah Ranger District Office, 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Brevard.
  • July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Appalachian Ranger District at Appalachian District Office, 632 Manor Road, Mars Hill.
  • July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Cheoah Ranger District at Cheoah District Office, 1070 Massey Branch Road, Robbinsville.
  • August 8, 3-6 p.m., Tusquitee Ranger District, Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have been revising their Forest Plan, a required document that provides a general framework to guide management of the Forests. As part of the process, 30 public meetings have been held in communities throughout western North Carolina.

Over the past year, the Forest Service has been releasing pre-draft plan materials on the National Forests in North Carolina website – www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. Additional materials are posted to the site’s Plan Revision Under Construction page as they become available.

Here are MountainTrue’s assessments based on the current pre-draft plan materials: 

  • Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in general:
    There are many special places that are in the wrong management area and lack the amount of protection they require. In particular, Daniel Ridge, Cedar Rock Mountain, Upper Santeetlah Creek, Ash Cove, Tellico Bald, Snowball Mountain, Lickstone Ridge, and dozens of smaller natural areas are not protected by the forest plan. The Bartram Trail, Benton McKay Trail, Art Loeb Trail, and Mountains-To-Sea Trail lack a management area that would preserve the special character of these long-distance hiking trails. They should be designated as special corridors, similar to the Appalachian Trail and the Trail of Tears which have such protection.We are pleased by the creation of a new Special Interest Area in Big Ivy, though it should cover all of Big Ivy, and not just a portion of it.By Ranger Districts:
  • Grandfather Ranger District: Linville Mountain should be placed in backcountry management. The Upper Creek Gorge/Sugar Knob Backcountry area should be expanded. The Upper Wilson Creek Backcountry area should be expanded.
  • Appalachian Ranger District: Snowball Mountain, Coxcombe Mountain, and Shope Creek should be included in the Craggy Mountains/Big Ivy Special Interest Area.
  • Pisgah Ranger District: Upper Courthouse Creek, Daniel Ridge, Cedar Rock Mountain, and upper Lickstone Ridge should be placed in backcountry Management to protect their remote character and the species that depend on them.
  • Nantahala Ranger District: All of Panthertown Valley and Flat Creek should be in backcountry management. Tellico Bald, Siler Bald, and Fish Hawk Mountain should be placed in backcountry management. The backcountry area around Terrapin Mountain should be expanded to 4,000 acres.  Corbin Knob, Hench Knob, and Chunky Gal Mountain should be Special Interest Areas.
  • Cheoah Ranger District: Upper Santeetlah Creek should be a Special Interest Area or backcountry area.
  • Tusquitee District: Gipp Creek should be placed in backcountry management. The Unicoi Mountain backcountry area should be expanded.

We encourage you to turn out and speak up for protecting these natural areas of our forests. We will have staff at each of these open house events and we look forward to meeting you there.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Giving Billboard Companies More Power and Money is Wrong for North Carolina!

Giving Billboard Companies More Power and Money is Wrong for North Carolina!

Giving Billboard Companies More Power and Money is Wrong for North Carolina!

A bill on the move in the North Carolina General Assembly would benefit billboard companies at the expense of our environment, our local governments and taxpayers.

Click here to take action!

H581, the “Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws,” would give extraordinary new powers to billboard companies allowing them to relocate existing billboards anywhere they choose, even where they are not currently allowed; cut more trees to increase billboard visibility; switch traditional signs to flashing digital billboards regardless of local regulations; and charge taxpayers more money if they have to relocate a sign because of construction.

Take action today and tell your legislators today to oppose H581. Ask them to stand with our communities and oppose billboard industry special interests.

west buncombe billboard


The backbone of MountainTrue is member participation. Your membership connects you with vital information, strengthens the MountainTrue voice to policy makers, and financially supports our work.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 12, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 12, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 12, 2017

Last week, after months of speculation, private meetings and a lot of rumors on Jones Street, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rolled out and quickly approved a bill to rewrite the laws that shape clean energy policy in North Carolina.

