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

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!

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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.

Flying Through the Trees with Navitat

Flying Through the Trees with Navitat

Flying Through the Trees with Navitat


On Friday, May 26, the MountainTrue staff closed the office a little early to embark on an adventure in the trees at Navitat Canopy Adventures. As the guides led the group of MountainTrue staff through the incredible course and sent them (safely) flying from mountain top to mountain top, they also provided the staff with a thorough overview of the local ecology and conservation strategies, which we were thrilled to hear promoted by a like minded company!

MountainTrue loves partnering with local businesses and organizations who are also committed to protecting the beautiful lands of Western North Carolina. MountainTrue’s Public Lands Ecologist Bob Gale presented to the Navitat staff on non-native invasive plants, and the importance of treating them responsibly to encourage and maintain growth of North Carolina’s important native plants. Through this partnership, we were able to enhance Navitat’s already extensive knowledge base on the effects of non-native invasive plants, while Navitat gave MountainTrue staff an unforgettable experience and new perspective of the ecology of the region.  Businesses like Navitat are doing a fantastic job of educating both locals and visitors to Western North Carolina, while giving them an adventurous experience in the trees of Western 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.

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.

The day after The Day

The day after The Day


The day after The Day


If you are like the rest of us here at MountainTrue, you woke up this morning with serious questions about the future – both in Western North Carolina and across the country and the world.

There’s plenty to be concerned about.

For starters, at a time when the natural world – and the scientific literature – is signaling a dangerous acceleration of climate change’s impact, our next president will be a pro-“clean coal” climate-science skeptic who doesn’t have an “Environment” section in his election platform and whose energy policy is, essentially, “Drill, Baby Drill.”

President Obama’s most important domestic climate change policy – the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and its limits on coal-fired power plants – is in serious jeopardy. Regardless of how the Supreme Court settles the upcoming CPP case, Trump’s EPA Administrator has the authority to shut down the program altogether. That is a path he or she will likely undertake, either at President Trump’s direction or by law passed by the Republican-controlled Congress.

U.S. compliance with the world’s agreements on climate is also in question, let alone any new initiatives or American leadership on the issue. And then there are President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, who could usher in a generation of court decisions hostile to environmental regulation.

What’s to be done? We won’t pretend to have any simple answers, but the election results suggest that we will be playing defense for years to come.

We do know, however, that millions of people in this country – and thousands in our communities here in WNC – continue to believe that building a safe, prosperous future for our kids and our grandkids requires that we preserve and protect the natural resources we depend on.  We are even more deeply committed to that work and hope that you will join us in our efforts.

The NC Governor’s Race

If there is a bright spot about Election Day, it has to be the apparent defeat of Governor Pat McCrory.  Assuming Roy Cooper’s win is confirmed byrecount, his victory in a state that also supported Trump is a measure of just how wildly – and widely – unpopular McCrory has become. Many will view – correctly – Cooper’s victory as a referendum on HB2, and McCrory’s handling of the law. But our new Governor would be well-advised to recall that his predecessor’s handling of the state’s coal ash crisis, his appointment of ideologues to head important environmental agencies and his minions’ willingness to play politics with the safety of North Carolinians’ drinking water all played a part in the McCrory defeat. North Carolina voters want their government to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. Politicians ignore that basic political reality at their own risk.

Governor Cooper will have his hands full meeting those goals. Both the state House and Senate return with veto-proof majorities, giving the Governor-elect very little leverage to shape or stop anti-environment legislation.

New Faces in Western North Carolina

Western North Carolina will have a number of new representatives in the General Assembly next year. Deanna Ballard was elected to represent Senate District 45, which was held by Senator Dan Soucek until he resigned in April. This district covers Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell and Watauga counties. MountainTrue members have had two productive meetings with Sen. Ballard, and we have found her to be open to our concerns and respectful of our positions. We look forward to continuing to work with her.

Chuck Edwards was elected to represent Senate District 48, which includes southern Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties. This seat was previously held by Senator Tom Apodaca. Edwards had a very friendly meeting with a group of MountainTrue members during the summer. He told us that he sees no conflict in being a Republican and caring about the environment. He pledged to be a legislator with the same approach to environmental policy as Rep. Chuck McGrady.

Kevin Corbin and Cody Henson were also elected to represent our area in the House of Representatives. Corbin will represent House District 120, which includes Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties, while Henson will cover District 113, including Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. MountainTrue members have already met with both Corbin and Henson, and we will continue to build these relationships and educate them about environmental concerns and opportunities.

Among the WNC legislative races involving incumbents, Democratic Rep. John Ager defeated his GOP opponent, Frank Moretz, to return to the legislature for a second term. Two-term GOP incumbent Rep. Michele Presnell held off a tough challenge from Democrat Rhonda Schandevel and GOP Senator Jim Davis will return to the legislature for a fourth term after defeating challenger Democrat Jane Hipps.

Of course, a whole host of WNC legislators has been re-elected to serve in Raleigh. These include Republican representatives Josh Dobson, Chuck McGrady, and GOP Senator Ralph Hise. Among WNC Democrats, Reps. Brian Turner and Susan Fisher return to the General Assembly, along with Senator Terry Van Duyn.

At the time of this writing, Republican challenger Mike Clampitt of Bryson City apparently unseated Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen –who represents Jackson, Haywood and Swain counties. Look for Queen to request a recount on the race, which Clampitt won by a few hundred votes.

What’s Next?

With the election now passed, attention in Raleigh will turn to preparations for a special session on Hurricane Matthew recovery – probably next month – and the 2017 session, which begins January 11.

Here at MountainTrue, we are preparing for both sessions – look for another update soon about our plans for the General Assembly and how you can help ensure our elected officials do the right thing by our mountain communities.

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Most of the information in these alerts will NOT be available in other MountainTrue publications, so if you’re a WNC political junkie or policy wonk, these emails are for you.


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.