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.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival Postponed to May 11 – Get on the wait list for donated tickets

Wild & Scenic Film Festival Postponed to May 11 – Get on the wait list for donated tickets

Wild & Scenic Film Festival Postponed to May 11 – get on the wait list for donated tickets


With the forecast for tomorrow evening still predicting a lot of rain combined with cold temperatures, we have decided to postpone our Wild & Scenic Film Festival to our rain date of Thursday May 11.

We sincerely hope that you are still able to attend the festival next Thursday evening and apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. The time frame and the program will be exactly the same, simply one week later.

We are accepting donated tickets from those who can not attend the rain date for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Thursday May 11. If you are interested in attending, please add your name to the wait list by filling out the form below. We will contact you if tickets become 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.