House Bill 589 is enormously complicated — and enormously important — as it will guide the development of clean energy in our state for years to come. Countless communities, thousands of jobs, millions of people and billions of dollars will be impacted by HB589. We won’t try to summarize it here, but you can find a good, plain-English overview of the bill here.

A legislative summary of the bill can be found here.

On the positive side, HB589 requires Duke Energy to obtain significant, new solar power over the next 4 to 5 years. It also includes a “Green Source Rider” to allow companies to more directly procure clean, renewable energy. There is also a new framework for a community solar program, a new rebate for rooftop solar and the option for some consumers to lease solar electric systems to power their homes and businesses. These are all programs that clean energy advocates have wanted for years.

That said, the bill is also deeply flawed. For example, after the initial period in which Duke Energy is required to procure significant new utility-scale solar power, HB589 gives the company far too much control over both large solar farms and the creation of rooftop solar on houses and other residential buildings. Expansion of solar energy into rural communities will be very limited because of the way the bill is written.  Furthermore, the rebates for rooftop solar and the solar leases are artificially capped and will help too few people.

Despite these and other flaws, the bill garnered bipartisan support (including all WNC Democratic representatives and most WNC Republicans) and endorsements from the state’s largest clean energy industry group, the NC Clean Energy Business Alliance, and the state’s largest clean energy advocacy group, the NC Sustainable Energy Association. The bill was also endorsed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and many – though not all – environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters.

For our part, MountainTrue reluctantly endorsed the bill as worthy of legislators’ support, despite its significant problems. Other organizations, such as Appalachian Voices and the NC Clean Air Coalition, opposed its approval. The Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center took a neutral stand on the bill to neither support nor oppose it.

Whatever position these organizations have taken on HB589, we all share an ambivalence about the bill and a deep frustration that GOP support for clean energy is so weak that this bill can be considered a win. No wonder that those who oppose HB589 are quick to acknowledge that there are parts of it that justify voting for it, and those who support it are just as fast to agree that there is much to oppose.

So what is going on with this bill – and in the legislature – that has left so many supporters of clean energy so ambivalent about HB589?

Answering that question begins with understanding that the clean energy industry — and its supporters — had a very weak hand going into the negotiations that led to the House’s approval of HB589.

For several years, the policies that made North Carolina a leader in clean energy have been under attack by many, though not all, GOP lawmakers as well as energy companies and conservative advocacy groups (many of them funded by fossil-fuel interests like the Koch brothers). The result has been a steady elimination or weakening of many of the state laws and policies that incentivize the use and production of clean energy. The Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit, for example, was allowed to expire in 2015. Clean energy supporters have spent years fending off GOP attacks on the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), which requires Duke Energy and other power companies to buy or produce a significant portion of their energy from sustainable sources.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider Duke Energy’s part in this issue more specifically. The company has been complaining to lawmakers for years about integrating new solar onto the power grid and demanding that the legislature give it more control over where new solar generating capacity gets built. Duke has also created difficulties for the solar industry by slowing down the interconnection process for new solar farms and threatening to upend these successes before the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Then there is the Trump Administration, which is likely to launch its own assault on federal clean energy policies — many of which drive North Carolina’s clean energy efforts.

All of these challenges create uncertainty in the clean energy industry and its market in North Carolina. Facing that uncertainty and the very real possibility that the policy environment will get even worse, the clean energy industry chose to lock in what it could get in HB589 and stabilize the market for the foreseeable future.

For MountainTrue, we judged the clean energy industry’s support for the bill as the correct strategy for making the best of a very bad political environment. We also expect that Gov. Cooper’s appointees to the Utilities Commission (assuming they are approved by the legislature) will prioritize the sustainability of the state’s power supply. This would help soften the impact of the new bill. Additionally, we hold out the longer-term hope that redrawn and constitutional legislative districts will help encourage more legislators to represent all North Carolinians rather than a small but outspoken group of ideologues on energy issues. So this bill is not likely to be the last clean energy bill we see, and we hope future comprehensive bills will be more favorable.

