Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Help fight a planned mega-development that would be built on 82 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River.

The proposed development would be built on extremely steep slopes, and the developer has not agreed to the higher level of stormwater management at this site that we know is necessary to protect the health of the river.

MountainTrue opposes this project in its current form because of the potential impacts to places we all share like the French Broad River, Richmond Hill Park and roads unsuited for the additional increased traffic. We are partnering with Richmond Hill & River Rescue — a local community group — to oppose this project and we need your help.

 

TAKE ACTION!

The upcoming May Woodfin Planning and Zoning hearing represents the fifth month of active community participation working to oppose the current conditions of the proposal. Let the Town of Woodfin hear from you!

April 20, 6:30 pm: Attend the Woodfin Town Commission Public Meeting to voice your opposition. (Details here.)

May 3, 6:30 pm: Attend the May 3 Woodfin Planning and Zoning Meeting to stand up for public health and safety. (Check here the day of the meeting for the Zoom link and any changes to the agenda.)

Send in your comments before the meeting on April 20 to ask the Woodfin Town Commission to ensure the following:

  1. For this project to move forward in a responsible manner, approval and permits for the construction of a new bridge over the French Broad River must be in hand before the developer breaks ground to reduce neighborhood traffic safety concerns and potential environmental impacts.
  2. The Developer agrees to additional stormwater measures that will protect water quality in the French Broad River.
  3. The Developer agrees to a forested buffer between the new development and the Richmond Hill Neighborhood.
  4. Woodfin’s development ordinances should be updated to ensure that future projects reflect the type of growth that residents want, not just what is easiest and most profitable for developers.

Written comments must be submitted within 24 hours of the April 20th meeting to be considered.

Commission members are: Adrien Isenhower, planning director; Michael Saunders, planning staff; Mayor Jerry Vehaun; Woodfin Commissioners Debbie Glazentanner, Jackie J. Bryson, Donald Honeycutt, Donald Hensley, Ronnie Lunsford, and Jim Angel. Letters for public comment should be sent to clerk@woodfin-nc.gov. Public comment can also be made by calling 828-253-4887.

You can also donate to the Richmond Hill & River Rescue GoFundMe page. All financial contributions will help with the legal costs and hiring the necessary experts to testify against the potential major environmental impacts this mega project would bring. To donate directly through MountainTrue, list your donation as restricted for Richmond Hill & River Rescue. 


POINTS OF IMPACT
and ADDITIONAL TALKING POINTS

The proposal: Strategic Real Investment Partners LLC, a Tampa, Florida-based developer has submitted plans to construct 1,545 luxury residential condo units in Woodfin adjacent to Richmond Hill Park and on the banks of the French Broad River.

  • A massive luxury housing project like this will only make our region even less affordable. Studies show that building new luxury housing pushes up rents in surrounding neighborhoods and increases burdens on lower-income households.
  • Traffic will increase dramatically, affecting safety and planned multimodal improvements. The developer’s own traffic engineers estimate this development will generate well over 10,000 trips a day. These cars would use narrow, winding residential streets and Riverside Drive unless a proposed new bridge over the French Broad River is built.
  • The project could endanger rare salamander species. Neighboring Richmond Hill Park is home to two species designated by North Carolina as of “Special Concern” — the Mole Salamander and the Southern Zigzag Salamander. This property contains similar habitat so these salamanders could be present there as well.  We are unaware of any studies or wildlife inventories done in the project area.
  • The development will pollute the French Broad River. Removing trees and ground cover, grading steep slopes, and paving roads and parking lots will lead to polluted stormwater runoff into the French Broad River.  
  • Increased storm water runoff would endanger river recreation and public health. The project would be just upstream from a proposed $18 million whitewater wave and recreation park — a significant public investment.

The backbone of MountainTrue is member participation. Your membership connects you with vital information, strengthens the MountainTrue voice to policy makers, and financially supports our work.

April 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

April 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

April 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

We’ve Done the DNA Testing, And Now We Know the Sources of E. Coli Pollution

DNA testing conducted by MountainTrue on the French Broad River, one of our region’s most polluted waterways, has confirmed that cattle are the biggest source of E. coli pollution, followed by faulty or inadequate sewer, septic or water treatment infrastructure. Our Swim Guide E. coli testing has documented increasing levels of E. coli, but until now we couldn’t say for certain what the sources of the pollution were. With new, more sophisticated testing, MountainTrue looked at the DNA found in 55 water samples to measure for genetic fingerprints of E. coli from people, cows, dogs, poultry, sheep and swine. Read the press release for a summary of our testing results.

We’re using this data to advocate for science-based policies at the North Carolina General Assembly that would provide financial support to help farmers fence cattle out of streams and property owners fix their septic systems. At the federal level, we’re advocating for major investments in water infrastructure. Learn more and take action here.

Now Hiring: Director of the Creation Care Alliance of WNC

Reverend Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of MountainTrue’s Creation Care Alliance (CCA) program and our beloved colleague, is moving on to a position with the Bethany Fellowship. Scott will always be a part of the MountainTrue family, and that family will soon be getting a little bit bigger as we add another member to the team.

MountainTrue is accepting applications for our next CCA Director until May 5, 2021. You can read the position description and apply here, and you can read Scott’s letter to CCA members announcing his departure here.

The Creation Care Alliance is a network of people of faith and congregations who have united around a moral and spiritual call to preserve the integrity, beauty and health of God’s creation. We work to bring practical and hopeful solutions to our congregations and broader secular communities by engaging hearts and minds through inspiration, education, service and advocacy. For more information: creationcarealliance.org.

American Zinc Products Facility Continues to Pollute the Broad River

WLOS News Investigative Reporter Kimberly King did an excellent job covering ongoing violations by the American Zinc Products facility in Mooresboro in a seven-minute segment that aired on April 7. After seven years in operation and at least 41 violations issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now opened an investigation into the site. Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell has been working on this issue for the past six years, has met with staff at the facility multiple times, and has asked both DEQ and EPA to take action to keep the zinc plant’s pollution under control. Watch the full news story on WLOS.

MountainTrue Helps Lead Bulk Solar Purchasing Effort to Reach 100% Renewable Energy


Members of the Solarize Steering Committee at a press event this April. 

MountainTrue is on the team that launched Solarize Asheville-Buncombe last week – a local bulk-purchasing initiative to increase the amount of solar energy and battery storage in our community.

“The model is similar to buying in bulk at the grocery store for a lower price,” says MountainTrue’s Organizer & Communications Manager Eliza Stokes, who serves on the campaign’s Steering Committee. “The more community members who participate, the cheaper the solar will be.” By reducing barriers to solar, like cost and confusion about where to start, the campaign is making solar more accessible and aims to help Buncombe County get on track to reach our community goal of 100% renewable energy by 2042.

While similar Solarize campaigns have happened all over the country, the Asheville-Buncombe campaign is unique in our focus on equitable job training and additional affordability efforts. Solarize is partnering with Green Opportunities (GO), an Asheville-based workforce development program, to help train residents from marginalized communities to support installation of the campaign’s solar panels.

“Green sector jobs are on the rise, and many positions in this sector are accessible to those with traditional obstacles to employment,” says Ben Williamson, Executive Director of Green Opportunities. “We also know climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color and that increasing access to clean, renewable energy is a step in the right direction in that fight.”

