MT Raleigh Report: Two Good News Appointments, What’s Next at the General Assembly

MT Raleigh Report: Two Good News Appointments, What’s Next at the General Assembly

MT Raleigh Report: Two Good News Appointments, What’s Next at the General Assembly

How about a little bit of good news to start the New Year? 

In case you missed it, two of North Carolina’s environmental leaders got new, high profile jobs recently. 

First, Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) Michael S. Regan was appointed by President-Elect Joe Biden to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Prior to leading NC DEQ, Secretary Regan led clean energy expansion programs at the Environmental Defense Fund, and also served as an air quality expert at the EPA for almost a decade. You might remember that Secretary Regan also received hundreds of public comments from MountainTrue members and our allies calling for full excavation of North Carolina’s coal ash in 2019 – a decision he ultimately ordered, resulting in the largest coal ash cleanup in US history. 

Based on today’s projected Senate runoff results, it is likely that Regan’s appointment will be approved by the Senate. His appointment to the head of the EPA is important and historic – he would be the first Black man to lead the agency and the second Black leader to ever hold this position. He would guide the agency’s efforts on two enormous tasks: restoring environmental rules and enforcements gutted by the previous administration, and advancing Biden’s goals of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the power sector by 2035.

Additionally, Governor Cooper has appointed Reid Wilson to be Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Department oversees 39 state parks and recreation areas as well as an array of museums, historic sites and cultural organizations and agencies. 

Wilson, who previously served as the Department’s Chief Deputy Secretary, has a long history in conservation including serving as executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), chief of staff to former EPA Administrator Carol Browner and national political director for the Sierra Club. 

Having two supremely qualified North Carolinians from the environmental movement at the top of these agencies should be welcome news to those of us who are concerned about the protection of our land, air and water. We’ll keep you posted on the leadership transition at NC DEQ as Governor Cooper works through the appointment process to fill the void left by Secretary Regan’s departure.

In other news, the 2021 General Assembly convenes on January 13 for a ceremonial session to swear in new members. Then, after a short break, legislators will return to Raleigh on January 27 to begin the real work of the long session. 

Here at MountainTrue we are already holding meetings with legislators throughout the region to go over our – and their – to-do lists for 2021. Look for an overview of MountainTrue’s legislative priorities soon, and thank you for your support!


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.

Call on Congress: Support Major Public Transit Funding in the Emergency COVID-19 Aid Package

Call on Congress: Support Major Public Transit Funding in the Emergency COVID-19 Aid Package

 

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.

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

 

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.

Take Action: Call On the NC Utilities Commission to Approve the Woodfin Solar Landfill Project!

Take Action: Call On the NC Utilities Commission to Approve the Woodfin Solar Landfill Project!

 

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: First Thoughts on the NC General Assembly Election Results

MT Raleigh Report: First Thoughts on the NC General Assembly Election Results

MT Raleigh Report: First Thoughts on the NC General Assembly Election Results

After millions of dollars in campaign spending, a gazillion political ads and much gnashing of teeth (as well as far too many tweets), the balance of power in the next North Carolina General Assembly is clear. At the state level, all of that politicking has landed us, well, right back where we started.

Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was elected Governor for a second term. And despite many pundits’ predictions to the contrary, Republicans maintained their control of both the state House and the state Senate – but without the veto-proof majorities they enjoyed in the first two years of Cooper’s first term.

So essentially, the elections have given us the same political environment in Raleigh that we’ve had for the last few years. It’s a political arrangement that has produced a good deal of deadlock – on the budget, on Medicaid, and on climate change to name just a few issues – and seems likely to do so again for the next two years.

Unfortunately, the deadlock is likely to get worse. Next year, lawmakers will face a multi-billion dollar shortfall as a result of the pandemic and its impact on the economy. If lawmakers and the Governor could not come to agreement on a budget before the budget crisis, it’s hard to imagine how they will come to agreement on the budget cuts and/or revenue increases that will be necessary to deal with billions in red ink.

On a more positive note, several legislators from WNC who have worked with MountainTrue to help us protect our rivers and streams will return to Raleigh. Senator Chuck Edwards of Henderson County, for example, is the chairman of a key appropriations committee and has helped us secure funding for water quality testing, spill response and expanded public river access for paddlers and other recreation enthusiasts. Likewise Senator Deanna Ballard, who represents counties in the Watauga River basin, has helped us protect and expand access to the river. This has included funding for the Wards Mill Dam removal project. We are also grateful for the return of Representatives John Ager, Brian Turner and Susan Fisher, who have been champions for the French Broad Watershed and MountainTrue’s legislative agenda.

Elsewhere in WNC, however, Representative Ray Russell of Ashe and Watauga Counties and Representative Joe Sam Queen of Haywood, Jackson and Swain – both solid votes for our region’s environment and strong supporters of MountainTrue – were defeated Tuesday.