In the short term, we’ll be working to make sure HB589 does not get worse. (We have little confidence it will get better as the clean energy industry’s support in the legislature is strongest in the House, where the bill originated.) There is no guarantee that the compromise bill worked out in the House will go unchanged in the state Senate, which was not included in the negotiations that led to HB589.

Right now it is not clear how the Senate will react to the bill or even if it will take it up this year. Attempts to amend the House compromise bill could lead to one or both of the bill’s two main stakeholders, Duke Energy and the Sustainable Energy Association, to reconsider their support. Renegotiating HB589 would likely be time-consuming and delay the end of the legislative session, which GOP leaders say will end in the next few weeks.

Perhaps the most likely outcome on HB589 is that the GOP-controlled Senate will either approve the bill as written in the last weeks of this session or wait and take it up during next year’s short session, which begins in May.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that clean energy supporters should never have been forced into such an untenable position on this legislation. Those legislators who support this bill and Duke Energy have asked clean energy advocates to choose between an imperfect and flawed bill or a much worse policy. Our state and its future are worse off because of their lack of vision.

There is still time to tell your Senator what you think of this bill. Use this link to find your Senators and give them a call about clean-energy policy in North Carolina.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Michael Franti & Spearhead Headline Riverkeeper Beer Series with Benefit Concert at Salvage Station on August 3

Michael Franti & Spearhead Headline Riverkeeper Beer Series with Benefit Concert at Salvage Station on August 3

Michael Franti & Spearhead Headline Riverkeeper Beer Series with Benefit Concert at Salvage Station on August 3

Riverkeeper Beer series includes river clean-ups, four river floats and new beers brewed to support the French Broad River

Asheville, NC — MountainTrue, the French Broad Riverkeeper, Blue Ridge Orthodontics and Mix 96.5 are pleased to announce the 2017 Riverkeeper Beer Series, including the French Broad River Concert on August 3 starring Michael Franti & Spearhead. Get your tickets here: Buy Tickets on Eventbrite

Each Riverkeeper Beer Series, presented by MountainTrue and Blue Ridge Orthodontics and sponsored by Mix 96.5, will organize folks for a fun and easy float down the French Broad River or a river cleanup near one of the premier breweries in the region, including New Belgium Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery, Wedge Brewing Company, Hi-Wire Brewing and Wicked Weed Brewing. Several partner breweries will be creating unique beers to support the MountainTrue effort. Each float and river clean up event will feature an afterparty at the partner brewery location with music, Float to the Taps awards for those adventurous enough to pick up a tire, bottle, or old tv along the river bank.

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson explains:
Asheville and the region love the French Broad River and the Riverkeeper Beer series is a great way to celebrate that. The Michael Franti concert combined with the river floats and beer release parties are a great way to enjoy summer in Asheville and support our work keeping the French Broad River a clean and safe place for people to paddle and play.

MountainTrue and Blue Ridge Orthodontics present the French Broad Riverkeeper Beer sponsored by Mix 96.5:

  • June 17 – River clean-up and float with a beer release party at Hi-Wire Brewing Big Top.
    Get your tickets here: Buy tickets on Eventbrite.
  • July 8 – River float with a beer release party at Wedge Brewing Co. at The Foundation.
  • July 29 – Beer release party at Wicked Weed Brewing
  • August 3 – Save the French Broad River Concert featuring Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Salvage Station. Get your tickets here: Buy Tickets on Eventbrite
  • August 12 – River float with a beer release party at Oskar Blues Brewery
  • August 19 – River clean-up and float with beer release party at New Belgium Brewing.
    Download Michael Franti Media kit: https://caa.app.box.com/s/wk3rl7lz85qlq1r2cik88oesvmfpeqen

Nikki Mitchell, Director of Marketing at Mix 96.5, explains:
The French Broad River is certainly something to celebrate and organizing clean ups and floats across the region can introduce people to new areas of the river as well as new people to the water in general. And what better way to celebrate than getting out and floating down the French Broad River.