The campaign has also attained funding to help more families afford solar, and is crowdfunding through our “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” program to provide financial support that will make solar accessible to even more people in our community.

To sign up for a free solar building assessment and/or to donate to Solarize’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor financing program, visit solarizeabc.com.

WNC for the Planet Bingo Card

Celebrate Earth Month with MountainTrue and the rest of the WNC for the Planet coalition by playing Earth Month BINGO! The virtual BINGO card features opportunities to engage with our partners through workshops, activities, service and more. Lend a hand cleaning up our rivers, restoring native plant and animal habitats, or clearing non-native invasive plants. Or, learn how to compost, explore nearby hiking trails, or create art and poetry. You can access all of the wonderful Earth Month events in one place at www.wncfortheplanet.org – and you may win a prize from organizations and local businesses! Read more.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Thank You for Helping Us Plant 12,000 Live Stakes for a Healthier River

With the help of more than 35 volunteers, MountainTrue planted 12,000 live stakes in the Watauga River Watershed this fall, winter and spring. These live stakes will develop root systems and become trees in the coming years, supporting streambank health, reducing sedimentation, improving flood control and creating shaded habitat for aquatic species. We only planted native species like silky dogwood, silky willow, ninebark and elderberry, which provide added benefits for native pollinators. The live staking season is now finished for the year, but stay tuned for more workdays starting in November 2021!

Microplastics Are Widespread Throughout WNC Watersheds

Our water quality staff and volunteers have been hard at work for the last couple of months collecting water samples and testing for the presence of plastics. Unfortunately, we have found microplastics in every single sample of every watershed that we’ve tested across Western North Carolina, including seven sites on the Watauga River. A total of 164 unique individual plastics have been identified so far, ranging from microfibers from synthetic clothing to microfilms from plastic bags and wrapping. Read more about this program here.

Swim Guide Launches Next Month!

Our 2021 Swim Guide program launches next month. We will be collecting weekly E. coli samples from 16 sites across the Elk, New and Watauga River Watersheds from May to September. Results will be published on the Swim Guide app and website, so be sure to check them before you swim!

Interested in taking samples? Email hcwqa@mountaintrue.org for more program information.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Volunteer Spotlight: Erica Shanks

Erica Shanks’s enthusiasm for protecting the Green River is evident in all the work she does with MountainTrue. She has volunteered for Green River cleanups since 2014 and has been working closely with the Green Riverkeeper program since it began in 2016. Most recently, she began volunteering with our new microplastics sampling program.

What drives her to be such a superstar for our rivers? “I love doing it. The feeling that you get after you get a lot of trash off the river is kinda indescribable,” she explains. “You’re really excited, but at the same time you’re really sad, you’re really mad, you’re really frustrated because you know you can keep coming back out here and probably get the same amount of trash every single day.”

That hasn’t stopped Erica. She’s committed to following through on this work for both the environment and the broader community impacts. She’s not just picking up river trash, she’s also modeling good stewardship of our public resources. “You inspire the community that sees you out and about, and then that encourages them to want to clean up too. Even though the environmental impact is obvious, the community impact is different. People see somebody doing something and then they want to do it too.”

MountainTrue appreciates the hard work and dedication of volunteers like Erica, and we’re so glad to have their support. “The big thing I love about MountainTrue is the emphasis on protecting places we share,” Erica says. “The Green River is a very special place for so many reasons. And to be able to keep this clean and inspire the community to keep their special places clean is a pretty big deal.”

Thank you Erica for all your hard work and dedication to protecting the places we share!

Friends of East Flat Rock Oppose Asphalt Plant Again

On March 20, approximately 200 concerned neighbors packed the house of a Neighborhood Compatibility Meeting to voice their concerns about a proposed rezoning that would allow the construction of an asphalt plant near homes and businesses in East Flat Rock.

Next up: the proposal goes before the Henderson County Planning Board on April 15 at 5:30 PM in Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College (180 W Campus Dr, Flat Rock, NC 28731). Be there to make your voice heard and make it clear that rezoning for an industrial plant in this location is unacceptable. Learn more and sign the petition at www.friendsofeastflatrock.org and submit your comments to the Planning Board here.

Henderson County Compost and Agriculture Fair on May 6th

Come to the first annual Compost and Agriculture Fair at Jackson Park in Hendersonville on Thursday, May 6th from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM during International Compost Awareness Week!  Celebrate soil health and agriculture, and connect and learn from organizations and fellow compost lovers. Henderson County recently began selling backyard compost bins so you can compost at home. Pre-purchase yours today and pick it up at the fair.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Carson-Newman University Group Spent Spring Break Volunteering for MountainTrue

Ten students and faculty from Carson-Newman University spent their spring break this March removing non-native invasive plants alongside streams and rivers on public lands in the Hiwassee River Watershed. Although they worked for a shortened week, this group’s participation ensured that the 13-year tradition of hosting alternative breaks wasn’t broken by the COVID-19 pandemic! We look forward to next year when we can hopefully bring back volunteer-prepared lunches for these hard-working young adults.

Fun Activities Planned for Andrews Spring Fling – April 24


Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward will lead free nature walks along the Valley River and Town Branch during the Andrews Spring Fling on April 24th.

Are you ready to get outside to celebrate Earth Day? Mark your calendars to be in Andrews on Saturday, April 24, 11-6 for the town’s annual Street Fair & Nature Expo to learn about gardening, butterflies, water conservation, local history and much more. MountainTrue’s booth will include a native tree scavenger hunt; signups for nature walks during the festival led by Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward, at the Cherokee County Heritage Park (easy walking distance from the street fair); and a quiz to test your knowledge of hellbenders, which are the largest aquatic salamander found in our streams and rivers! Hope to see you in downtown Andrews to celebrate Earth Day with us!

Western Region Spring Hike Outing in Panthertown Valley

Photo caption: Schoolhouse Falls is one of two larger waterfalls located along the route of the spring hike outing.

Join Western Regional Director Callie Moore and MountainTrue’s Outings Coordinator, Kasydi Dunaway, for a loop hike on the Panthertown Valley, Little Green and Mac’s Gap Trails. This moderate 5.6-mile hike has a lot of variety including unique golden sandbed streams, long-range views, waterfalls and rock outcrops! There will be a total of 895 feet of elevation gain as we climb Little Green Mountain to our lunch spot at Inspiration Point, and then climb out of the valley at end of the hike. The trails are located near Glenville, North Carolina in the Panthertown Valley area of Nantahala National Forest. The outing is limited to 15 people and you must register in advance.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

As the COVID situation evolves, we continue to increase capacity for our guided adventures. We highly encourage you to add your name to the waitlist for any hike you are interested in. Spots may open up at the last minute and we would love to get you into those spaces.

Hikes that have a chance to open up:

  • Western Region Huckleberry Knob Hike – 4/17
  • Wildflower Hike (Rattlesnake Lodge) – 5/12
  • High Country Wildflower Hike – 5/7
  • Lower Green Inflatable Kayak Trip – 5/7

If you are interested, email our Outings & Education Coordinator Kasydi Dunaway at outings@mountaintrue.org to join our waitlist.

April 7-30 – Earth Day Cleanup Challenge
What better way to celebrate Earth Day than participating in a cleanup challenge? Sign up and tag @mtntrue in your cleanup photos on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #MTEarthDayChallenge. Pictures with the most trash collected will receive a prize from your MountainTrue region. Participate and show your love for the environment and your community this Earth Day! Take part.

