Saving our Rivers and Streams, One Live Stake at a Time

Saving our Rivers and Streams, One Live Stake at a Time

Saving our Rivers and Streams, One Live Stake at a Time

Have you ever been out on your favorite river, gliding by a beautiful green and mossy bank, and noticed what looked like a big bare dirt scar? Chunks of the bank are falling into the water like icebergs, and not even a blade of grass can hold onto the quickly eroding soil.

A lot of factors can contribute to such erosion, but the end result is the same, Sediment — the number one problem pollutant impacting our rivers. Sediment is oftentimes not thought of as a pollutant, mainly because it’s not a human-made substance.  In reality, it can be severely detrimental to our streams and rivers— smothering aquatic habitats, transporting harmful toxins and raising water temperatures.

For the past four months, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper team has been hard at work helping to prevent sediment by planting trees along eroded river banks. Certain tree species — silky dogwood, elderberry, silky willow, black willow, and ninebark — can be cut into two-foot “live stakes” and planted near riverbanks.

Live staking, as we call it, is a cost-effective and efficient method to mitigate the effects of sediment erosion. The stakes will soon grow into mature shrubs and trees whose root systems will hold their riverbanks in place. In addition to stabilizing the riverbank, these stakes will increase the riparian buffer, helping to slow down stormwater runoff and filter out pollutants.  

Such a cool project is hindered by only one thing— weather.  Stakes can only be planted while the plant is still in it’s winter dormant state. Our over 200 volunteers have braved cold weather and even colder water to hammer almost 10,000 stakes into the ground. We typically cruise the river in canoes to plant our stakes in highly eroded areas, because accessibility by road is not an option. Wintertime paddling can be tricky because of the colder temperatures, so MountainTrue staff watch the weather and cancel if the temperatures get too low. Because this year’s winter was fairly mild, we only had to cancel a few of our scheduled dates.   

Most work occurred on Cane and Hominy Creeks, but several hundred stakes were also planted on the main stem of the French Broad River near Rosman.  Each site was documented with GPS so that we can follow up and accurately guage our success.  Budding will start this spring, and we’re excited to paddle by and see our work in progress.

Sign up to learn more about volunteer opportunities if you’d like to get involved with planting next year’s live stakes, or any of the other awesome programs protecting the places we share!

Assistant French Broad Riverkeeper, Anna Alsobrook, braves the cold!

One of our dedicated live-staking volunteers braves the cold!


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 | April 4, 2017 – Stream Dangers

MT Raleigh Report | April 4, 2017 – Stream Dangers

In this installment of MTRaleigh – Rumors, deal-making and legislating surrounding the repeal of HB2 sucked up much of the air at the General Assembly this past week. In this edition of MTRaleigh, we’ll look at the danger to streams posed by legislation moving through the legislature and give a quick overview of HB2 drama.

Stream Dangers

This year’s version of the Regulatory Reform bill is moving through the General Assembly at a pretty good clip. It has already passed the Senate and has been voted out of committee on the House side. We expect to see it on the House floor early in the week.

As you probably remember, these “reform” bills often mean rolling back or weakening environmental protections. This year is no different. Of particular concern are the sections on stream mitigation. The bill includes a provision that requires the state to formally request a change from the Army Corps of Engineers to double the length of stream damage (from 150 feet to 300 feet) before developers are required to pay into a fund that supports stream repair in other parts of the state to offset the damage their projects have. The bill would also completely eliminate mitigation requirements for intermittent streams. In addition to funding stream restoration, these rules also act as an important incentive for developers to limit the impact of their projects.

While some legislators called the current regulations overly burdensome, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr said that the flooding the state experienced during Hurricane Matthew demonstrates why the changes are bad policy.

“Just months after the worst recorded flood on the Neuse from Matthew the first bill that we’re doing with streams will ensure that we have exponentially higher risk from flooding,” Starr said during committee hearings.

HB2 Repeal, Reset, Redux?

Late Wednesday night GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper announced an agreement to repeal House Bill 2. On Thursday, both the GOP Senate and the GOP House approved the new legislation, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans voting against the compromise bill.  Governor Cooper signed the legislation Thursday afternoon.