And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that MountainTrue’s very own Co-Director, Julie Mayfield, is heading to Raleigh in January to represent Buncombe County in the state Senate seat. Julie will fill the seat that was left vacant when former Senator Terry Van Duyn ran for Lieutenant Governor.

That’s probably enough campaign talk for now. Look for updates about MountainTrue’s legislative agenda soon, but until then thank you, again, for your support of our work in WNC and in Raleigh.

District Seat Now Held By Seat Formerly Held By Counties Represented
House 113 Jake Johnson Jake Johnson Henderson, Polk, Transylvania
House 114 Susan C. Fisher Susan C. Fisher Buncombe
House 115 John Ager John Ager Buncombe
House 116 Brian Turner Brian Turner Buncombe
House 117 Tim Moffitt Chuck McGrady Henderson
House 118 Mark Pless Michele Presnell Haywood, Madison, Yancey
House 119 Mike Clampitt Joe Sam Queen Haywood, Jackson, Swain
House 120 Karl Gillespie Kevin Corbin Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon
House 85 Dudley Greene Josh Dobson Avery, McDowell, Mitchell
House 93 Ray Pickett Ray Russell Ashe, Watauga
Senate 45 Deanna Ballard Deanna Ballard Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes
Senate 47 Ralph Hise Ralph Hise Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey
Senate 48 Chuck Edwards Chuck Edwards Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania
Senate 49 Julie Mayfield Terry Van Duyn Buncombe
Senate 50 Kevin Corbin Jim Davis Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain

 


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: First Thoughts on the NC General Assembly Election Results

MT Raleigh Report: Time To Vote Early & Planning For Our 2021 Agenda

MT Raleigh Report: Time To Vote Early & Planning For Our 2021 Agenda

Debates, town halls, early voting, campaign ads and voting rights lawsuits – the election season is at its height! So if you don’t have a plan for voting, now is the time to make one. This is a great week to participate in early in-person voting, which allows you to register or update your voter registration and vote at the same time. Remember that you can vote at any early voting site within your county during the early voting period, but must go to your assigned polling location if you vote on Election Day. You can find early voting sites within your county if you live in North Carolina here and if you live in Georgia here. For more information on early voting, visit MountainTrue’s 2020 voter information page. 

While we all wait to see the results of the election, MountainTrue has already started our planning for the 2021 General Assembly. Earlier this month, we convened a half-day planning meeting to develop our first draft of ideas to protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources. We’ll spend the next few weeks refining these ideas, take in the results of the election and then finalize our legislative agenda in November. 

Our goal is to spend December and January talking to legislators – and to members like you – to build support for our 2021 priorities so we can hit the ground running when the legislature begins its 2021 efforts in January. While our to-do list for next year is still being developed, look for proposals to keep our rivers and streams clean, to improve enforcement of water pollution rules and to fund new investments in paddle trails and public access to our most popular rivers and streams. 

Thank you for supporting MountainTrue, and happy voting!


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.

October 2020 E-Newsletter

October 2020 E-Newsletter

October 2020 E-Newsletter

To get this in your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter here.


October 14, 2020

 

If You Can, Vote Early!

Early in-person voting in North Carolina starts tomorrow and lasts until October 31. In Georgia, early voting began on Monday and will last until October 30. No matter where you live, we encourage you to vote early if you can. Here are some other tips to make sure your voting experience goes as smoothly as possible:

  • While the first day of early voting tends to be pretty busy, the first week of early voting should be your best bet to avoid crowds. Try to arrive in the morning if you can.
  • Wear your mask and practice social distancing.
  • If you see anything unusual or have problems voting, immediately report it to election staff on site and call the voter protection hotline: 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683). It’s against the law to intimidate voters or interfere with the voting process.

For more information, visit our 2020 voting page here.

Happy voting!

 

Announcing Our 2020 MountainTrue Award Winners!

We’re honored to be recognizing five critical MountainTrue supporters next week at our Virtual Annual Gathering: Representative Chuck McGrady, Craig Weaver, Joan Parks, Maureen Linneman and Suzanne Hale. Click here to read more about the great work these folks have done on behalf of a healthy environment over the years, and click here to register to attend the Annual Gathering on October 21 and celebrate them in real time. We hope to see you there!

 

Support MountainTrue and Enter to Win a Handcrafted Paddle!


We’re excited to announce a raffle drawing for a handmade, one-of-a-kind wooden paddle crafted by your Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell! The winner will be announced at our Virtual Annual Gathering on October 21. You can get one entry ticket for $10 or three tickets for $20, and all funds raised will support the work and programs of MountainTrue. Enter today for your chance to win one of these beautiful paddles!

 

MountainTrue Members Successfully Defend Solar Projects On Asheville City Schools!

Last Monday, October 5, the Asheville City School Board made a surprise decision to no longer pursue nine solar panel installations on city school properties. The projects in question were among the 40 solar projects approved by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners this summer, which MountainTrue members advocated fiercely in support of.