April 17, 9 am-4 pm – Socially Distant Lake Adger Spring Cleaning (Rescheduled)
Join MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper for the Lake Adger Spring Cleaning! Head out on the lake on Saturday, April 17, collect as much trash as you can, and post images of your haul to social media with the hashtags #lakeadgerspringcleaning or #lakeadgercleanup. Sign up.

April 17, 11 am-2 pm – Island Park Invasive Plant Volunteer Work Session in Bryson City
Join forces with MountainTrue and the Tuckasegee River Alliance to help eradicate non-native invasive plants, restore a beautiful riparian buffer and bring the island back to its full splendor. Sign up.

April 18, 23 & 25, 10 am-4 pm – Treat Hemlock Trees along the Green River
Join the Paddlers Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT) to protect hemlock trees along the Green River from the deadly woolly adelgid. PHHAT works in areas only accessible by boat in the Green River Game Lands. Paddling experience of crew members from Class II up to Class V whitewater may be required. Please email our Green Riverkeeper at gray@mountaintrue.org for more information and to get involved.

April 20, 11 am-12 pm – Using DNA to Track E. Coli Pollution in the French Broad River
Join French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Dr. Joseph Craine from Jonah Ventures for a webinar on analyzing water samples for DNA. We will discuss how MountainTrue is using this technology to determine the sources of bacteria pollution. Sign up.

April 21, 10 am-1:00 pm – Native Habitat Restoration along Mud Creek near Fletcher
Join us at this French Broad Paddle Trail campsite as we work to eradicate non-native invasive plants and restore native species. Plant ID and removal techniques will be taught on-site. Plan to get dirty. Sign up.

April 22, 9 am-12 pm – Creation Care Hike at Bear Wallow near Hendersonville
Join Creation Care Alliance Director Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri and MountainTrue’s Public Lands Director Bob Gale for some inspiration and ecological insights on this easy-to-moderate hike up to some spectacular views. Sign up.

April 25, 6 pm-7:15 pm – Creation Care Alliance Virtual Earth Day Vigil
Join Creation Care Alliance Director Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri and speakers from throughout our region for readings, prayers and songs to inspire you in the care of God’s creation. Sign up.

May 13, 12:30 pm-1:30 pm – Getting Around Car-Free: Strive Not To Drive Webinar
Join MountainTrue, AARP and Strive Not To Drive for a webinar about car-free, alternative modes of getting around town followed by a Q&A session with expert guests. Sign up.

May 20, 11 am-12 pm – Climate Change in Our Mountains and Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation
Join our MountainTrue University Climate Series with Public Lands Director Bob Gale and Field Biologist Josh Kelly as they discuss the likely effects of climate change in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. Sign up.

May 22, 10 am-2 pm – Hike & Learn to Identify Trees in Union County, GA
Join Tony Ward, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, for a 1.2-mile loop trail hike through an upland forest area of Meeks Park and learn how to identify many of the trees in our region. Sign up.

May 26, 12 pm-1 pm – Building Our City with Heather Worthington (Virtual)
In many American cities, it is illegal to build anything other than a detached single-family home on 75 percent of residential land. Join Minneapolis’s Director of Long Range Planning, Heather Worthington, as she discusses why single-family zoning has come under scrutiny as cities grapple with a dire shortage of affordable housing. Sign up.

June 5-19 – 2021 BioBlitz: Tri-County Smackdown
This year’s MountainTrue BioBlitz pits Jackson, Watauga and Transylvania counties against each other to determine the 2021 champion of biodiversity. The competition kicks off on June 5 on iNaturalist. We can’t wait to see what kinds of observations our participants will share. Tell your friends, neighbors, family, and fellow naturalists, and get prepared for a BioBlitz like no other! Sign up.


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.

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper hopes science will inform policy solutions to clean up area waterways.

Asheville, NC — Testing conducted by local conservation organization MountainTrue has confirmed that cattle and faulty or inadequate sewer, septic or water treatment infrastructure are the major sources of E. coli pollution in the French Broad River.

MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper conducts regular water quality monitoring of rivers and streams throughout the French Broad River Basin, including weekly testing of more than 30 recreation areas from May to September. After decades of slow but consistent improvement to the basin’s water quality, the organization has documented a sharp decline in water quality.

“The difference over that past few years has been disturbing,” explains French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Take Pearson Bridge in Asheville’s River Arts District: That site passed the EPA’s safe threshold for swimming 81% of the time in 2016. Just four years later, that site failed 81% of the time in 2020. Or Mud Creek in Henderson County, that site passed 52% of the time in 2018, and now it fails 93% of our tests.”

MountainTrue’s standard E. coli testing program measures the E. coli in the river. Levels in the French Broad have been high and rising year-over-year, but the nonprofit couldn’t say for certain what the sources of the pollution were. Determining the major sources of E. coli required more expensive testing to look at the presence of DNA in the river.

“Testing DNA in polluted water is pretty state-of-the-art and it isn’t cheap,” explains Hartwell Carson. “We needed help paying for it, so we approached Senator Chuck Edwards for help.” North Carolina Senator Edwards, whose district includes Henderson and parts of Buncombe County, helped secure state funding to pay for sampling and lab costs. With that funding, MountainTrue looked at the DNA found in 55 water samples to look for genetic fingerprints of E. coli from people, cows, dogs, poultry, sheep and swine.

“Our rivers are very important to our quality of life and our economy,” explains Senator Edwards. “This project is helping us better understand the causes of bacteria pollution in the French Broad River. We need that information to develop solutions that will keep the river clean.”

Of the 55 samples, 44 revealed DNA from cows. Human DNA was the second most prevalent. The results vary, but at nearly every site the primary sources of pollution were cattle followed by human. Dog DNA also showed up as a moderate contributor to E. coli pollution at a few sample sites.

“The French Broad has some clean and clear streams that run through protected public lands, but we’re seeing more and more problem sites that consistently fail the EPA’s safe water standard for E. coli,” says Hartwell Carson. “Until now, we’ve only had educated guesses about where the E. coli was coming from. With this testing, we have the data we need to make more informed decisions about how to clean up our rivers.”

MountainTrue is presenting the results from their DNA testing to local members of the General Assembly and is encouraging the public to advocate for the adoption of a clean rivers policy agenda that includes funding to help farmers, property owners and local governments reduce water pollution.

“Now that we know the sources of E. coli pollution,” says Hartwell Carson. “The next step is to invest in actions that fix the problem.” The public can read about issues affecting water quality, and the policies and reforms needed to fix them at iloverivers.org.

TAKE ACTION TO FIGHT E. COLI POLLUTION IN OUR RIVERS

We’ve done the DNA testing. We know the sources of E. coli pollution. Now we have the solutions to clean up our rivers. Stand up for science-based policies to help farmers fence cattle out of streams and property owners fix their septic systems and major investments in water infrastructure.

The Results:

MountainTrue focused their testing on problem sites that had shown high levels of E. coli in previous testing: Hominy Creek, Mud Creek below downtown Hendersonville, Cane Creek and the French Broad River at Pearson Bridge in Asheville’s River Arts District. DNA levels of 0-49 numbers of DNA copies/100mL are considered “very low,” 50-99 “low,” 100-499 “medium,” 500-999 “high,” and 1,000 or above was “very high.” DNA testing provides a general picture of a body of water for approximately 100 meters upstream.

