Save Our Ashes


You Can Help Save Our Ashes

The emerald ash borer beetle (EAB) has been wreaking havoc in Western North Carolina.

 

Help Save Our Ashes

Donate today to save our Ashes. $90 covers the cost of treating an Ash tree for 3 consecutive years to ensure its survival.

Donate

If you are not familiar with the emerald ash borer, it is a small, metallic-green beetle from Eurasia that is fatal to all species of North American ash trees. The larvae of EAB bore holes into and kill infested ash trees within three to five years. In WNC, we have three native species of ash: white ash, green ash and Biltmore ash — which was described at and named for the Biltmore School of Forestry in Buncombe County where the first herbarium specimen was collected in 1898.

Ash trees grow large and graceful, with straight trunks and long-spreading branches. They are often planted as street trees and EAB has inflicted billions of dollars of damage to landscape trees in the central U.S. The wood of ash trees is valuable for furniture and its wood is traditionally used in baseball bats and for the bodies of the iconic Fender Stratocaster guitar.

Here in WNC, ash trees grow in rich coves and slopes, and the tallest known white ash on Earth occurs in Haywood County. While they may not be the most abundant trees, our ashes are important to our cultural and natural heritage, and they are going the way of the dodo. EAB is present in Haywood, Madison, and Buncombe counties and will spread throughout the region in the coming years. If we do nothing, every single ash tree will die. That’s why MountainTrue has launched a project called Save Our Ashes.

Our first step was to document where ash trees occur. Throughout the fall and winter of 2016/17 we trained volunteers to go into the forests, identify and map groves of trees that are especially important for their recreational, aesthetic, ecological and genetic value. We’ve also worked with the U.S. Forest Service to expedite an approval process so that we can treat these trees with insecticides, the only way to save ash from the borer.

We are doing what we can to treat as many trees as possible, but we need your help. We need funds to save these historically and culturally significant ash tree stands. The cost of saving each tree is approximately $90, which covers the cost of treating the tree for 3 consecutive years to ensure its survival. Time is running out, as are the number of trees that have yet to be infected by the Emerald Ash Borer and can still be saved.

 


Help Save Our Ashes

Donate today to save our Ashes. $90 covers the cost of treating an Ash tree for 3 consecutive years to ensure its survival.

Donate

MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

MT Raleigh Report | August 9, 2017

A quick report from Raleigh, with updates about last week’s special session and next steps on redistricting.

A So-So Special Session

Lawmakers gathered last week for a one-day special session scheduled when they adjourned their regular 2017 session in July. Originally, last week’s session was focused on complying with court orders to revise many of their voting districts. But days before the session, the court overseeing the redistricting case ordered a different calendar for revising the maps.

So, while lawmakers did not actually take up redistricting last week, they did approve a new calendar for approving new maps.

After approving the new schedule for redistricting, both the Senate and the House tried to work out deals on bills leftover from the regular session. They succeeded on one, Senate Bill 16, the “Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2016” – a hodgepodge of various provisions on a wide variety of topics. For MountainTrue, our concern with this bill focused on a provision that limits the ability of local governments to do more than the minimum to control stormwater runoff and reduce water pollution and flooding.

Unfortunately, the Senate and the House approved Senate Bill 16 with little discussion of these concerns. The bill now goes to the Governor, who has 30 days to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

The General Assembly also took up two other regulatory bills. House Bill 56, “Amend Environmental Laws,” is another collection of changes in a variety of policy areas. These changes included a host of last-minute revisions to the state’s solid waste laws, many of which had not been discussed. The other was the House Bill 162, which started out as a largely technical bill but was transformed into what one analyst called a “quarterback sneak attack against the state’s ability to strengthen environmental rules.” The bill seemed headed for a vote of the full House when Greensboro Rep. Pricey Harrison shamed the House leadership for taking up such an important bill with little notice or debate. Called out — and facing a likely extension of the session over the bill — the House leadership pulled House Bill 162 off the chamber’s calendar. Approval of House Bill 56 also stalled when Senate and House negotiators could not reach a compromise on the bill.