Even though it was a long shot, last week we decided to do everything we could to try to save these solar projects and get the school board members to change their minds. Since the County was closing on the financials for all of the solar projects this Monday, October 12, the school board had to make its decision by last Friday – leaving a very short timeframe to reverse the decision. But when we called, you answered, and MountainTrue supporters sent over 250 messages to the school board calling for them to reverse their vote on the solar panels in only two days. As a result, the school board convened an emergency meeting last Friday afternoon and approved eight of the nine solar installations. Thanks to everyone who made this quick turn of events to support solar energy possible!

 

Local Residents Fend Off the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

We’re so excited to share the good news that developer SE Asphalt has withdrawn their application to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners requesting rezoning to allow construction of an industrial asphalt plant in East Flat Rock! We are confident that the pressure applied by concerned residents like you raising your voices in opposition to this dangerous proposal is what resulted in this victory for our community. Together we have proven, yet again, that engaged citizens can and do make change for the better in our communities. Huge thanks to the Friends of East Flat Rock and everyone that spoke out in opposition of this project.

 

Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) Biomonitoring Is Underway

Students from Gardner-Webb University’s Animal Physiology class join our macroinvertebrate sampling on the Broad River.

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, our fall season of Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) biomonitoring is underway. Benthic macroinvertebrates, also known as water bugs, tell us a lot about water quality in our rivers because different species have various levels of tolerance to pollution.

Students from Gardner-Webb University’s Animal Physiology class recently joined Water Quality Administrator Grace Fuchs and Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell on the Broad River in Boiling Springs to sample macroinvertebrates. If you’d like to get involved as a volunteer with this program, reach out to Grace at wqa@mountaintrue.org.

 

Broad Riverkeeper and Appalachian State University Partner to Study Heavy Metal Pollution

For over a decade, fishermen in our region have been concerned about the contamination of game fish in the Broad River due to discharges from industrial operations. To assess the level of contamination, a team of Ecotoxicology students from Appalachian State University have sampled for heavy metal contamination on the Broad over the past few years – revealing that almost all of the fish and water samples taken downstream of industrial polluters have elevated amounts of arsenic, lead, zinc, selenium and chromium.

To continue this research, Appalachian State University’s Ecotoxicology team came down to the Broad River again last month and spent three days taking water, sediment and fish tissue samples on 30 miles of the Broad River. The team has now collected over 120 samples that will be processed and analyzed for the presence of 20 different heavy metals. The results of this study are important to help determine safe fish consumption rates, and to help the Department of Health & Human Services issue fish consumption advisories if needed.

 

Inaugural Union County Environmental Awareness Day Was a Success

Students checked out our Native Tree ID Scavenger Hunt at the first ever Union County Environmental Awareness Day.

Western region staff had a great morning at Meeks Park on the inaugural Union County Environmental Awareness Day! We had visits and meaningful conversations with many Union County residents about water quality, recreational safety, native and invasive plants and MountainTrue’s work. Several people enjoyed a nature walk with Tony on one of the many park trails, and five homeschool students and their teachers participated in the Native Tree ID Scavenger Hunt. We hope to make future celebrations of the environment on this day bigger and better! Mark your calendars now for October 1, 2021!

 

10th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup Is Happening November 7

Although we’re changing things up a bit to keep people safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup will proceed on the first Saturday in November in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The event will again kick off at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion at 9 AM. After signing waivers, volunteers will be assigned to specific areas of the lake to clean up trash, as usual. Bags, gloves, coffee and grab-n-go breakfast snacks will be available, but we ask volunteers not to congregate in the pavilion this year before heading out to their assigned site.

Also new this year, we are encouraging everyone to register in advance by noon on the Friday before the cleanup to make the site assignments easier for event organizers. When registering it is important to verify the number of vehicles as well as the number of people in your group, so that we can assign volunteers to clean up areas with enough parking for them. We ask that participants do not carpool with others outside of their families for this year’s event. As in prior years, volunteers will leave trash piled up near the entrance to the assigned site for pickup by the big truck toward the end of the event.

We will not gather for awards after the cleanup this year; however, your team can still win prizes for your good work! Just be sure to take photos and send them to callie@mountaintrue.org for a chance to win. More details on the categories and prizes will be available at the event. Since we had a light turnout last year due to very cold temperatures, We hope to see lots of registrations coming in for the event this year!

 

Fall Native Tree Sale Ongoing Through November 4

Orders are still being taken for the Native Tree and Shrub Sale through November 4! Choose from 36 species of native trees and shrubs ranging from large shade trees to native ornamental shrubs while supplies last. Descriptions for the various plants indicate that there are good pollinator and wildlife species on the list. All plants are quality nursery stock ranging in size from one to three gallon potted trees.