Tickets for the concert go on sale Friday, April 7. General Admission is $31 advance / $36 at the door. VIP tickets are $100. VIP ticket holders will have an opportunity to attend a short, intimate acoustic set by Michael Franti prior to the show, access to food by Salvage Station, reserved viewing area with private bar during the main concert, and complimentary special release beers by Hi-Wire Brewing, Wedge Brewing Co., Wicked Weed Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery, and New Belgium Brewing.

ABOUT MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD

Michael Franti is a musician, filmmaker and humanitarian who is recognized as a pioneering force in the music industry. Long known for his globally conscious lyrics, powerful performances, and dynamic live shows, Franti has continually been at the forefront of lyrical activism, using his music as a positive force for change.

“I make music because I believe it can change people’s lives and make a difference in the world,” enthuses Franti, “music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose.”  He and his band Spearhead, known for their authentic and uplifting music, have found global success with multi-platinum songs like “Say Hey (I Love You)”, the chart breaking 2010 release of The Sound Of Sunshine. Franti and his band guarantee a show that will be thought provoking as well as energetic.

Franti has a 2016 single, “Once A Day” from his upcoming debut album on Fantasy Records. “Once a Day” was inspired by his son’s diagnosis with a rare kidney disease called FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis) in the hopes that this song would inspire anyone in the world who is going through challenging times. “My belief is that through music, dance and gratitude for this life we can all ‘rise up’,” explains Franti.  “Once A Day” was produced by Supa Dups (Eminem, Damian Marley, Bruno Mars) and features special guest Sonna Rele. This new song has the same feel-good, inspiring vibe as “Say Hey (I Love You),” his 2x platinum hit single.

Giving back has always been at the heart of Franti’s mission, he has dedicated his life to spreading the joy of music and positivity to millions of people. Franti’s humanitarian, social justice, and peace efforts continue to inspire his music and are infused throughout his upcoming album on Fantasy Records due to release in May 2016.

ABOUT MIX 96.5
Mix 96.5 (WOXL-FM), Asheville’s Hit Music Station, is part of Asheville Radio Group, the area’s leading radio advertising company, reaching thousands of listeners every week. The group includes five other world-class radio stations, including 105.9 the Mountain, 98.1 the River, Rewind 100.3, 105.5 the Outlaw, and ESPN Asheville, as well as local entertainment website the828.com.

ABOUT MOUNTAINTRUE
MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the French Broad Riverkeeper, the protector and defender of the French Broad River.

 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Honoring David Malpass: Co-Founder of ECO and WNC Environmental Hero

Honoring David Malpass: Co-Founder of ECO and WNC Environmental Hero

Honoring David Malpass: Co-Founder of ECO and WNC Environmental Hero

David MalpassDavid Malpass passed away on May 17. He co-founded, along with his wife Mary Jo Padgett, the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO) — an environmental nonprofit that thrived in Henderson County for 27 years and later merged with the Western North Carolina Alliance and the Jackson Macon Conservation Alliance to become MountainTrue.

With ECO, David and Mary Jo helped establish an organization with a lasting legacy of getting people out into the natural world, and empowering them to protect our environment.

“David had a powerful spirit, and was quick to win people over with his charm and good looks, but it was his passion and love of nature that drove his actions,” says Katie Breckheimer, MountainTrue’s Board president.

“David Malpass was a character — a pied piper-type of character,” explains Chuck McGrady, North Carolina Representative and former executive director of ECO. “He was passionate about the things that were important to him, with a quick smile and no fear of expressing his feelings.”

Kevin Gaylor, a former ECO member, remembers David fondly. “David always struck me as a kind of Moses figure with his booming voice, just having come down from the mountain with tablets in his hands. He was full of passion, vision and laughter, and these qualities are what put Hendersonville’s environmental movement in motion.”