Hominy Creek
Averages for six samples: Cow – 339, Dog, 89, Human – 34.
Every sample taken at Hominy Creek showed cow DNA counts at or above medium levels. The highest level of cow DNA recorded was 511, putting that sample in the high range. Human DNA was also found in every sample, though at low or very low amounts in all samples except one in the medium range. This indicates that upstream agriculture in the watershed is significantly contributing to E. coli impairment, and while human waste from faulty sewers and failing septic systems plays a role, it isn’t the dominant pollution source. This testing site is below the Hominy Creek Greenway, a very popular dog-walking area and the likely reason for higher levels of dog DNA.

French Broad at Pearson Bridge
Averages for six samples: Cow- 270, Dog – 59, Human – 67
Cow DNA was the largest contributor at this site, but levels were more varied than at Hominy Creek. One sample showed cow DNA in the high range at 764, while three other samples presented low levels of cow DNA. Human DNA and dog DNA were also present at this site but at much lower levels. The variability of DNA levels is likely due to the impact of stormwater runoff. When it rains, cow and dog waste are washed in from the surrounding landscape causing a rise in pollution levels.

Cane Creek at Fletcher Park
Averages for six samples: Cow – 334, Human – 47, Dog – 8
The primary source of E. coli pollution in Cane Creek is quite clearly cattle from area farms. Human levels of DNA were very low and nonexistent in two instances.

Mud Creek below Downtown Hendersonville
Average for seven samples: Cow – 251, Human – 120, Dog – 52
Mud Creek was the site with the highest level of human DNA in all our testing. But, even here, levels of cow DNA were more prevalent than human. In three instances, human DNA counties were higher, but the overall average for cow DNA was higher. The pollution sources for Mud Creek are likely cattle, closely followed by human waste from faulty sewers, failing septic systems and inadequate wastewater treatment plants.

About MountainTrue
MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all. MountainTrue is active in the Broad, French Broad, Green, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New and Watauga watersheds, and is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, and Watauga Riverkeeper.
Mountaintrue.org


Media Contact:
Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director
E: karim@mountaintrue.org, C: 415-535-9004


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.

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

Take Action to Fight E. Coli Pollution in Our Rivers

Take Action to Fight E. Coli Pollution in Our Rivers

Let’s give our farmers, families and local governments the help they need to keep our rivers free and clear of bacteria pollution. Call on lawmakers to address the issues polluting our rivers.

The rivers and streams of Western North Carolina are widely loved and enjoyed by the people who live here. Our rivers are also a vital part of North Carolina’s economy, and they need to be preserved.

Unfortunately, stormwater runoff from heavier and more frequent rainstorms due to climate change combined with failing infrastructure are leading to higher levels of bacteria pollution in area waterways. Recent DNA testing done by MountainTrue of the French Broad River, one of our region’s most polluted waterways, indicates that cattle and faulty and inadequate sewer, septic or water treatment infrastructure are our major sources of E. coli bacteria pollution.

To fix the problems causing higher levels of bacteria in our rivers:

We are calling on members of the North Carolina General Assembly to increase funding for the Agricultural Cost Share Program, the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program, the Community Conservation Assistance Program, and the Waste Detection and Elimination Program.

Currently, state funding to help WNC farmers afford improvements such as new cattle fencing and riparian buffers through the Agricultural Cost Share Program (ASCP) and the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program (AgWRAP) is far outstripped by demand. Last year, these programs received $19.2 million and $7.3 million respectively in requests for just $7.5 million in combined annual funding. Increasing the state’s investment in these programs to $19 million for ACSP and $7 million for AgWRAP could drastically reduce bacterial pollution in WNC waters.

Similarly, funding for the Community Conservation Assistance Program, which helps landowners afford things like upgrades to septic systems, is insufficient to meet demand. We proposed increasing funding for this program from $100,000 to $3 million to meet current demand from applicants and reduce stormwater pollution in rivers and streams already impacted by bacteria pollution.

The Waste Detection and Elimination (WaDE) program existed for eight years, between 2002-2009. In that time its staff visited 13,379 WNC homes and identified 2,016 sources of water pollution — mostly from leaking and failing septic systems. We propose restoring $200,000 to the budget to restart this incredibly effective program.

We are calling on North Carolina’s US Senators and members of the US House of Representatives to support the “American Jobs Plan”, which would provide funding for much-needed infrastructure improvements and climate initiatives including $66 billion for water infrastructure, not including an additional $45 billion to ensure that no child has to drink from lead pipes.


Through Muddy Water Watch, volunteers go out hiking, biking, and driving to collect data about sources of sediment pollution. The data is used to work with the US Forest Service to repair damaged roads, culverts, and other sources of sediment to ensure these streams remain healthy.
After nearly a decade of work by WNCA (now MountainTrue), 11th District Congressman Heath Schuler, and many others, the long-proposed North Shore Road along the shore of Fontana Lake was put to rest. The people of Swain County were financially compensated in lieu of the originally promised road, and pristine streams, sensitive aquatic life and public land were preserved.

Creation Care Alliance Director is Moving into a New Role.

Creation Care Alliance Director is Moving into a New Role.

Creation Care Alliance Director is Moving into a New Role.

The Reverend Scott Hardin-Nieri, director of MountainTrue’s Creation Care Alliance of WNC program and beloved colleague, will be moving on to a position with The Bethany Fellowship. Below is a letter from Scott that was sent to CCA members on March 30, 2021 announcing his departure.

Dear friends and supporters,

After 6 years of wonderful work collaborating with individuals and congregations in Western North Carolina, it is with a mix of excitement but also sadness that I share the news that I will be leaving my role as Director of the Creation Care Alliance to accept a call into a position with The Bethany Fellowship to accompany congregations as they discern and act faithfully in these times.  I will serve as director until April 30, 2021, allowing me some time to finish up current projects and help with the transition. Our family will remain in Asheville. MountainTrue and the Creation Care Alliance are also my family, and I plan to volunteer and be involved with y’all in the future.

Over the past six years, the Creation Care Alliance has grown to become a vital program within the MountainTrue community. CCA and MountainTrue, working together,  are unique in their ability to combine science, faith, policy, economics, spirituality, justice, technology, and theology. We took risks partnering a faith-based program with an environmental advocacy organization, and those risks are paying off.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together. We currently work with over seventy congregations representing twelve denominations in about twenty different locations across Western North Carolina. Through the passion and dedication of the CCA Steering Team, MountainTrue Staff and our network of congregations and collaborators we have been able to offer transformative experiences like our Earth Day Vigils, Path to Paris Pilgrimages, and Creation Care Retreats; tangible results reflected in the hundreds of solar panels, LED lights and gardens installed at congregations throughout our region; and vital tools and resources through our Creation Care Guide, Eco-Grief Circles and Eco Justice Camps. Together we have accompanied congregations as they have addressed climate change and ecological destruction but equally important we have deepened the capacity for compassion, right relationship, and love in the midst of crises. This unique blend of mitigation, adaptation, and compassion is a hallmark of our work together and will continue to flourish in the months and years to come.

I’m excited at what CCA has planned for the future as well. Even as I prepare for my new job, I’ve been working with MountainTrue and the Creation Care Alliance Steering Team on a strategic plan for the next 10 years. We’re planning now to bring the good work of Creation Care to more congregations and communities throughout our mountain region, to shepherd more faith groups through the process of accomplishing zero-carbon footprints, and to train more leaders to take our movement of love and compassion to the broader public. I look forward to passing the baton to the next CCA director. We’ve posted a job description on the MountainTrue and Creation Care Alliance of WNC websites, and we are accepting applications now. The deadline to apply is May 5.