You must pay for the order at the time you submit it and pick up your plants from our Western Regional Office parking lot in Murphy, NC on Saturday, November 14 between 9AM and 1PM. Why so late? The dormant season is the best time to plant woody trees and shrubs so that they can develop a strong root system before putting energy into flowers, leaves and fruit in the spring.

Place your plant order today!

 

 

2021 Watershed Gala: February 25, 2021

Save the date of February 25, 2021 at 6 PM for the first ever virtual Watershed Gala! Yes, we are disappointed too, but the difficult decision had to be made. The team agreed that too much is still up in the air related to the pandemic to count on being able to gather 200 people for an indoor meal in February. We’re working hard to make sure it’s still going to be fun – and you’ll want to celebrate our Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner with us!

We are also planning an online auction fundraiser that will start on February 15 and run through the evening event on February 25. More details will be rolling out soon. In the meantime, please consider what you might be able to donate or recruit for the auction and email callie@mountaintrue.org about your ideas.

 

Update on Pollution from The Ponds Sewage Plant

Water samples in our lab.

After identifying a significant source of pollution stemming from a deteriorating private sewage plant on the Watauga River, our Watauga Riverkeeper program has continued to monitor the area and follow up with the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). “DEQ found multiple sources of regulatory non-compliance such as corroded leaking pipes, inactive overflow alarm systems, and uncontrolled solids buildup,” said High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn. “Overall, the facility shows a serious lack of regular maintenance and a significant threat to water quality on the Watauga River.”

As a result of our diligent sampling, the plant is now receiving fines and notices of violations, and has been required to make repairs to fix their failing infrastructure. Thanks to all our members who make this work possible.

 

High Country Swim Guide Season Wraps Up

The results are in! Our top 3 cleanest sites are Watauga Point, Wilbur Dam and Wildcat Lake. The three sites that failed the most frequently this summer were Boone Greenway, Guy Ford Road, and WR 321 Gorge Access. The sampling season is over for now, but we will start back up in May. Thank you to our wonderful team of volunteers that makes this program possible!

 

Calling All Volunteers For Our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) Program in the High Country!

We’re starting a Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program in the High Country! The SMIE program mobilizes volunteers to check our local waterways for the presence of macroinvertebrates (also known as bugs). Since the presence of certain bugs in streams tells us a lot about the health of those waters, this is a useful metric that we plan to collect, analyze and share widely. Within MountainTrue, we will join our Green Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper and Broad Riverkeeper programs in collecting these samples in October and April. We’ll distribute new data on the High Country’s waters to the Environmental Quality Institute in Asheville, the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources, partner organizations and the public.

If you’re willing to get out in a stream on one or two weekends this October, click here for more info!

 


Events Calendar

September 21-November 4: 2020 Fall Native Tree & Shrub Sale
Once again, our Western Regional Office is holding a native tree and shrub sale to raise awareness about the resilient plants that are native to the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains and to raise some funding for our ongoing non-native invasive plant eradication efforts. Orders must be picked up from the parking lot of our Western Regional Office in Murphy.

October 17, 9AM-4PM: Fall Scenic Hike
Join MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, for a gorgeous and educational hike on the Pilot Cove Loop Trail through Pisgah National Forest. This hike offers breathtaking views of the fall foliage, and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch glimpses of the monarch butterfly migration.

October 17, 10 AM-5PM: Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) Training
Interested in helping preserve our waterways? Then join us for our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) training to learn how to safely examine macroinvertebrates in order to determine stream health. The rain date for this training is October 31.

October 18, 1-4PM: Broad River Race Day
Join us for the 2nd annual Broad River Race Day! We welcome folks to race at their own pace and enjoy five miles on the most beautiful stretch of the Broad River. Remember, the hare may not outrun the tortoise!

October 21, 6-7PM: Virtual Annual Member Gathering
For this year’s Annual Member Gathering, we’ll be gathering virtually on Zoom to celebrate recent accomplishments and honor recipients of this year’s MountainTrue awards – such as it is in 2020!

October 28, 12PM-1PM: MountainTrue University: Recycling & Waste Diversion
Tune in for this discussion on municipal recycling and waste diversion programs in WNC with MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, Gray Jernigan, and Henderson County Environmental Programs Coordinator, Christine Wittmeier. They will cover what materials can and cannot be recycled, logistical challenges with recycling vendors, local and global markets and more.

November 1, 10AM-2PM: Microplastics Volunteer Program
We’re hosting this training for volunteers who can collect water samples from the river every month going forward that we will test for the presence of microplastics. If you’re willing and able to collect small amounts of river water each month, rain or shine, we would appreciate your help!

November 7, 9-11:30AM: Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup
MountainTrue will host the 11th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The event will kick off at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion with breakfast and coffee, and volunteer coordinators will lead teams of 5-10 to clean up designated trash sites along the shores of Lake Chatuge. We’ll meet back at the swim beach pavilion at 11:30 for prizes.