To date, the HB2 debate has taken up an enormous amount of time and energy, delaying the legislature’s consideration of a number of other important but less high-profile issues. With the HB2 issue now settled, look for the General Assembly to go into overdrive on a wide range of other bills and issues – the budget, tax reform and energy policy among them.

The legislation approved last week:

  • Repeals House Bill 2 in its entirety
  • Reserves the authority to regulate bathrooms to the state, essentially returning to the status quo before Charlotte passed a 2016 ordinance allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity.
  • Enacts a moratorium on similar local ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020.

Gov. Cooper and business leaders – including the NC Chamber of Commerce – supported the new legislation, which reportedly will meet the requirements of the ACC, NCAA and the NBA to consider locating sporting events in North Carolina.

LGBT civil rights organizations, including Equality North Carolina, opposed the bill, arguing that it continues discrimination against transgender people. HB2 supporters also opposed the new bill, arguing that it abandons the privacy protections for women and children in the original legislation.

Hendersonville Rep. Chuck McGrady was deeply involved in the extensive negotiations on the HB2 compromise. You can find an interview with him on the issue here.

In other news of interest to WNC environmentalists –

State hosts public meeting in Asheville on Duke Energy’s coal ash plans

What to Know About Trump’s Order to Dismantle the Clean Power Plan

Despite renewable energy’s impressive gains, NC lawmakers move to limit it


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 and Asheville Citizen-Times present ‘Before We Burn Again: A Panel on the Future of Wildfires in WNC’

MountainTrue and Asheville Citizen-Times present ‘Before We Burn Again: A Panel on the Future of Wildfires in WNC’

MountainTrue and Asheville Citizen-Times present ‘Before We Burn Again: A Panel on the Future of Wildfires in WNC’

Asheville, NC — MountainTrueMountainTrue and Asheville Citizen-Times team up to present “Before We Burn Again: A Panel on the Future of Wildfires in WNC” at Highland Brewing Company on Monday April 3 from 5-8 p.m. This is a free event, RSVP today: http://bit.ly/BeforeWeBurnAgain

Last year (2016), the Southeast experienced a historic wildfire season. Wildfires raged across north Georgia, eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Firefighters from 21 states converged on the region to combat fires that ultimately burned 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 and threatened homes and human development.

Sponsored by French Broad Chocolates, Highland Brewing Co. and NOC — Nantahala Outdoor Center, this special event brings together leading experts in the fields of wildfire management, fire ecology, climate change and community planning to discuss the dangers and ecological benefits of wildfire, critical issues at play in last year’s historic wildfire season and appropriate, proactive responses and strategies to manage future wildfire phenomena, mitigate threats and economic impacts, and save human lives.

What: “Before We Burn Again: A Panel on the Future of Wildfires in WNC”
Who: Presented by MountainTrue and the Asheville Citizen-Times and sponsored by French Broad Chocolates, Highland Brewing Co. and NOC — Nantahala Outdoor Center
Where: Highland Brewing Company, 12 Old Charlotte Highway, Asheville, NC 28803
When: Monday, April 3, 2017, 5-8 p.m.

For details and to RSVP: http://bit.ly/BeforeWeBurnAgain

Expert Panelists:

Dr. Steve Norman, a research ecologist with US Forest Service Southern Research Station in Asheville, will discuss how climate and drought influence forests and wildfires in the Southern Appalachians. Steve earned his Ph.D. from Penn State where he studied how fire-climate relationships functioned over centuries in California based on evidence from fire scars in tree rings. In North Carolina, his more recent research has involved tracking spring and fall phenology from satellite, understanding drought impacts to forests, documenting the seasonality of eastern fire regimes, and addressing the tradeoffs of wildland fire management.

Adam Warwick is the fire and stewardship manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Southern Blue Ridge Program in Asheville and will discuss forest and wildfire management practices. At the Nature Conservancy, Adam manages a 15-person fire crew and about 12,000 acres in western North Carolina. He is from east Tennessee and holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from University of Tennessee and a Master of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri. Adam has close to 15 years of experience monitoring wildlife and conserving habitats on public and private lands. Adam is an expert in using fire through controlled burning to perpetuate fire-dependent plant and animals throughout northern Florida and the Southern Appalachians.