Under his tenure, volunteers designed and built a nature trail in a large county park, soon followed by a volunteer-built boardwalk into the park’s wetlands. “Whenever I visit Jackson Park and walk the trails, I’ll think of David and his work in making this community more connected with the natural world,” says his friend Gary Eblen.

A proud tree-hugger, David pushed for the creation of Hendersonville’s first tree ordinance in 1989, and then became a member of its first Tree Board. In a partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation, experimental disease-resistant chestnut trees were planted around the county.

The community’s 1990 20th Anniversary Earth Day celebration was a grand event of epic proportion thanks to the leadership of the newly formed ECO. When a waste incinerator was proposed for the community, ECO made sure there were educational public forums about the technology, and organized the community to ensure that the plant would be located elsewhere. These efforts are only part of the legacy that David Malpass left behind. He will be sorely missed.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

We Need To Continue Civic Conversation on Wildfire, Then Act

We Need To Continue Civic Conversation on Wildfire, Then Act


We Need To Continue the Civic Conversation on Wildfire, Then Act


Last year (2016), the Southeast experienced a historic wildfire season that raged across northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Firefighters from 21 states converged on the region to combat fires that destroyed more than 150,000 acres. In Tennessee, the Chimney Tops 2 fire destroyed sections of the city of Gatlinburg and claimed 14 lives. In North Carolina, the fires forced evacuation, threatened homes and blanketed our region with an acrid haze that was bad for both human health and our local economies.

These fires were faster-moving and more dangerous because of several interrelated trends: climate change is making droughts more severe and frequent and creating drier conditions, lean budgets have prevented forest managers from conducting necessary controlled burns and reducing fuel loads, and our region’s population growth has increased the number of people living in the wildland-urban interface — where homes butt up against dense forest and vegetation.

These are important issues that we cannot afford to ignore. MountainTrue has been working to facilitate a better understanding of wildfire risks. We organized a presentation featuring MountainTrue’s public lands field biologist Josh Kelly and Jim Fox of the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center in December of 2016 and a larger panel discussion of experts on April 3, 2017 at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville featuring Dr. Steve Norman and Dr. Katie Greenberg of the US Forest Service, Adam Warwick who is the fire and stewardship manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Southern Blue Ridge Program; and Joan Walker, campaigns director with MountainTrue, who is an expert on community planning. We will continue with wildfire-themed events in Highlands and the High Country.

Raising awareness will not be enough. We need to take action at every level. Homeowners can take the first step by implementing the recommendations of the Firewise Communities Program (firewise.org) which is co-sponsored by USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters, and encourages individuals to take personal responsibility for preparing their home from the risk of wildfire. Similarly, local governments, home builders and communities should implement the standards and best practices set out by the Fire Adapted Communities coalition (fireadapted.org).

Lastly, counties within Western North Carolina historically have had an aversion to zoning and regulation. In the face of rapid population growth, civic leaders should embrace common sense policies regarding construction near steep slopes, and zoning to encourage urban density. Not only would these help combat sprawl and help maintain the attractive vistas that our mountain economies depend upon, they would are also crucial to keeping our communities safe from the growing threat of wildfires.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | June 8, 2017 – A Bit of Good News

A Bit of Good News

Late last week, the House approved its version of the state’s budget by a vote of 80-31. The good news is that on state funding for the NC Department of Environmental Quality, the House refused to go along with the Senate, which made staggering cuts to the Department’s ability to protect our air, water and public health.

A BIG thanks to all the MountainTrue supporters who called, emailed and wrote lawmakers to oppose these short-sighted cuts.

And by the way, while you’re celebrating, take a quick moment to call or send a quick note or tweet to Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County to thank him for his leadership in improving the House budget for the environment. McGrady has a key leadership role in the House budget process and led the charge against the Senate’s DEQ cuts. His twitter handle is @ChuckMcGrady and you can email him at Chuck.McGrady@ncleg.net.

Unfortunately, our work protecting the agency that protects our water and air is not complete. With approval of the House budget comes the final step in the budget – conference. Conference is shorthand for the process the House and Senate use to work out their final, compromise budget before sending it to the Governor for signature (or veto).