November 7, 10AM-2PM: High Country Live Staking Event
Reduce the amount of sediment that flows into our rivers by planting live-stakes along eroding riverbanks with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill.

November 9, 3-4PM: MountainTrue University: Fish Tissue Sampling Project
For years, students from Appalachian State University and our Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell have taken fish tissue samples in the Broad River to assess the presence of heavy metals in the water. In our latest installment of MountainTrue University, tune in for a discussion between our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn and our Broad Riverkeeper David about their ongoing studies and efforts to raise awareness for communities affected by heavy metal pollution.

November 10, 12PM-1PM: Building Our City Speaker Series: How Accessory Dwelling Units Can Meet Housing Needs
What is an accessory dwelling? Although many people have never heard the term, the greater Asheville area is speckled with examples of these creative ways to foster aging in place. In partnership with AARP NC, Building Our City is excited to present this virtual tour of accessory dwelling units in our community and teach more about this concept.

November 12, 6-7PM: Virtual Green Drinks with French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson
Virtual Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes MountainTrue’s very own French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson to discuss the many issues plaguing the French Broad River and what’s being done to combat them. We can and need to do more to make sure we finally meet the goals of the Clean Water Act to provide fishable and swimmable river access to all.


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.

2020 MountainTrue Award Winners

2020 MountainTrue Award Winners

2020 MountainTrue Award Winners

MountainTrue is proud to announce and recognize our 2020 Award Winners! Please join us at our Virtual Annual Gathering on October 21 to honor and celebrate these deserving individuals.

2020 Esther Cunningham Award: Representative Chuck McGrady

MountainTrue presents this award annually in the name of Esther Cunningham, a Macon County resident whose concern for our region’s environment prompted her to found the Western North Carolina Alliance (one of the organizations that merged to become MountainTrue). The award is presented to a MountainTrue member who has demonstrated outstanding community service in conserving our natural resources, and we are beyond honored to recognize a lifetime of service to environmental conservation and protection to this year’s awardee Representative Chuck McGrady.

  • 2010-2020: Served in the NC House of Representatives for the 117th District
  • 2004-2010: Served on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners
  • Served as the national president of the Sierra Club
  • First Executive Director of ECO, the Environmental & Conservation Organization of Henderson County
  • Longtime member and supporter of ECO and then MountainTrue
  • Spearheaded passage of the nationally groundbreaking 2014 coal ash bill that has since resulted in the excavation of every coal ash basin in North Carolina
  • Consistently the strongest Republican voice for funding the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund
  • Led efforts to create DuPont State Recreational Forest and advance state trail legislation
  • Secured renewed funding for the landslide hazard mapping program for Western North Carolina and new funding for hemlock restoration and environmental education

 

Central Region Volunteer of the Year: Maureen Linneman

  • Longtime Steering Team Member for the Creation Care Alliance
  • Leader and Co-Founder of Creation Care Eco-Grief Circles
  • Leads hikes and other experiences for CCA supporters
  • Has raised CCA’s voice at climate protests and rallies
  • Lifelong climate activist

 

 

Southern Region Volunteer of the Year: Suzanne Hale

  • Founder of Creation Care Alliance Leadership Team in Hendersonville
  • Serves on both the Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway and the Hendersonville Green Drinks Steering Committee
  • Supports various MountainTrue and Creation Care Alliance events through promotions, event planning, on site volunteering, and fundraising

 

 

 

High Country Region Volunteer of the Year: Craig Weaver

  • Volunteers supporting clean water through both our VWIN and SwimGuide programs in the High Country
  • Has been actively engaged through advocacy on the Beech Mountain Water Grab Campaign

 

 

Western Region Volunteer of the Year: Joan Parks

  • Connected MountainTrue with the Tuckasegee River Alliance for a meaningful partnership on developing the riverside park in Bryson City
  • Longtime supporter of all MountainTrue’s various programs
  • High engagement point earner for submitting many action alerts, attending multiple events and volunteering

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.

Protect Solar Panels at Asheville City Schools. Call For The School Board To Say Yes To Solar Now.

Protect Solar Panels at Asheville City Schools. Call For The School Board To Say Yes To Solar Now.

 

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.

September 2020 E-Newsletter

September 2020 E-Newsletter

September 2020 E-Newsletter

To get this in your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter here.


September 17, 2020

 

Make Sure Your Vote Counts This Fall


The fate of North Carolina’s environment will be heavily impacted by the General Election, and the pandemic and possible delays in the postal system create unique challenges for voting this year. To make sure your vote is counted, we’re asking you to make sure your voter registration is up to date and to cast your vote as soon as possible.

In North Carolina, October 9 is the deadline to update your registration online or by mail. Make sure you and your friends and family are registered by then. Online voter registration is available and free through the DMV website here, or you can fill out a registration form here to submit by mail or drop off directly at your local Board of Elections office.

Not sure if your registration is current? Check your voter registration status by entering your name in the NC voter lookup tool. You can also register for the first time or update your registration and vote all at once during the Early Voting period from October 15-31.