As supporters and partners with the Creation Care Alliance, you serve as vital parts of this ongoing work toward a more sustainable and just future. The needs in our communities are great and whoever steps into this work will be lucky to be walking with such a powerful collective of staff and volunteers.

It’s been an honor to work with you all for justice, our communities, and a better planet. I leave this position with a note of deep gratitude and a determination to continue this work together in the future. See you soon!

With Gratitude and Hope,

Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director Creation Care Alliance 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.

Corridor K Should Be A Model for Future Highway Projects

Corridor K Should Be A Model for Future Highway Projects

Corridor K Should Be A Model for Future Highway Projects

MountainTrue has been working for decades, through our participation in WaysSouth, to ensure that the Corridor K highway expansion project met local needs to improve safety and reliability without compromising our rivers, forests and mountain heritage. Responding to community concerns, the North Carolina Department of Transportation put forward a final proposal for Corridor K on Thursday, March 25 that is excellently designed, and economically and environmentally sound.

The proposal outlined in the Final Decision Notice and Environmental Assessment is good for our communities and businesses. The project will improve the flow of traffic by widening the existing highway and adding strategically placed passing lanes so that only a minimal segment will have to accommodate four lanes. The new design should cut response times for ambulances, fire trucks and police by improving the Highway 143 route from Stecoah Valley to Robbinsville. It avoids unneeded impacts to residential communities, including Stecoah Heights. And it brings sidewalks to Robbinsville and a new greenway to Stecoah.

The Department of Transportation listened to stakeholders when environmental concerns were raised and balanced these community improvements with environmental stewardship by reducing the overall footprint of the road project and adding in some much-needed wildlife and recreation infrastructure. Most importantly, the department dropped plans for carving a new four-lane highway through intact forests and steep mountains, instead making effective improvements to an existing corridor.

The new Corridor K project will totally encapsulate acid-producing rock where necessary to protect local streams, rivers, lakes and aquatic ecosystems. The project also includes a new land bridge, initially proposed by WaysSouth, over the four-laned segment near Stecoah Gap. By creating a land bridge overpass above the highway, the critical wildlife corridor through the mountain pass will actually function better for wildlife than before the improvements. This overpass design also better preserves scenic views as well as the character and hiking experience of the Appalachian Trail.

It took a long process to get here, but the North Carolina Department of Transportation should be recognized for listening to the concerns of local residents and businesses, implementing a collaborative and transparent process with all stakeholders, and coming back with a proposal that incorporates many of the best design ideas put forth by WaysSouth and the community.

This was not business as usual for the state’s transportation planners. Department staff and their planning and design consultants deserve high praise for their creative and collaborative approach. MountainTrue and WaysSouth’s hope is that this serves as a model for future highway and road improvement projects.


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.

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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.

March 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

March 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

March 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Rethinking Smart Growth. Reclaiming Community Design’s Radical Roots


A few months before the pandemic set in, Asheville Design Center Director Chris Joyell had a meeting with a community group in the Emma neighborhood in Buncombe County that challenged many of the assumptions he held regarding Smart Growth development and the role of Design Centers. Over the past year Chris has given this issue much thought, and one result is this article, “Rethinking Smart Growth.” In this piece, Chris explores the historic role Design Centers have played in the US and examines how, despite good intentions, Smart Growth initiatives can threaten many of the communities that Design Centers were created to serve. Read more.

Massive Public Comment Sign Ups Lead To Several New Hearings on Duke’s Energy Plan

You signed up, and the NC Utilities Commission noticed! So many people signed up to make virtual public comment on Duke’s proposed new energy plan that the NC Utilities Commission canceled yesterday’s original hearing to schedule several more opportunities for public comment. Final tallies show that over 200 people signed up for the original hearing date. This is a huge victory, and shows that the NC Utilities Commission is aware of how much public pushback there is against Duke’s proposed plan.

To recap: Duke is required to submit a long-term plan to the NC Utilities Commission detailing how the company plans to source energy over the next fifteen years. Duke released a proposal toward the end of 2020 that is bad news for the climate: proposing the construction of up to 13 new gas plants, overinflating the costs of renewable energy and battery storage, and proposing less renewable energy 14 years from now than what is already the national average. Thank you to everyone who showed power in numbers by signing up, and we hope you’ll join us in building momentum for the NCUC to require big changes to Duke’s plan.

If you registered to speak at the public hearing that was originally scheduled for March 16, make sure to respond to the email from the NCUC to confirm your attendance for a future hearing. Thank you!

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

MountainTrue University About Sustainability in the High Country | April 7 at 12pm

Join us for a High Country sustainability discussion with George Santucci. You may know George as the long-time Director of the New River Conservancy. George has brought his decades of environmental experience to his new role as Sustainability and Special Projects Director for the Town of Boone.

Join us for an informative discussion about how MountainTrue and the Town of Boone have partnered to address energy use, climate change, stormwater and microplastics pollution. Learn more.


Avery County Clean Sweep on Beech Creek (March 20, 27 and April 7)


Litter is on the rise, with personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, single-use plastics and tires showing up far and wide in our watershed. In response, Avery County Clean Sweep is a collaborative grassroots effort to clean up the roadways and public spaces across our community, with a focus on the Beech Creek Area in Avery County. We’re joining the Grandfather Stewardship Foundation, Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Avery County Emergency Management and countless other organizations to help take back the beauty of this area.

We love to see the hard work of our volunteers, and we hope you’ll share your cleanup photos on social media with @mtntrue and @wataugariverkeeper. We can also provide bags and gloves so that you or a small group can participate safely. There will be prizes for the most trash collected! Sign up here.


Last Live Staking Day: March 20

Photo By Moss Brennan

Missed our other live staking workdays? No worries, we still have one more! Sign up and come join us this Saturday to plant native tree cuttings at Valle Crucis Community Park. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who have helped us plant thousands of trees this season. Sign up here.


Looking For Other Opportunities To Volunteer?

Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) Sampling at the Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River.

We also have year-round opportunities to get involved with MountainTrue’s High Country Office. Our Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) is a monthly water chemistry sampling program that relies on volunteers, and our microplastics program needs volunteers to take monthly water samples and do small trash inventories at various locations throughout the Watauga Watershed. If you are interested in becoming a regular volunteer for either of these programs or would like more information, please contact our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn at hcwqa@mountaintrue.org.

Now is also an excellent time to join our Headwaters Giving Program. You can make a tremendous impact with a small, recurring monthly donation. Invest in our future, pay your river bill and help support our ongoing programs today. Make your river gift here.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Round Two: Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock Reapplies for Rezoning


SE Asphalt has submitted a new rezoning application in Henderson County to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25. This location is 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. The site also drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

Last year, MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents organized with Friends of East Flat Rock to successfully oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant. Now we’re asking the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to protect communities and the environment by standing by its existing zoning rules and denying the application.

Henderson County will host a Community Compatibility Meeting on Tuesday, March 30 at 4pm in the East Henderson High School Auditorium. Then on April 15, the Henderson County Planning Board will hear the application and make a recommendation to the County Commissioners at its meeting in the same location. Mark your calendars and show up to make your voices heard! Learn more here.