Dr. Katie Greenberg, research ecologist with the USFS Southern Research Station at Bent Creek Experimental Forest, will discuss how fire affects wildlife and habitats in hardwood forests.  Katie’s research focuses on how natural or anthropogenic disturbances such fire, regeneration harvests, or windstorms affect forests, wildlife communities, and their food resources such as native fruits and acorns. Katie holds a Master of Science in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Tennessee, and a PhD in Wildlife Ecology and a minor in Plant Ecology, from the University of Florida.  She has co-edited books on early successional habitats, and natural disturbances in hardwood forests.

Joan Walker is the campaigns director with MountainTrue and will discuss appropriate actions that communities, businesses and individuals can take to lower risks and exposure to wildfire. Joan earned her Master’s Degree in Geography with a focus on urban and regional planning from Appalachian State University. She is a contributing author to “Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future,” an American Planning Association report which focused on integrating climate change and energy issues into planning practice. Joan has worked as a building codes consultant and clean energy advocate with the NC Sustainable Energy Association and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and served as an energy fellow with UNC Asheville. Joan also currently serves on the Buncombe County Planning Board where she strives to incorporate sustainability and social equity into local planning policy.

Our Sponsors:

French Broad Chocolates, Asheville-based makers of sustainable bean-to-bakery chocolate, will provide hot chocolate and a dessert bar featuring their Highland Mocha Stout Cupcakes — a collaboration with Highland Brewing Company — and more. Additional food, beer and beverages will be available for purchase from Highland Brewing Company. Attendees will also have the opportunity to win two (2) Adventure Passes from Nantahala Outdoor Center valued at $79.99 each. The Nantahala Adventure Pass is hands-down the best value for a full day of outdoor fun. Combine four of NOC’s most popular activities — guided whitewater rafting on the crystal clear Nantahala river, Fontana Lake kayak and stand up paddleboards rentals, the Zip Line Adventure Park and mountain biking.

General admission is a suggested minimum donation of $10.

MountainTrue members get free admission.

For details and to RSVP: http://bit.ly/BeforeWeBurnAgain


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.

Tell Congress to Take AmeriCorps Off the Chopping Block

Tell Congress to Take AmeriCorps Off the Chopping Block

Tell Congress to Take AmeriCorps Off the Chopping Block

Meet Laura McPherson, Mary Kate Dodge and Jack Henderson, MountainTrue’s hardworking and dedicated AmeriCorps.

 

IMG_0582

Mary Kate Dodge (L) and Laura McPherson (R)

Laura McPherson is our Forest Keeper. She combats non-native invasive plant species and restores native plant habitats by coordinating and leading volunteer work days and invasive species educational programs. Mary Kate Dodge is our Outings and Outreach Coordinator; she helps organize our educational events and helps us raise awareness about the work we do protecting Western North Carolina’s environment. Jack Henderson is our Water Quality Administrator and runs our river cleanups and water testing and monitoring programs.

Their work is critical to our mission.

Each year, AmeriCorps Project Conserve places more than three dozen dedicated members with local environmental nonprofits. Since its inception, 268 members have served 455,600 hours, increasing community understanding of conservation and the environment and creating sustainable improvements to at-risk ecosystems in our communities.

Jack Henderson (center) with a group of volunteers after a river cleanup.

Jack Henderson (center) with a group of volunteers after a river cleanup.

The federal agency that supports the AmeriCorps service program — The Corporation for National & Community Service — is at risk! It is one of 18 agencies that are recommended for elimination in the White House’s recent budget proposal.

Please take a moment to call your Congress members and let them know that AmeriCorps is making a difference in our community.

NC Senator Richard Burr (202) 224-3154
NC Senator Thom Tillis (202) 224-6342
NC Representative Mark Meadows (202) 225-6401
NC Representative Patrick McHenry (202) 225-2576
Click here to find your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/senators_cfm.cfm
Click here to find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/


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.

Photos from Our SMIE Water Quality Training in Henderson Co.

Photos from Our SMIE Water Quality Training in Henderson Co.

SMIE 1On Saturday, March 11, MountainTrue held our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) bio-monitoring training at Blue Ridge Community College.

MountainTrue volunteers monitor stream health throughout Henderson County and go out into the field to do bio-monitoring twice per year, in April and October. Through the SMIE bio-monitoring program, we sample aquatic macro-invertebrates, or aquatic insects, as indicators of water quality. Bugs tell us a lot about the health and vitality of our rivers and streams.