 

RSVP for MountainTrue’s Virtual Annual Gathering!

For this year’s Annual Member Gathering, we’ll be gathering virtually on Zoom to celebrate recent accomplishments and honor recipients of this year’s MountainTrue awards – such as it is in 2020! While we wish we could all be in person to celebrate, we sincerely hope you will join us for this hour-long program. Following the program, there will be optional small group discussions with fellow members and MountainTrue staff on issues like the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan, stormwater infrastructure and solar energy. RSVP today to come together!

 

MountainTrue Launches New Web Resource on Racial Equity

Flint residents protest outside of the Michigan State Capital in January 2016. Photo by Shannon Nobles

Like many organizations, MountainTrue is taking a hard look at the role we should play in the national dialogue on race and equity. We’re evaluating our current suite of programs to see where we can create more intersections on issues of environmental justice and where we can better partner with communities of color. And in order to help dismantle the existing framework of systemic racism, we’re exploring how we can address discrimination outside of the narrow confines of traditional environmental advocacy. We’ll be documenting this work, discussing environmentalism in the context of race, and hosting virtual, small group discussions on a new section of our website. We invite you to check it out at mountaintrue.org/equity

 

MountainTrue Calls For Duke’s 15-Year Energy Plan To Address Climate Change, Protect Low-Income Ratepayers

This month, Duke Energy released its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which presents six scenarios for how Duke Energy may source energy over the next fifteen years. Most of the scenarios lock in decades of coal or gas production, and we believe the plan’s consideration of renewable energy sources creates a false dichotomy between transitioning to renewable energy and protecting ratepayers from rising costs. MountainTrue is part of a statewide coalition calling for the NC Utilities Commission to approve an IRP with these 10 principles for the sake of our climate and communities.

“The wildfires and bright orange skies on the West Coast are a sobering reminder that devastating impacts of climate change are already happening,” says MountainTrue’s Energy Organizer Eliza Stokes. “It is urgent that Duke Energy gets serious about using their power to reach 100% renewable energy in North Carolina in the time frame that climate science requires.” Read more on the Blue Ridge Public Radio website here.

 

Take Action: Call On Congress to Include Stormwater Infrastructure Funding in Stimulus Package

As Congress deliberates on additional economic relief efforts, we are calling on our region’s elected officials to support funding for expanded stormwater infrastructure. In the process, Congress can create new green jobs, protect our rivers and help preserve recreation-based economies all at once.

Our nation’s stormwater and sewer infrastructure is in desperate need of modernization, especially in the face of heavier rain events due to climate change. Join MountainTrue in calling for Congress to triple its annual appropriations for the Clean Water State Revolving Funds and explore additional investments in our nation’s drinking water and sewer infrastructure systems.

Public Comments Win A Stormwater Task Force For Asheville

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson takes water samples at Nasty Branch in Asheville’s Southside Neighborhood. Photo by Karim Olaechea.

The French Broad River is dirty and only getting dirtier. Due in large part to failing sewer and septic systems that overflow during storms, the French Broad has consistently seen high levels of E. coli – a type of bacteria found in human and animal waste. More than half the sites we tested in the French Broad Watershed last year failed to meet the safe standard for E. coli held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and this year none of Asheville’s sites met the safety standard on average. The worst results were at Nasty Branch, which receives over half of downtown Asheville’s stormwater and flows through the historically African-American Southside neighborhood before discharging into the French Broad.

To address these problems, we launched a campaign calling on the City of Asheville to join local clean water advocates in setting up a Stormwater Task Force. We called for the task force to analyze where and how the City’s sewer and septic systems were failing and to create an action plan to respond. After over 800 people submitted public comments, the City finally agreed.

“We’ve been moving in the wrong direction on water quality for the French Broad River, and things will only get worse as climate change causes heavier and more frequent storms,” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “We hope this task force means the City is ready to take this issue seriously.” MountainTrue will work to ensure that the task force comes up with effective recommendations and that the City follows through on them. To learn more about our next steps for clean water advocacy, visit iloverivers.org.

 

One Step Closer to Fending Off the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

 

The Henderson County Planning Board met on August 20 to consider SE Asphalt’s rezoning application to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single family homes, small farms, and the Green River Game Lands. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents organized as Friends of East Flat Rock oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant, and in a small victory, the board voted to recommend denial of the rezoning request! The application will be heard next by the Henderson County Commissioners on October 1 at 6:00 PM. Keep speaking out!

 

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Blooms in Moss Lake

Moss Lake during normal water conditions (left) compared to the algal bloom (right).

While taking water samples this summer, Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell noticed that Moss Lake was very green and cloudy. He conducted additional tests that showed high dissolved oxygen and pH readings, both of which are indicators of an algal bloom.