Green River and Lake Adger Spring Cleanings are On for April 10!


Join MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and Liquidlogic Co-founder Shane Benedict for the 11th Annual Green River Spring Cleaning!

For obvious reasons, we’ll need to take additional precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy this year, including wearing masks in parking lots and anytime you can’t maintain six feet of distance, avoiding large groups and shuttling with household groups. We’re asking folks to provide their own boats or to clean up from the land, and to manage their own day-of logistics in terms of location, time, and shuttle if necessary.

Post your photos to social media and we’ll send prizes to the best, biggest, weirdest, and most trash finds! Pre-register for the Green River cleanup here and the Lake Adger cleanup here to stay connected and get updates about available supplies and trash disposal.

Sign up for the Green River cleanup. 
Sign up for the Lake Adger cleanup.


Partner Organization Spotlight: SouthWings

MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, was introduced to SouthWings in 2017 during the effort to make Duke Energy excavate its unlined coal ash pits in Cliffside. The views from above were telling, showing the huge volume of coal ash and its proximity to the Broad River. Images gathered during flights with SouthWings informed our advocacy efforts, which ultimately helped secure a state order requiring Duke to excavate and move all of the company’s coal ash in North Carolina to lined landfills safely away from water.

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell (left) with SouthWings pilot Peter Stauble (right) discussing their flight plan before takeoff.

Later flights with SouthWings pilot Peter Stauble revealed some beautiful views of the watershed, from the headwaters near Chimney Rock down to South Carolina’s Big Bay. But other less beautiful views from the plane included runoff and sedimentation from development sites, huge piles of uncovered poultry waste from factory farms and numerous industrial facilities. These flights give us the information and images to better protect our watershed by investigating pollution sources and implementing strategies to fix them. Thanks for your great work, Peter and SouthWings!

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Virtual Watershed Gala Honors David Liden, MountainTrue History

David Liden (center) received the 2021 Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award from MountainTrue Western Regional Director Callie Moore (left) and Hiwassee Watershed Advisory Council Chairperson Jason Chambers (right) at the John C. Campbell Folk School gardens before the online event.

Although we missed the human interaction of the traditional in-person event, the 2021 virtual Watershed Gala was fun and familiar in its own way. We celebrated our accomplishments over the past year and honored the Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner just like we always do. We also had conversations in small virtual groups and smiled and laughed – without masks – like we’ve done at past Galas. Yes, it was different being on Zoom, but the 42 participants learned a lot about the founding and early history of the movement that continues today as MountainTrue from David Liden, this year’s award winner and a person who was in the center of it all.

Thank you to all who contributed and participated to help make the virtual Gala successful! We plan to be back in a ballroom in 2022, but our silent auction may be a little different in future years as we strive to continue to involve all of MountainTrue in the event.

If you missed the Gala this year, you can still watch the video highlighting our western region 2020 accomplishments here!


MountainTrue Trains 17 New Volunteers for the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Program

Union County, GA resident Clare Johnston demonstrates how she collects a bacterial sample during a recent AAS volunteer recertification workshop.

Seventeen new water quality monitoring volunteers are being added to the ranks of the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) program this month in the Hiwassee Watershed! For more than a decade, volunteers have been sampling water chemistry and E.coli at more than 40 locations across Towns and Union counties in North Georgia and Cherokee and Clay counties in WNC as part of Georgia AAS. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, MountainTrue provides supplies and monitoring equipment free of charge at five locations across the watershed so that volunteers can help us keep tabs on water quality regardless of their financial situation.


Reminder: Blue Ridge Paper Permit Hearing & Comment Period Coming Up in April


Blue Ridge Paper Products has a long history on the Pigeon River in Canton. It has provided good jobs for decades, but historically it has also caused massive negative impacts to water quality and aquatic life in the Pigeon River. Because of pressure from the public, environmental groups, states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there have been significant improvements in the quality of the plant’s discharge and a reduction of the amount in the river.

Now that river conditions are better – such that rafting and other water-based recreation is thriving – we want to ensure that strong protections stay in place and that the facility’s new permit will drive continued improvement, particularly with regard to water temperature. Visit our Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier page to learn more, submit comments, and/or sign up to attend the online public hearing set for April 14!


Winter Tree Identification Workshop with Tony Ward this Saturday

 A heart-shaped leaf scar on a young hickory tree. Leaf scars can help you identify native trees in winter.

Join Tony Ward, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, this Saturday at 10am for a relaxing 1.2-mile loop trail hike along the lake shoreline at the Lake Chatuge Recreation Area. This trail features a wide variety of native trees perfect for identification. During this hike, Tony will discuss how to identify trees in our area in a way that is accessible to all skill levels of tree identifiers.

The cost of the workshop/outing is $10 for MountainTrue members and $20 for non-members. The non-member ticket includes a year-long membership, so you’ll enjoy reduced rates on other events and outings for a full year afterward. Register today!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Note: All attendees at in-person events are required to follow our COVID-19 safety guidelines.

March 20, 10am-2pm: Live Staking Workday In Valle Crucis
Fight sediment pollution, erosion and climate change with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks. Sign up here.

March 20, 10am-12pm: Western Region Winter Tree ID Workshop
Join MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward, for our Winter Tree ID hike at Lake Chatuge. The 1.2-mile loop trail at the Lake Chatuge Recreation Area Trail offers a tour along the lake shoreline and has a wide variety of native trees perfect for identification! Sign up here.

April 7, 12-1pm: MountainTrue University: How Local Governments Are Responding To Climate Change
Join us for an informative discussion with George Santucci, the Sustainability and Special Projects Director for the Town of Boone, about how MountainTrue and Boone’s local government have partnered to address energy use, climate change, stormwater and microplastics pollution. Register here.

April 10: Spring Cleanings on the Green River and Lake Adger
Join MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and Liquidlogic Co-founder Shane Benedict for the 11th Annual Green River Spring Cleaning! We’ll send prizes to the best, biggest, weirdest, and most trash finds.

Register for the Green River cleanup (10am-4pm).
Register for the Lake Adger cleanup (9am-5pm).

April 11, 18, 23 & 25: Paddlers For Hemlocks Workday
Join the Paddlers Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT) as we work to protect hemlock trees along the Green River from the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid. PHHAT works in areas that are only accessible by boat in the Green River Game Lands.

Sign up for the April 11 workday here.

To sign up for the workdays on April 18, 23 or 25, email gray@mountaintrue.org.

April 22, 9am-12pm: Bearwallow CCA Spring Hike
This easy-to-moderate trail climbs one mile through the lovely mountain forest and opens up onto a large grassy field at the top. This spectacular summit will be the site for some guided reflection before looping back down the mountain. Sign up here.

May 7, 10am-3pm: High Country Wildflower Hike
Join MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly, as he leads us on a hike to explore the wildflowers found in Elk Knob State Park. The hike is on the Summit Trail, a moderate, four-mile out and back trail that offers spectacular views of Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and more! Sign up here.


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: Delegation Committee Assignments + Cooper Names New DEQ Sec.

MT Raleigh: Delegation Committee Assignments + Cooper Names New DEQ Sec.

MT Raleigh: Delegation Committee Assignments + Cooper Names New DEQ Sec.

In the North Carolina General Assembly, every legislator’s vote counts the same.

But not all legislators are equal.