The arrival of conference means we need to let lawmakers know, again, that we want DEQ to have the financial resources its needs to keep protect our natural resources.

So….Time to Contact Lawmakers Again

That means it is time to contact our legislators again, especially senators. You can click here to use our system to locate and contact your legislators. If you have time, please consider calling, as their offices are inundated with email this time of year. Keep it short and sweet – tell them to support the House funding for DEQ and oppose the Senate’s cuts to the agency.

The Curious Path of A Bad Transportation Bill

Another issue MountainTrue is working on is Raleigh got quite a bit of attention last week  – bill a establishing a new fund for transportation “megaprojects” of statewide or regional importance that cost more than $200 million. In North Carolina – which has a long history of mixing politics with transportation funding decisions to the detriment of the environment – we use something called the Strategic Transportation Investments (STI) program to prioritize how transportation funds should be spent across the state. STI was approved by the GOP legislature several years ago, with support from MountainTrue and other environmental groups, which welcomed it as a rational, transparent way to make these decisions.

Which brings us to the megaprojects bill, which would do an end-run run around the STI and leave decisions about how to spend the megaprojects money to a small committee within the NC Department of Transportation.

The bill had a curious pathway to an abrupt ending. It was approved by the House despite significant opposition within the House GOP caucus and much speculation that it would die a quick death in the Senate, where several key legislators were quite vocal about how much they disliked the bill. Yet when it arrived in the Senate, the bill moved quickly and easily through the committee process – much to the chagrin of MountainTrue and other opponents, who were repeatedly reassured not to worry about the bill. The mystery was solved when the bill hit the full Senate – where it was defeated overwhelmingly, with just one yes vote (from WNC Senator Jim Davis).

So what happened? Under Senate rules, a bill that is defeated on the floor cannot be taken up again during the session. So the Senate apparently disliked the megaprojects bill so much, they took the unusual step of driving the ultimate political stake through its heart – and killing the megaprojects proposal for not just the rest of this session but for the 2018 session as well. Thanks to all our WNC Senators – both Republican and Democrat – who voted against this legislation.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Blitz the Bluff with MountainTrue

Blitz the Bluff with MountainTrue

 

Blitz the Bluff with MountainTrue

Second Annual Bluff Mountain Bio-Blitz To Inventory Diverse Ecosystem

Hot Springs, N.C. — Join MountainTrue on the second annual Bluff Mountain Bio-blitz happening on Saturday, June 3 in the Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, North Carolina. During the Bio-blitz, expert and amateur naturalists will work in teams to document the biological diversity of Bluff Mountain.

“This event is a great opportunity for people to hike in a unique and diverse ecosystem, learn from expert naturalists, and see our native species and habitats first hand,” explains Josh Kelly, MountainTrue Public Lands Field Biologist.

Who: MountainTrue and Hot Springs Mountain Club
What: Bluff Mountain Bio-Blitz nature inventory
Where: Meet at Hot Springs Community Center – 43 Andrews Ave N, Hot Springs, NC 28743
When: June 3, 2016 at 8 a.m.
RSVP and Details at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-bluff-mountain-bio-blitz-tickets-34519919007?aff=es2

This event is open to the public and donations are suggested. Blitzers will have the option of taking part in either moderate or strenuous hikes led by expert-level naturalists.  

Bluff Mountain is a massive peak that rises more than 3,500’ above the French Broad River to a height of over 4,600’. Bluff has many of the conditions associated with some of the most diverse sites in the Blue Ridge: high elevation relief, complex geology with circumneutral conditions, and numerous streams, springs, and seeps. These conditions should provide an ideal habitat for an abundance of rare and common species, yet few biological inventories of Bluff Mountain have occurred.

Bluff Mountain bio-blitzers will endeavor to inventory the biological diversity of Bluff Mountain. MountainTrue will provide maps and resources to help standardize data collection to participants. After the bioblitz, all the data collected will be submitted to the US Forest Service as part of a citizens’ proposal for protective management of Bluff Mountain.