The following Monday, David received a call from a Moss Lake resident who had noticed many dead fish in the water. David notified the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and they sent a staff member out to take water samples in and above the lake. DEQ sent reports back confirming that it was a harmful algal bloom. In follow-up conversations after these reports came out, David learned that the same resident who reported the dead fish had noticed similar conditions at the lake at least twice since then, and once with a very foul odor.

As algal blooms become more and more common due to rising temperatures and an increase of nutrients in our waters, Riverkeepers across the state believe that more study and analysis of them must be done. We would also like for the residents at Moss Lake to take more of a lead in identifying and reporting possible algal blooms. Residents should contact DEQ immediately if the water turns really green, because the life cycle of these blooms can be really quick – as short as a couple of days. Read more about algal blooms and the incident at Moss Lake here.

 

First Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament Results

Matthew Frazier, the Broad’s Best Angler of 2020!

Thanks for making our first ever Broad River Fishing Tournament such a great success! We’re excited to announce our first-ever Broad River Fishing Tournament! After 10 days of phenomenal fishing and careful deliberation, the results are in:

Broad’s Best Angler 2020: Matthew Frazier wins with a three fish total of 52 inches combined: 19.5″, 16.5″, and 16″, all smallmouth bass!
2nd Place: Fitz McMurry with 50.5 inches combined with three nice smallmouth bass: 17.5″, 16.5″, and 16.5″!
Biggest Bass: Matthew Frazier: 19.5″ smallmouth bass.
Biggest Panfish and Biggest Catfish: David Caldwell with a 7″ Spotted Sunfish and 11″ Bull Catfish. Can’t beat the Riverkeeper!
Most Unusual Fish: Ladonna Dedmond with a very nice 16″ largemouth bass with a distinctive black stripe.

Well done and congratulations to this year’s expert anglers! Let’s do it again next year!

 

Update on Pollution from Tryon International Equestrian Center

You might recall that this summer, MountainTrue reported severe and illegal sediment pollution flowing from the Tryon International Equestrian Center into White Oak Creek, a tributary of the Green River. On September 2, we followed up by meeting with the President of the equestrian center to discuss their past and ongoing impacts on water quality and measures that need to be implemented to protect clean water. We will also be following up with a site visit at the facility to inspect and assess the existing stormwater management system, discuss necessary improvements and remediation needs and solidify commitments to protect water quality moving forward.

We will continue to hold this polluter and all polluters accountable, and we thank all of our supporters and community members that report pollution issues to us.

 

Sediment Pollution from Poultry Operation in Broad River Watershed Results in Enforcement Action

A concerned resident shows the depth of sediment accumulation from poultry farm construction.

This summer, a concerned resident noticed heavy sediment pollution flowing into a small stream that usually runs clear downstream of the construction site for a new poultry facility in the Broad River Watershed. The resident contacted our Broad Riverkeeper David, who reported the issue to the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). NCDEQ visited the site and issued a Notice of Violation, requiring the company to:

  • Immediately stabilize the site and install proper erosion control measures
  • Explain why adequate sediment and erosion controls were not installed to protect surface waters
  • Explain why culvert installation and stream bank stabilization impacts occurred without prior authorization with 401 WQC and 404 permit
  • Remove all fill material and restore the stream to pre-existing conditions

This is what happens when polluters are held accountable, and why it’s so important for the public to notice and report pollution. If you see something, say something!

 

Welcome Back Grace Fuchs as AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator!


We are so pleased to welcome back Grace Fuchs for a second term as AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator in our Southern Regional Office! Grace did a great job organizing volunteers for our water quality monitoring programs and educating youth about water quality issues, and her perspective has been a huge asset to our team as we’ve adapted our programs over the course of the year. We’re so excited to see what Grace will bring to her second year of service!

 

Fourth Annual Native Tree and Shrub Sale

MountainTrue’s western regional office is holding our 4th Annual Native Tree and Shrub Sale! Choose from 36 species of native trees and shrubs ranging from large shade trees to native ornamental shrubs. Descriptions for the various plants indicate that there are good pollinator and wildlife species on the list. All plants are quality nursery stock ranging in size from one to three gallon potted trees.

Orders are being accepted now through November 4. You must pay for the order at the time you submit it to secure your species and size of choice. Then make plans to pick up your plants from the MountainTrue office parking lot in Murphy, NC on Saturday, November 14 between 9AM and 1PM. Why so late? The dormant season is the best time to plant woody trees and shrubs so that they can develop a strong root system before putting energy into flowers, leaves and fruit in the spring.

Place your plant order today!

 

Conservation of Chestnut Mountain Leads to Plans for a New Park in Haywood County


The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) recently acquired 448 acres of land at Chestnut Mountain in Haywood County that will eventually be turned over to the Town of Canton to manage as a nature park. MountainTrue has served on an advisory committee of community members to help guide this process, including public input. The property, located just a mile east of Canton’s border, features sources of clean water and forested habitat in an important wildlife corridor. One day, this land may also offer an important recreation destination along the proposed Hellbender Regional Trail. Equinox environmental design firm is leading a public input process to help identify the best uses and highest outdoor recreational needs for the area.