You don’t need to be a political scientist, for example, to know that in a Republican-controlled legislature, most GOP members are going to have more influence than their Democratic colleagues. But beyond party affiliation, seniority and committee assignments can tell you a lot about who can get what done in Raleigh.

So to help you keep track of WNC’s delegation, here’s a quick rundown on some of our region’s most senior members and the gavels they wield among the legislature’s several dozen legislative committees.

Dionne Delli-Gatti

But first – some good news. Last week Governor Roy Cooper announced that Dionne Delli-Gatti will replace Michael Regan as Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Regan is now awaiting Senate approval of his appointment as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Delli-Gatti’s selection is welcome news for those of us concerned about clean air and water. A seasoned environmental professional, she most recently served at the Environmental Defense Fund as the Director of Southeast Climate and Energy following six years at the Atlanta EPA Regional office as Congressional and Governmental Liaison. Her environmental experience includes government service at the Ohio EPA and the City of Dallas. Kudos to Gov. Cooper for selecting Delli-Gatti, whose appointment must be confirmed by the North Carolina Senate.

Get the Raleigh Report in you email inbox

The MountainTrue Raleigh Report covers environmental politics and policy, with a focus on the issues that affect Western North Carolina.

Now let’s take a look at who is doing what on the environment and other issues among WNC’s legislative delegation.

On the environment, the conversation about WNC’s delegation has to start with Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County. Now in his third term, Edwards is the senior chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees all natural resources spending. He also co-chairs the committee that oversees most agriculture and environmental policy in North Carolina. Edwards is a proven leader and champion of several causes benefitting WNC’s environment, including being the force behind creating a new state park in Buncombe County and helping MountainTrue with several key clean water initiatives.

For depth and breadth of influence in the legislature, it would be hard to match Sen. Ralph Hise (Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford and Yancey counties). After five terms in office, Hise is one of three co-chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee, giving him a say in virtually every part of the state’s $24 billion budget. Hise’s familiarity with health policy and spending also makes him a key voice on health and human services issues.  As chair of the Senate’s Redistricting Committee, he will play a central role in redrawing both legislative and Congressional districts this year.

If you have an interest in Western North Carolina public schools and universities, then get to know Senator Deanna Ballard (Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Watauga and Wilkes counties). While just in her third term, Ballard is now the Senate’s key policymaker and appropriator on education – which easily accounts for well over half of the state’s annual spending.

With the departure of former Representative Chuck McGrady to retirement and former Rep. Josh Dobson – now North Carolina’s Labor Commissioner – WNC’s delegation in the state House lost a great deal of influence. The rest of the delegation’s lack of commensurate seniority means it will take a few years for the West to beef up its political muscle in the House. In the meantime, Rep. Tim Moffitt (Henderson County) helps lead the House ABC Committee – which oversees alcohol laws. Rep. Mike Clampitt (Haywood, Jackson and Swayne counties) chairs the House Federal Relations and American Indian Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jake Johnson (Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties) is the co-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Information Technology.

Among Western North Carolina’s other legislators, members with assignments on important environmental committees include Wildlife Vice-Chair, Rep. Brian Turner (Buncombe County), and committee members Reps. Mike Clampitt, Karl Gillespie (Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties), John Ager (Buncombe County), Mark Pless (Haywood, Madison and Yancey counties) and Jake Johnson; Brian Turner and John Ager both also sit on important environmental and agriculture appropriations and policy committees; Rep. Clampitt is a member of the House Environmental and Agriculture Appropriations Committee; Sen. Julie Mayfield (Buncombe County) is a member of the Senate’s Environmental and Agriculture Appropriations Committee. Rep. Pickett is the vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee and Representatives Moffitt and Pless are members of the House Transportation Committee; Senator Julie Mayfield a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.


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.

February 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

February 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

February 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

WNC Loses an Environmental Champion: Remembering Norma Ivey


By Bob Gale, Ecologist & Public Lands Director of MountainTrue

MountainTrue and Western North Carolina lost a wonderful person and forest protection advocate on January 29. Norma Ivey served on the staff of MountainTrue (known then as the Western North Carolina Alliance) from 1996 to 2009, and upon retiring, she received the organization’s highest honor: the Esther Cunningham Award.

Norma was a champion of old-growth trees, having assisted with a 7-year study that located 78,000 acres of previously unknown old-growth forest in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Later research increased this to about 100,000 acres.

In her time with MountainTrue, Norma served as Community Organizer working in our Asheville and Franklin offices. She assisted with a variety of issues, including timber sales of concern, relicensing of Western NC dams by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, clean air issues, and community greenways. Norma was also an artist and crafter who created beautiful handmade pottery. Though she had advanced Alzheimer’s disease, it was Covid-19 that ultimately took her life.

Norma will be greatly missed by MountainTrue and by so many others in these mountains that got the chance to meet her. We will share a tribute with more details about her work and life in our upcoming spring print newsletter.

 

A Moment in Black History: The Memphis Strike as a Precursor to the Environmental Justice Movement

The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike is a little discussed moment in the final chapter of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, and a precursor to the development of the Environmental Justice movement. Almost a year after making his famous 1967 speech at Riverside Church where he proclaimed the need to declare “eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism,” and while he was in the midst of developing the Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King travelled to Memphis. He came to Memphis to march in solidarity with Black sanitation workers who, in addition to suffering from low and inequitable pay, were forced to do dirtier and more dangerous work with greater health and safety risks than their white co-workers. As Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance told Grist in 2019. “You don’t get more environmental justice than that. All the environment really is is where you live, work, play, or pray.”

Dr. King returned to Memphis and delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech on April 3 calling on a Black economic boycott of white power structures, and was assassinated one day later as he stood outside his balcony at the Lorraine Hotel on April 4.

 

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

While we see it everywhere, mass-produced plastic has only existed since the 1950’s. Since then, the amount of plastic created has increased from 1.5 million metric tons produced worldwide in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Not only does plastic production create greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, but it breaks down into tiny pieces called microplastics that harm wildlife, ecosystems and humans.

In our most recent blog post, our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn explains that while personal change is important, our consumer choices alone are not enough to spark systemic change. Check out Hannah’s post to learn more about the history of plastic pollution, ongoing legislation to combat the issue and our sampling program to identify microplastics in WNC’s waters. Read more. 

 

Take Action: We Have Power in Numbers To Fight Duke’s Energy Plan

Duke Energy’s latest Integrated Resource Plan – the plan Duke is required to submit to state regulators showing how it will create energy over the next fifteen years – takes the company way off track for meeting any serious climate goals. Duke’s IRP outlines plans to keep burning coal for decades, build up to 13 new gas plants, and make customers pay $900 each for fossil fuels we’ll never even use.

Here’s the good news: MountainTrue is working with a coalition of climate and clean energy advocates all across North Carolina to fight Duke’s plans, and we think there is a real chance we can send them back to the drawing board to adopt a new plan that will meet climate goals. It’s the same power in numbers strategy we used to get state regulators to order a full cleanup of every Duke coal ash site in North Carolina two years ago.

What’s more, cities all over the state are now intervening in Duke’s plans to make sure they don’t keep us from meeting our local climate commitments.

Tell the NC Utilities Commission: Don’t let Duke wreck North Carolina’s climate. Send this IRP back to the drawing board.

Clean Water Auction Fundraiser Online This Year

Due to the ongoing pandemic, MountainTrue’s western regional office was unable to hold our annual fundraising gala and auction in person this year. Both events are happening online instead.