Participants learned basic stream ecology, how to identify aquatic macro-invertebrates, why macro-invertebrates are terrific indicators of water quality, and the sampling protocol. The event was led by MountainTrue Water Quality Administrator Jack Henderson and volunteer members of the Clean Water Team.

After a morning classroom session, the class headed out to the Big Hungry River field side, where participants got to put their newly learned sampling methods and identification knowledge to practice.

Thank you to Blue Ridge Community College for hosting!



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.

Flowers in February: WNC’s Changing Climate

Flowers in February: WNC’s Changing Climate

Flowers in February: WNC’s Changing Climate

It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day in Western North Carolina. Maybe you’re out for a hike or first-of-the-year paddle, or getting a head start on your garden by planting those first sweet peas and lettuce seeds. The first days of Spring should be occasion for celebration, but not so this year–because warmer days are coming a full two months earlier than they should. Sometimes the evidence of our shifting climate and the dangers it poses to our natural and human environments is blatant; like the unprecedented wildfires raging through our mountains last summer. So far this year, the effects of global climate change may be more pleasant, but they’re no less damaging; and with the climate-harming policies we’re seeing coming out of the Whitehouse and Congress these days, it seems like there’s no relief in sight.  In the past 30 days 6,096 new daily high temperature records were set over across the U.S., according to the along with 5,174 record warm low temperatures. These swinging temperatures spell possible disaster for fruit growers across the country and Western North Carolina, as we can typically expect freezes until May 15 Local farmer Janet Peterson of Cloud 9 Farm in Fletcher is being impacted by the changing climate year round:

“We’re still feeling the effects from the drought that started last year, we just haven’t gotten enough rain. Last year I lost about 1/3 of the blueberries I planted to drought. Right now my blueberries are 3 weeks ahead of schedule; they’ve come out of dormancy and buds are swelling and I have to start watering them much earlier than normal. We received a grant to extend our irrigation system for raspberries through the WNC Ag Options because a wet March just isn’t happening.”

And it’s not just her crops that are disrupted by the early Spring.

“The honeybees are also coming out of dormancy several weeks early due to the warm weather, and there’s not enough food out for them as many flowers aren’t blooming. They’re out flying on these warm days gathering Maple pollen and eating up their winter stores, so I’m having to feed some of my bees.  I’m even hearing reports of bees swarming to start new hives, which shouldn’t be happening until April and I’ve never heard of it this early.” 

Scientists have long agreed that climate change is happening now, and is being caused by human activity; namely the large-scale burning of fossil fuels for energy. The Southeast is an epicenter for climate change impacts, from 1980-2012 our region has experienced more billion-dollar weather disasters than the rest of the country combined: Drought, hurricanes, record rainfall, heat waves and the associated flooding, crop loss, property damage, wildfires and loss of human life. Scientists are also very clear  that unless we curb the amount of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, things are only going to get worse. Storms and droughts will be more extreme, our farmers will no longer be able to grow the crops they’re used to and we’ll start losing serious ground in our coastal cities to sea level rise. It’s likely that if we don’t reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from 400 parts per billion to around 350 ppb, we risk “triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control”. While we can all take individual steps to lower our carbon footprint, the magnitude of change needed to avoid global climate disaster will require significant commitments from industrialized countries to move toward fossil-free means of power generation. Many world leaders have risen to the occasion, making serious commitments to energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy and backing those commitments up with investments to drive quick growth in the clean energy sector. The United States, unfortunately, has lagged behind and the current Administration and Congress are poised to widen the gap and put us further behind in the struggle to maintain a livable planet.  At a time when we need visionary leadership to avoid more climate disasters, our Representatives are putting forth bills like H.R. 637 “Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017“, that prevents the EPA from regulating climate change-causing greenhouse gasses by stating they are not air pollutants and requires the EPA to analyze the net impact of regulations on employment. This scare-tactic rationale pitting the economy against the environment is downright wrong: economists have found no clear evidence that regulations have a net negative effect on jobs and have actually found that the economic value health and other benefits of protecting our air and water quality, not to mention stabilizing the climate, far outweigh the costs. More now than ever, we all have a duty to call out to our lawmakers that climate change is real, it’s happening now, and we’re all going to all going to pay the price. 


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.