 

New Partnership for the Return of Native Plants to Bryson City’s Island Park

The interior of Island Park is covered with a wide variety of nonnative invasive plants, including kudzu.

MountainTrue has recently formed a partnership with the Tuckasegee River Alliance to implement a river park along the Tuckasegee River in Bryson City. Our role is to guide the removal of non-native invasive plants that are covering Island Park and dominating the riparian area along the river downtown, and to return native plant species to these same areas. Our Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward is currently developing a phased implementation plan for this work. Then, later this fall and winter, the Alliance and MountainTrue will jointly host volunteer workdays to start tackling the plant removal and planting. Stay tuned for upcoming dates for work days.

Note: Island Park is currently closed to the public until flood damage repairs and debris removal can be completed.

 


Events Calendar

September 14-20: 33rd Annual Big Sweep
The 33rd annual Big Sweep cleanup has gone virtual and is running until September 20 at 8PM. To participate, pick up trash along your local waterway or neighborhood, and post photos of the trash you collect with the hashtag #WNCBigSweep2020.

September 17, 6 PM: Creation Care Alliance Gathering
All congregations, individuals and clergy are invited to join this virtual gathering to connect with one another, discuss Creation Care concepts  in regionally-based small groups and learn from Asheville Design Center Director Chris Joyell of the Asheville Design Center about urban development, economics and racism.

September 20, 12-6PM: Sarah Sweep
All are welcome to join us to clean up this lovely section of the First Broad River that Sarah Spencer held dear to her heart. Due to COVID-19, you must provide your own shuttle this year.

September 23, 12-1PM: MountainTrue University: Faith, Ecology & Race
Join us for a conversation between Reverend Tami Forte Logan, Missioner of Faith 4 Justice Asheville, and Reverend Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of the Creation Care Alliance. They will explore how each of their programs addresses faith, ecology and race, as well as how their efforts promote justice in our community.

September 26, 9AM-12PM: E-bike Tour of Downtown Asheville
Ride along on our electric bike tour of Asheville led by Chris Joyell, Director of MountainTrue’s Asheville Design Center. As we pass through downtown, the Southside and the River Arts District, Chris will share his extensive knowledge about Asheville’s urban core, including stories of how redlining has shaped our city and the highlights (and lowlights) of Asheville’s bike infrastructure.

September 27, 8-11:30PM: Moonlight Paddle on the Broad River
Join our Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell for a moonlight paddle on a flat water section of the Broad River. As we go, David will talk about the history of the Broad River and his work to protect it. We will start from and return to the same point to avoid the need for shuttling vehicles as a precaution against COVID-19.

Sundays October 4-25, 6:30-8PM: “This Changes Everything” Documentary Study
Land of the Sky United Church of Christ and the Creation Care Alliance are hosting a four-week movie discussion group. We will create community, watch portions of the film and explore connections across economics, climate change, racism and our spiritual lives.

October 8, 6-7PM: Virtual Green Drinks with Danny Bernstein
Virtual Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes author Danny Bernstein to discuss her newest book DuPont Forest, A History. DuPont Forest protects thousands of acres of trees, five lakes and more than 100 miles of multi-use trails. Danny will discuss how it took the generosity of a multinational company, Southern Appalachian grit and local activism to make these benefits available to all.

October 17, 9AM-4PM: Fall Scenic Hike
Join MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, for a gorgeous and educational hike on the Pilot Cove Loop Trail through Pisgah National Forest. This hike offers breathtaking views of the fall foliage, and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch glimpses of the monarch butterfly migration.

October 21, 6-7PM: Virtual Annual Member Gathering
For this year’s Annual Member Gathering, we’ll be gathering virtually on Zoom to celebrate recent accomplishments and honor recipients of this year’s MountainTrue awards – such as it is in 2020!

November 1, 10AM-4PM: Whiterock Mountain Hike
Join us for a hike on the Bartram Trail, one of North Carolina’s premier long distance trails. We’ll tackle a 4.6-mile lightly-trafficked section near Highlands that provides spectacular views into the Tessentee Valley of Macon County. On this stretch we’ll summit Jones Knob and Whiterock Mountain.

November 7, 9-11:30AM: Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup
MountainTrue will host the 11th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The event will kick off at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion with breakfast and coffee, and volunteer coordinators will lead teams of 5-10 to clean up designated trash sites along the shores of Lake Chatuge. We’ll meet back at the swim beach pavilion at 11:30 for prizes.

November 7, 10AM-November 8, 5PM: Overnight Paddle on the Broad River
Join us for an overnight paddle exploring the Broad River as it winds through the foothills of the Blue Ridge. We’ll spend two days on the river and camp for one night on the Broad River Greenway.


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.