The auction is now open and runs through February 25 at 9 pm. We invite you to check out the wide variety of items up for bid, including guided outdoor adventures, beautiful artwork, restaurant gift certificates and more. All proceeds benefit our clean water work!

Note: Anyone can view the items, but in order to place a bid, you’ll need to create a simple account with 32auctions by providing your name, email address and creating a password. Credit card information is not required to place bids. Check out all our auction items.

Photo: “The Mountains are Calling”, donated by Class Act Glass in Young Harris, GA, is only one of the more than 50 items up for bid in the Clean Water Auction Fundraiser.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Algal Bloom in the Watauga River


During the month of January, we saw new algae growth along the Watauga River – an unusual occurrence for this time of year. Thank you to all of the anglers, guides and concerned community members that brought their algae sightings to our attention.

You might recall that last summer, we began a nutrient and chlorophyll study on Watauga Lake to monitor algal blooms, which form due to an excess of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. While not all algal blooms are toxic, the harmful ones release toxins that are linked to human illnesses and have even been shown to lead to death in dogs.

We reported the recent bloom to the NC Wildlife Commission and the NC Department of Environmental Quality. The newly formed Algal Bloom Response Team from the Division of Water Resources quickly responded and collected additional samples, and we are now awaiting results. This year the Watauga River had high levels of E. coli and nutrients, which could have contributed to the algae growth. We will continue to source track and monitor pollution levels in the Watauga River.

 

Macroplastics and Microplastics Roundup


Thank you to all our new volunteers who braved the cold to collect the first round of micro and macro plastic samples! Our volunteers collected a total of 318 pieces of trash in the last week of January. Our water samples are now being filtered in the lab, and microplastics have been identified in the Watauga River.

Want to learn more? The virtual training is on the MountainTrue University page of our website here.

 

Sign Up For Our Next Live Staking Opportunities!


Are you looking for a socially-distanced way to create immediate change in our community? Come plant live stakes with the Watatuga Riverkeeper!

Live staking workdays help to combat sediment erosion in our local waterways. Sediment is a major polluter in our river basin, clogging fish and aquatic habitats, increasing water temperatures, and transporting toxic substances. As these stakes grow into trees, they stabilize the banks of the Watauga river and reduce the amount of sediment entering the river, while also helping to fight climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Come plant with us! Sign up here.

To see the recent coverage of our live staking work days in the Watauga Democrat, click here.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Cleanups


To celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MountainTrue staff joined the City of Hendersonville’s Environmental Sustainability Board to clean up Dr. MLK, Jr. Park on the grounds of the Henderson County Courthouse. There were also several member-led cleanups across the region, and we particularly enjoyed supporting the cleanup of an illegal dump site near the Green River where we pulled out a large chest freezer, gas grill, computer monitor, TV, tires and more!

 

Meetings with State Elected Officials Kick Off Legislative Advocacy

MountainTrue staff have been gearing up for the 2021 session of the NC General Assembly by refining our legislative priorities and meeting with state elected leaders across WNC. Locally, we’d like to thank Sen. Chuck Edwards, Rep. Tim Moffitt and Rep. Jake Johnson for taking the time to meet with us as the session began, as well as former Rep. Chuck McGrady (and Esther Cunningham Award recipient) for his ongoing advice and years of service. As the legislative session progresses we look forward to continuing those conversations, meeting with other elected leaders and building common ground for ways to protect and enhance our natural resources in WNC. For more details about MountainTrue’s legislative priorities and to sign up to receive the MT Raleigh Report, click here.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Black History Month: Racial Equity and the Environment

George Washington Carver was an African American scientist and educator. Carver is famous for many inventions including a number of uses for the peanut.

During Black History Month in February, we are encouraged to learn more about the achievements of African-Americans and to recognize their central role in US history. It is also a time for celebrating the diversity of our communities, and examining the systems that perpetuate racial inequality in ways that may be difficult to see or understand on the surface. This past year has been a time of reckoning and challenge for many of us as some of those systems have been exposed.

As you may have read in an earlier e-newsletter, MountainTrue has been evolving toward a wider focus. Yes to protecting forests and rivers, advocating for more sustainable development and clean energy, but we are also thinking more broadly about how we can help foster communities where people are truly healthy. This means communities that are free from racism, and where there is equity in the social determinants of health: housing, transportation, education and jobs.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings is “all this is simply to say that all life is interrelated.” His words serve as a reminder that we cannot isolate our work in silos or boxes. Racial justice is central to environmental justice, and the two cannot be separated. As we continue to strive for equity in our work, we remember the words of another great Black civil rights leader, the late US Congressman John Lewis: “It is our responsibility to leave this planet cleaner and greener. That must be our legacy.”

Read more about MountainTrue’s commitment to racial equity here.

 

Don’t Miss the Watershed Gala – One Week From Tomorrow!


Watch a video of our 2020 accomplishments, help honor this year’s Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner David Liden, hear and share stories of adventures (indoors and out!) in our region and celebrate clean water with us on Thursday, February 25 at 6 pm.

Using Zoom is very easy. You can even participate using a Smartphone. Register today!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Note: All attendees at in-person events are required to follow our COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Feb. 20, Mar. 6 & Mar. 20: Live Staking Workdays In The High Country
Fight sediment pollution, erosion and climate change with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks.
Feb. 20 Workday in Sugar Grove.
Mar. 6 Workday in Sugar Grove.
Mar. 20 Workday in Boone.

Feb. 25, 6-7:30pm: Virtual Watershed Gala
The 13th Annual Watershed Gala will be held virtually via Zoom meeting this year. We hope you will join us for a delightful evening of laughter, fun and camaraderie … and to help honor this year’s Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner! Register here.

March 3, 11am-2pm: Island Park Non-Native Invasive Plant Volunteer Work Session
MountainTrue has joined forces with the Tuckasegee River Alliance to help eradicate non-native invasive plants at Island Park in Bryson City. Learn how to identify and control non-native invasive plants with MountainTrue staff while you help bring the native plants back to Island Park! Sign up here.

March 6, 12-4pm: Winter Tree ID Workshop Hike
Join MountainTrue’s very own Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly for our Winter Tree ID Workshop Hike at Big Laurel Creek Trail. This hike is open to all skill levels of aspiring tree identifiers! Sign up here.

March 11, 12-1pm: MountainTrue University: A History of Environmental Extraction and Activism in Appalachia
Our AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator, Grace Fuchs, completed her thesis work at Ohio University on the social and environmental impacts of fracking in Appalachian Ohio.

In her talk, Grace will define the cultural and geographic boundaries of Appalachia; look at the environmental impacts of the timber, coal, and fracking industries in the region; and present a historical analysis of Appalachian activists who have fought long and hard to protect their communities in the face of cultural and ecological destruction. Sign up here.

March 13, 7:30am-9:30am: Winter Bird Watch on Lake Chatuge
Get outside with us for our 15th annual Winter Bird Watch at Lake Chatuge! We typically see 18-25 different bird species on this trip, including small songbirds, larger birds of prey and wintering waterfowl. Sign up here.

March 20, 10am-4pm: Signs of Spring Hike on the Green River
This is a great late winter hike that offers continuous views of the Green River, from its quiet stretches to its most intense rapids. We’ll also pass through healthier eastern hemlocks stands, and are likely to spot early wildflowers and migrating warblers. Sign up here.


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.