Expert-level naturalists and knowledgeable locals participating include ornithologists, botanists, ecologists, mycologists, entomologists and lichenologists.  

About MountainTrue
MountainTrue fosters and empowers communities throughout the region and engages in policy and project advocacy, outreach and education, and on the ground projects. To achieve our goals, MountainTrue focuses on a core set of issues across 23 counties of Western North Carolina: sensible land use, restoring public forests, protecting water quality and promoting clean energy – all of which have a high impact on the environmental health and long-term prosperity of our residents. MountainTrue is the home of the Watauga Riverkeeper, the primary watchdog and spokesperson for the Elk and Watauga Rivers; the French Broad Riverkeeper, the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed; and Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate working to promote fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in the Broad River Basin. For more information: mountaintrue.org

 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Riverkeeper Beer Series Launches with River Float, Clean-up and Mango IPA from Hi-Wire Brewing

Riverkeeper Beer Series Launches with River Float, Clean-up and Mango IPA from Hi-Wire Brewing

Riverkeeper Beer Series Launches with River Float Clean-up and Mango IPA from Hi-Wire Brewing

Asheville, N.C. — Saturday, June 17 the French Broad Riverkeeper Beer Series presented by MountainTrue and Blue Ridge Orthodontics and sponsored by Mix 96.5 launches its second summer full of great beers and fun in the water. Pick, paddle and party this summer. The kick off event will take place at HiWire’s Big Top location in Biltmore Village, and participants will have the choice of taking part in either a river clean-up on the Swannanoa River or a float trip on the French Broad River, and everyone is invited to  meet back up at the release party of Hi-Wire Brewing’s new, limited-release MountainTrue Mango IPA. Tickets for the June 17 event are available on Eventbrite.

This is the first of five French Broad Riverkeeper Beer Series events that will include river cleanups and float trips on the French Broad River. Floaters and clean-up volunteers are then invited to sample a new limited-release beer from one of fiveparticipating breweries, including Hi-Wire Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery, Wedge Brewing Company and Wicked Weed Brewing. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these very special beers goes to support the work of the French Broad Riverkeeper protecting the French Broad River watershed.

Each French Broad Riverkeeper Beer Series event will also be co-sponsored by a local outdoor gear manufacturer who will donate prizes, apparel and gear that will be raffled off at the release parties to support the cause. Supporting gear builders include Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO), Liquid Logic Kayaks, Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), and Watershed.

Quote from French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson:

Asheville and the region love the French Broad River and the French Broad Riverkeeper Beer Series is a great way to celebrate that. Come out and celebrate and support our beautiful French Broad River and try one of these unique beers. It’s great way to enjoy summer in Asheville and support our work keeping the French Broad River a clean and safe place for people to paddle and play.

The Riverkeeper Beer Series includes the August 3 Save the French Broad River Concert starring Michael Franti & Spearhead. Tickets for the concert are on sale now. General Admission is $31 advance / $36 at the door. VIP tickets are $100. VIP ticket holders will have an opportunity to attend a short, intimate acoustic set by Michael Franti prior to the show, access to food by Salvage Station, reserved viewing area with private bar during the main concert, and complimentary special release beers from our Riverkeeper Beer Series. Buy Tickets for the Save the French Broad Concert on Eventbrite

Quote from Nikki Mitchell, Director of Marketing at Mix 96.5:

The French Broad River is certainly something to celebrate and organizing clean ups and floats across the region can introduce people to new areas of the river as well as new people to the water in general. And what better way to celebrate than getting out and floating down the French Broad River.

MountainTrue and Mix 96.5 present the French Broad Riverkeeper Beer Series:

  • June 17 – River clean-up and float with a beer release party at Hi-Wire Brewing Big Top.
    Buy ticket on Eventbrite.
  • July 8 – River float with a beer release party at Wedge Brewing Co. at The Foundation.
  • July 29 – Beer release party at Wicked Weed Brewing
  • August 3 – Save the French Broad River Concert featuring Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Salvage Station. Get your tickets here:
    Buy Tickets on Eventbrite
  • August 12 – River float with a beer release party at Oskar Blues Brewery
  • August 19 – River clean-up and float with beer release party at New Belgium Brewing.