Up Next: Another Special Session

Under the plan approved last week, the legislature will return to Raleigh later this month to approve revised legislative districts that must be accepted by the court in September.

Here’s how the process is planned, at least right now:

  • Aug. 18: The legislature comes into session, with organizational, non-voting sessions of both House and Senate.
  • Aug. 22: A public hearing will be held on proposed legislative maps.
  • Aug. 24-25 – Both the House and Senate vote on revised redistricting plans.

In addition to taking up redistricting, the legislature can also override vetoes and take up unfinished business, including House Bills 56 and 162.

That’s the legislative news for now. Check back here for more MTRaleigh updates as the legislature goes in and out of session in the next few weeks.


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 | August 1, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | August 1, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | August 1, 2017

The latest from Raleigh, where lawmakers come back to town, briefly, this week and Gov. Cooper signs an important energy bill.

Legislature Back for a Not-So-Special Session

The Senate and House reconvene Thursday for a special session they scheduled before adjourning last month. While lawmakers have the flexibility to do just about anything they choose during this week’s session, they are widely expected to limit their work to a handful of unfinished bills left over from the regular session.

That means MountainTrue is on watch for the collection of “regulatory reform” bills that Senate and House negotiators are trying to settle. Of top concern: a provision to limit the ability of regular people, like adjacent property owners, to effectively challenge environmental permits relating to air pollution, mining and other issues. We’ll also be keeping an eye out for a proposal to strip local governments’ ability to regulate asphalt plants — an idea that has local governments in Ashe and Watauga counties particularly concerned. Both communities are currently wrestling with proposals for new or expanded plants in their areas.

This week’s special session is one of several we can expect in the coming weeks and months as legislators comply with court orders to redraw many House and Senate districts. You can read more about the ins and outs of this long-running — and enormously important — saga here. The courts ruled just this week that legislators must complete new maps by September 1 (or September 15 if they demonstrate suitable progress) and that no special election will be held before next year’s short session in May.

Governor Cooper Signs Energy Bill

The legislature approved one of the most contentious — and important — environmental bills of the year in the last hours of the 2017 regular session. HB 589, Competitive Energy Solutions for NC, included positive changes that will improve access to solar energy for many North Carolinians and continue to require large utilities to obtain significant portions of their power from sustainable sources. The bill is far from perfect, however, as it also includes what we judge to be an unnecessary and damaging 18-month moratorium on wind energy development in North Carolina. You can read our previous updates about this legislation here and here.

Because HB 589 included the wind moratorium, it was not clear whether Gov. Cooper would sign or veto the bill — or simply let it become law without his signature. After meeting with a variety of stakeholders, Cooper signed the legislation last week, while also approving an executive order directing state agencies to continue processing wind energy permit applications during the moratorium. Because wind permits can take months or even years to approve, the Governor clearly hopes that new projects will be ready for construction when the moratorium ends. The order also directs state agencies to do everything possible to support the wind energy industry in North Carolina. You can read the Governor’s announcement about HB 589 and the executive order here.

MountainTrue supports the Governor’s decision to sign the bill into law. While the bill is far from perfect, it will help stabilize the market for clean energy in North Carolina and give thousands of individuals and many communities expanded access to sustainable energy. It will also support countless jobs associated with this important new industry.

Help Us Clean Up Our Rivers

MountainTrue is partnering with a number of community organizations to support the annual Big Sweep cleanup of the French Broad, Watauga, Broad and Green rivers on September 9 — and we have invited legislators to join us. MountainTrue member and Senator Chuck Edwards from Henderson County was the first to accept the invite and we hope others will follow his lead. We need your help too, so sign up now and you may find yourself working alongside your representative or senator!


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 | July 7, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | July 7, 2017

MountainTrue Raleigh Report | July 7, 2017

Greetings! We hope you enjoyed a fun and safe Fourth of July weekend. ICYMI, the legislature recessed late last week; so here’s a quick rundown of what happened and what’s next at the General Assembly.

