MountainTrue 2019 Legislative Agenda

The 2019 session of the North Carolina General Assembly includes opportunities for important progress on a range of environmental issues. As the only Western North Carolina environmental organization with a permanent advocacy effort in Raleigh, MountainTrue will use its presence in the capitol – as well as its substantial grassroots membership – to support a number of important environmental and conservation efforts, including:

Emergency Funding for Petroleum Spills – Last year, MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill discovered a large plume of petroleum pollution on the Watauga and called for state water quality regulators to begin cleanup efforts. But because of restrictions on state cleanup funds, the response was delayed until the source of the pollution could be determined – a process that can take weeks or even months. MountainTrue is advocating for new, unrestricted funding to allow cleanup to begin immediately and reduce the damage petroleum pollution can do to water quality and habitat.

More Water Quality Testing in WNC – Run-off and other pollution can make swimming and playing in many WNC rivers and streams unsafe for adults and children. MountainTrue is asking lawmakers to fund water testing in our mountain rivers and streams so people know when it’s safe to swim. This testing is currently funded for our state’s beaches but not for rivers in Western North Carolina – even though we have some of the most popular water recreation destinations in the Southeast.

Help Small Farmers Protect Water Quality – Simple efforts like fencing can help small farmers reduce their impact on WNC water quality. Unfortunately many small farmers need financial help to implement these kinds of “Best Management Practices,” or BMPs. And while there is current state funding for BMPs, it is not enough to help every willing farmer. MountainTrue will advocate for farmers to get the investments they need to prevent sediment and animal waste from harming rivers and streams.

Protect NC Trout and the WNC Trout Industry Whirling disease is a microscopic parasite that has been found in WNC trout streams. Last year, MountainTrue secured state funding for a study to help understand the threat this parasite poses to the trout industry – which contributes $383 million annually to the region’s economy. MountainTrue will use the results of the study to develop a legislative action plan to address this environmental and economic threat.

Open Space Conservation Funding – Before the Great Recession of 2008, North Carolina was a national leader in protecting and restoring land for recreation, habitat and clean water. Since the recession, funding levels for open space conservation have slowly increased but are still nowhere near their pre-recession levels. MountainTrue will continue to work with others in the conservation community to protect and expand funding for our parks, critical habitat and the health of critical watersheds.

Improve NC Emergency Preparedness – This year’s storms were a wake-up call that all of North Carolina must do more to prepare for extreme weather associated with climate change. MountainTrue will advocate for new policies and investments to prepare for this new reality, including moving agricultural and other industrial polluters out of flood plains and better flood control policies to protect homes and businesses from repeated destruction.

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.