About MountainTrue
MountainTrue fosters and empowers communities throughout the region and engages in policy and project advocacy, outreach and education, and on the ground projects. To achieve our goals, MountainTrue focuses on a core set of issues across 23 counties of Western North Carolina: sensible land use, restoring public forests, protecting water quality and promoting clean energy – all of which have a high impact on the environmental health and long-term prosperity of our residents. MountainTrue is the home of the Watauga Riverkeeper, the primary watchdog and spokesperson for the Elk and Watauga Rivers; the French Broad Riverkeeper, the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed; and Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate working to promote fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in the Broad River Basin. For more information: mountaintrue.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MT Raleigh Report | May 18, 2017 — Assault on the Environment

MT Raleigh Report | May 18, 2017 — Assault on the Environment

MT Raleigh Report | May 18, 2017 — Assault on the Environment

In this week’s MountainTrue Raleigh Report: The General Assembly’s assault on the state’s environmental protection agency (and what you can do about it), MountainTrue in Raleigh and the environment grows our economy.

The Assault on NC’s Department of Environmental Quality

Last week at the General Assembly was all about the budget. As you may remember, Governor Cooper released his proposed FY17-18 and FY18-19 budget proposal in March. Now the General Assembly has started the process of approving the state’s $23 billion spending plan. Unfortunately, when Senate Republicans released their budget plan very late on Tuesday night, they published the latest chapter in the GOP legislature’s assault on the environment by slashing funding and positions for the Department of Environmental Quality’s. Contact your State House Reps TODAY and tell them to oppose this budget!

Since 2011, the legislature has cut staff and lowered environmental protections throughout the Department of Environmental Quality — the agency responsible for enforcing state and federal rules that protect our water and our air and our public health. Earlier this year, former DEQ assistant secretary Robin Smith researched the impact of these cuts on DEQ. Not surprisingly, she found that DEQ has experienced large reductions in the environmental staff responsible for protecting our state’s natural resources. She also documented long delays in approval, review and renewal of permits that ensure polluters are complying with state and federal clean water and air protections. You can find Smith’s entire analysis of the impact of the GOP cuts here.

The draft budget released earlier this week by the Senate majority continues this sad story.

Under the Senate budget, DEQ would lose 45 full-time positions. The Senate budget would also eliminate the Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service, which helps businesses and communities comply with environmental regulations and permitting. The Division also boosts recycling, energy efficiency and cutting emissions. In addition, $1 million would be cut from DEQ’s energy office under the Senate plan.

The silver lining in the Senate budget includes some modest new investments in the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund and funding to help preserve farmland. The Senate also sets aside $2 million to purchase new firefighting aircraft in the wake of devastating wildfires in Western North Carolina.

But while these investments are laudable, overall the Senate budget represents a staggering threat to the state agency responsible for keeping our air and water clean and protecting the health of millions North Carolinians.

You can read more about the budget on WRAL at and The News & Observer.

MountainTrue in Raleigh

MountainTrue staff members were back in Raleigh this week, meeting with legislators to talk about the budget and other WNC priorities. On the top of our list: funding for DEQ, investments to help farmers comply with clean water rules and to assist mountain communities identify potential landslides. Directors Julie Mayfield and Bob Wagner also met with DEQ staff to discuss more about the ways MountainTrue and the agency can work together.

Our Environment is Good for the Economy

In case you missed it, a new report shows that outdoor recreation is a powerful driver of the economy. The Outdoor Industry Association’s Outdoor Economy Report shows the outdoor recreation industry generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending, directly supports 7.6 million American jobs and generates $125 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue. Yet another reason to get outside and enjoy the beauty of WNC!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.