Legislature Serializes Its 2017 Session

Last week the legislature wrapped up its 2017 session — sort of.

Typically, lawmakers approve the state budget some time in late June or July and sometimes even later. Then it takes a week or two (or more) of long days and nights of committee meetings and debates in the full Senate and House to approve a flurry of bills before they recess for the year.

This year, all of that took place, but, instead of ending the session for the year, lawmakers scheduled follow up sessions on August 3 and September 6.

The August session is intended to allow the legislature to override any vetoes by Gov. Cooper and take up any unfinished business from the regular session. The September session is intended to focus on the legislature’s long-delayed redrawing of legislative districts. But under the rules approved for both sessions, the General Assembly has given itself wide latitude to take up just about any issue it chooses. The rules also provide for the possibility of a third special session in November.

Effectively, the General Assembly didn’t end the 2017 session last week so much as it simply took a July recess. For reasons we’ll get to in a moment, that’s especially frustrating for environmentalists.

Last Minute, Not So Good Deal on Clean Energy

Before suspending the session, lawmakers approved HB 589, “Competitive Energy Solutions for NC” — a rewrite of state laws guiding the development and use of clean energy in North Carolina for millions of customers, businesses and clean energy companies. You can find previous updates about this important bill here.

The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved the compromise bill several weeks ago with the backing of both Duke Energy and clean energy advocates, including MountainTrue. The GOP-controlled Senate, unfortunately, loaded it with a number of anti-clean energy amendments, the worst of which was a four-year moratorium on new wind energy projects. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown of Jones and Onslow counties pushed the moratorium. Brown is a long-time critic of wind energy on the coast. He fears that it will limit aviation at important coastal military bases and undermine the state’s efforts to protect the bases from future federal base closures, despite repeated statements from military leaders as well as studies that conclude otherwise.

After a good deal of behind the scenes negotiation in the last hours of the session, GOP leaders agreed, over the objections of the clean energy industry, to an 18-month moratorium on wind projects. Both chambers quickly approved the legislation just past 1:00 a.m. on Friday and shut down the session a few minutes later.

It was a startlingly fast resolution to a complicated bill that left clean energy supporters grim-faced and angry after months of good-faith negotiations with both lawmakers as well as Duke Energy. The final bill puts two large wind energy projects in two poor rural counties at risk and sends a terrible message to the industry about the state’s long-term interest in wind and other sources of sustainable energy. You can read more about the final bill here.

As of now, it is unclear if Gov. Cooper will sign or veto HB589, or simply allow it to become law without his signature. Many of the clean energy stakeholders on the bill have been careful to outline their concerns with the legislation but have stopped short of calling for a veto. In part that may be because they know the GOP legislature has the votes to override any veto. It also reflects the fact that the legislation includes important policy changes that the solar industry needs to keep solar viable in North Carolina. For its part, Duke Energy says it opposed the moratorium but continues to support the bill.

What’s Next?

The legislature’s rolling, on-again, off-again session is particularly maddening for environmentalists. That’s because much of the most important legislation that was left in limbo when the legislature left Raleigh last week are the so-called “regulatory reform” bills. These are bills that are chock full of various changes to environmental rules and standards, a few of which are of great concern to environmentalists. With so much unresolved about these bills and lawmakers at home for the next few weeks, we fear that the already imperfect process for finalizing these bills will be even less accessible to the public, the press and environmental groups during the recess. One provision MountainTrue is particularly concerned about would greatly limit local governments’ authority over asphalt plants, including plants in Ashe and Watauga counties. We’ll be meeting with legislators from those areas as well as local government leaders before the August session on this proposal.

Finally, Some (Really) Good News

The “end” of the 2017 session was bleak for the environment in many ways, but there were some victories. Perhaps the most surprising was the defeat of a House bill that would have greatly expanded the power of the billboard industry at the great expense of local governments and the public’s ability to regulate them. The bill was sponsored by House Rules chairman David Lewis of Harnett County, who faced off with WNC Representative Chuck McGrady on the House floor in what was a polite, but long and no-holds barred debate on the bill. Most political watchers thought the best McGrady could hope for was to take enough votes away from the Lewis bill to allow it to survive a veto in the future. To everyone’s surprise, the debate convinced a good number of House Republicans to vote against the bill. The GOP votes combined with overwhelming opposition from House Democrats to defeat the bill outright. Thanks to McGrady for his leadership on the bill and to all of the MountainTrue supporters who called our legislators encouraging them to oppose this bill.

Another piece of good news: many of you also responded to our requests for calls and letters about a provision in one of the Senate regulatory reform bills that would have greatly limited the ability of citizens to appeal permits for big polluters like cement plants and quarries. We are happy to report that senators heard you on this issue, revised the provision and eliminated much of the language we objected to. We still hope the entire provision is struck before the overall bill is adopted, but we thank you for doing your part in helping with this interim victory.

Thank you so much for your support! Stay tuned as we will keep you posted on the final sessions of 2017 in the coming months!

Get the MountainTrue Raleigh Report delivered to your inbox; subscribe here. 


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.

Thursday, July 13: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues

Thursday, July 13: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues

Thursday, July 13: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues

Hendersonville, N.C. — On Thursday, July 13, Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes Tristan Winkler, Senior Transportation Planner for the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). He will present on recent bicycle and pedestrian issues in the area, and ways that the public can get involved!

What: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues
Who: Tristan Winkler, Senior Transportation Planner with the French Broad River MPO
Where: Black Bear Coffee Co. 318 N. Main St. Hendersonville, NC
When: Thursday, July 13, networking at 5:30 p.m., presentation at 6:00 p.m.

Tristan Winkler is a Senior Transportation Planner with the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and has worked on various transportation projects in Western North Carolina since 2013 as a private consultant and, later, at the MPO. Tristan is a board member of the Association of Bicycle and Pedestrian Professionals of North Carolina, and director-at-large for the Western North Carolina Chapter of Women in Transportation.

About Hendersonville Green Drinks
Hendersonville Green Drinks is presented by MountainTrue and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Come to Green Drinks to learn more about current environmental issues, have relevant discussions, and meet with like-minded people. This is a monthly event and everyone is welcome. You don’t have to drink at Green Drinks, just come and listen. Black Bear Coffee offers beer, wine, coffee drinks and sodas. A limited food menu will be available.


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.

Finding This Sewage Leak Into The French Broad Rivers Wasn’t Easy, But We Got It Done

Finding This Sewage Leak Into The French Broad Rivers Wasn’t Easy, But We Got It Done

Finding This Sewage Leak Into The French Broad Rivers Wasn’t Easy, But We Got It Done

As I lowered myself into a deep, dark storm drain in the Asheville River Arts District, I asked my coworker “what’s the plan if I can’t climb back out.” She shrugged as I scaled down the drain and reached the concrete creek channel at the bottom.

The infrastructure in the Asheville area is similar to most cities around the country. Rainwater is collected in storm drains, and sewage is piped separately in a maze that snakes under our city and county. The storm drains connect to nearby creeks, and the sewer lines flow down to the Metropolitian Sewer District (MSD) on the banks of the French Broad River, where it is treated and discharged back into the river.  Our rivers stay clean of sewage and bacteria when these systems function correctly. However, if a leak forms underground in one of the sewage pipes, that waste will find its way into our waterways.

petri_dishesIn order to monitor the health of our waterways, MountainTrue has a team of volunteers that take weekly E. coli data at over 25 locations throughout the French Broad River Watershed. That data is uploaded to the Swim Guide website and app so the public knows how safe it is to swim. When the data from Jean Webb Park, on the French Broad River, kept coming in consistently higher than other locations up and downstream, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper team set off to find the source.

A delicious meal at 12 Bones led to a major clue when I spotted a stream behind the restaurant, just upstream of Jean Webb Park, full of algae and smelling like sewage. Water samples confirmed the stream was routinely between four and forty times the safe limit for bacteria pollution.

These samples were taken last November and promptly reported for follow up to MSD, which has proven to be a strong ally in protecting our waterways. They take their responsibility very seriously, and have dramatically reduced the number of leaks and overflows from their system, resulting in a much cleaner French Broad River. Unfortunately, MSD’s initial investigations didn’t reveal any leaks. They dropped dye in multiple sewer lines that flow through the area, but didn’t see the dye turn up in the creek behind 12 Bones.

MSD dyeing sewar linesMSD has another tool in their arsenal, a smoke machine. This machine is attached to a giant fan and blows smoke into the sewer pipes. The idea is that the smoke will come out of the ground or a storm drain if there is a leak in the sewer pipe. The smoke test also failed to definitively locate the leak, so our Riverkeeper team went to every business in the area and flushed dye down their toilets. If there was a leak in one of the pipes that connect the businesses to the main sewer line, then the dye would hopefully show up in the creek. At this point, months had gone by and the river season was fast approaching. We knew that additional tests in the creek were needed to narrow down the source, but the creek and the feeder creeks were almost completely underground.

DEQ personnel helping to isolate the sourch of leakThe North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was the next stop to helping us locate the leak. DEQ realized access could be gained to the underground creek through some of the storm drains. Additional sampling would hopefully narrow down the location of the source. The samples helped, but we were still left a lot of questions. This is how I ended up 12 feet underground in a stream filled with sewage.  

When sampling from an underground creek, we use a pole to lower a sample bottle. As we opened the storm drain and began to lower the bottle down, the end of the pole fell to the bottom of the dark abyss. Cuss words were said, and solutions were tried and failed. Somehow the idea of jumping into a dark hole with no exit plan seemed like the best idea at the time. It took a ripped shirt and a couple dozen cuts before I was able to scramble back out of the drain.

Hartwell Getting UnstuckThe trip down the drain was eerie and unpleasant, but it led us to devise a sampling plan that could finally isolate all the potential sources of pollution. A return trip was planned that would include a ladder and enough sample bottles to get all the data we needed. First, we placed dye in the three major sewer lines that flow under the area. Then, I climbed into the hole again and tromped down the sewage-filled stream, where I came upon a side channel flowing red from the dye that was dropped in the sewer pipe. Now, we had found a major leak and knew almost the exact location!

We called MSD and they showed up within minutes with 6-8 guys, a camera truck, a pump truck and a lot of fancy equipment. The camera was able to crawl through the sewer line and send video back to the truck. After 200 feet of inspection and no luck finding the leak, I headed back into the hole to double check. We dyed the sewer pipe again, and this time the video found the exact location where the red dye was pouring out of a joint in the pipe.

Anna Alsobrook, our watershed outreach coordinator asked an MSD worker when they thought they could fix the leak. We were expecting a slow bureaucratic timeline, but instead he said, “Right now. There is sewage getting in the creek and we can’t have that.” Sure enough the trucks showed up soon thereafter and they started cutting a giant hole in the road to access the leaking pipe.

The pipe was fixed that same day, and there was a sense of accomplishment. Our hope was that we had fixed the source of the high E. coli pollution just in time for Memorial Day tubing. However, a sample taken the next week showed that this wasn’t the only source of pollution. It took more dye and trips down into the bowels of the city to locate a second smaller source.

Again, MSD showed up within 10 minutes of the call alerting them to the problem, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment was dispatched to locate the exact location of the leak. This leak was smaller and more difficult to find, but was eventually located. Since the leak was small, a patch was proposed, but as the patch was being installed the entire pipe burst. Pump trucks were used to reroute the sewer line while they started to dig up the road. By the time the pipe and road were repaired it was 2 a.m.

This isn’t the first sewer leak and it won’t be the last. Keeping the French Broad River fishable and swimmable requires regular monitoring and investigating when new sources of pollution are detected. That’s why our French Broad Riverkeeper team and volunteer water quality monitors do what they do — to make our river cleaner, safer and more enjoyable for everyone.  

Enjoy tubing season!


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.

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.