MT Raleigh: Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

MT Raleigh: Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

MT Raleigh: Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

Approval of a new state budget is near the top of the North Carolina General Assembly’s To-Do list every year.

And ensuring that the budget includes investments for Western North Carolina’s natural resources is a big part of MountainTrue’s legislative agenda.

We got an early read on how our budget priorities may fare this year recently when the North Carolina Senate approved its version of the state’s new spending plan a few weeks ago. The news – so far anyway – is pretty good.

The Senate budget includes some of our top priorities, including recurring funding to maintain the state’s landslide hazard mapping efforts in our region; funding to identify and address failing septic systems that are polluting rivers and streams; and a constellation of conservation investments to restore regional waters and make them more accessible to the public.

Take Action for the Environment

We need your help to win support for much-needed funding to clean up WNC rivers and protect our environment.

Some of the more recognizable investments include $12 million for the new Pisgah View State Park in Buncombe County and $7.5 million for removal of the Big Hungry Dam on the Green River in Henderson County — one of the most expensive and long-sought dam removal projects in the state.

Our team began meeting with legislators about our budget priorities months ago, so it’s great to see some of that work pay off with funding for a number of those projects included. But we would be remiss if we did not thank the legislators who helped with this success — particularly Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County.

Edwards is one of the chairs of a key Senate appropriations committee with responsibility for natural resources investments. He’s been a strong ally of MountainTrue’s efforts to address water quality problems — including E. Coli — in our region and to find the funding for a variety of other investments.

More good news: an important open space conservation fund also gets a big boost under the Senate budget. Last year the state’s Land and Water Conservation Fund provided $21 million in grants. Under the Senate plan, the Fund would receive $73.2 million in this fiscal year and $53.2 million next year. Trust funds for farmland preservation and our state parks system also got big boosts.

While the Senate budget is a good first step, we hope that House budget writers will build on this success and fund two big-ticket items that the Senate did not. WNC urgently needs funding to help farmers pay for fencing and other “best management practices” that will keep cows and stormwater runoff out of rivers and our waters free of E. Coli. Statewide demand for these programs far outstrips the availability of these funds. Likewise, funding to help property owners and local governments upgrade septic and wastewater systems to reduce water pollution in our region are also in great demand.

These two programs need millions of dollars of new investment.

For more information about MountainTrue’s budget priorities, give this document a look (pdf).

With the budget process in Raleigh in full swing, you can help us advocate for these investments. Use the form below to thank Sen. Edwards for his help and encourage House members to build on the Senate’s investments.

Finally — on a different note — many of you have likely heard about the big energy bill now moving at the legislature. At MountainTrue, we have serious concerns about the bill in its current form and are working with many other groups to fashion a much better solution. Look for updates about this issue in an upcoming newsletter.

Thanks for being part of MountainTrue’s advocacy efforts – together, we are helping bring millions of dollars to WNC to improve water quality and expand public access to our rivers and streams.


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.

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County won the 2021 Bioblitz, beating Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations, and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species. Check out our blog post to read more about our Bioblitz results and see photos of the winning observations.

Sarah Ogletree Joins MountainTrue as the Director of the Creation Care Alliance

The Creation Care Alliance is pleased to announce that Sarah Ogletree will be our next director. Sarah comes to us from our close partner, NC Interfaith Power and Light, where she has been for the last three years. Her dedication to seeking justice for both people and planet shines through in all aspects of her life, and she has consistently been recognized with awards for her leadership, dedication and excellence. Join us in welcoming Sarah! Read more.

We’re Hiring! MountainTrue Seeks a Great Environmental Communicator

MountainTrue seeks a bright, organized, and outgoing individual with strong communications skills, experience in online advocacy, and development writing. The Communications Associate will report to the Director of Communications and work closely with our Community Engagement Director, program directors and regional directors to (1) promote our programs through member outreach and correspondence, public relations, social media, and marketing; (2) support our advocacy goals through online organizing/advocacy; (3) provide writing and communications support for our fundraising activities. The deadline to apply is Sunday, August 15, 2021. Read more and apply.

August 29: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River

MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River.

Sunday, August 29, 2021
Doors: 5:00 p.m., Starts: 7:00 p.m.
All Ages are Welcome
Tickets: $35 in advance; $39 general admission

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson says, “Michael Franti is the perfect artist to bring us back down to the banks of the French Broad to celebrate our beautiful river. Come to enjoy a night of inspiring music and support our ongoing work to make our river cleaner and healthier.” Read more and buy tickets.

High Country Regional News

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

Sparking a Love for Clean Water and Healthy Ecosystems at High Country Forest Wild

Our Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, visited High Country Forest Wild, an outdoor experiential learning school. She gave an instream lesson on aquatic insects and water quality to about 45 students. It was an excellent way to get young minds thinking about freshwater ecosystems and water quality.

MountainTrue Reports Water Quality Violation for Development Along Watauga Lake

While conducting routine sampling of Watauga Lake for our Harmful Algal Bloom Study, we spotted a new development lacking erosion control. We promptly contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, which issued a notice of violation. We hope to see improvements on the construction site and continue monitoring this development to help keep our waterways free of sediment pollution.

Bottomley Farms Clearcut Causes Severe Erosion, Ecosystem Collapse

Our Watauga Riverkeeper teamed up with Southwings to get a bird’s eye view of a massive clear-cut timber operation in Alleghany County being conducted by Bottomley Farms — a Sparta-based agribusiness company. The developers are removing all the trees, shrubs and vegetation, and grubbed it down to hundreds of acres of bare earth. The result has been severe erosion, sediment pollution of area waterways, and a total collapse of the ecosystem in Ramey Creek — once a thriving spawning ground for native brook trout. North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission staff could only save 13 individual trout out of the hundreds previously documented in that stream. Commission staff relocated the survivors to an adjacent watershed. Tragically, a species that thrived in that watershed since the glaciers retreated tens of thousands of years ago was erased by one egregiously bad timber project. Our report resulted in the NC Department of Environmental Quality issuing a notice of violation. We will continue to monitor this project and push for a lasting riparian buffer and a complete restoration of the stream.

Trash Trout Update: There’s Too Much Plastic in Our Waterways

Our Trash Trout on Winklers Creek continues to collect so much litter. We have removed and cataloged thousands of pieces of trash in the few weeks that the trash-collection device has been in place. The majority of the garbage found has been single-use plastics and styrofoam, underscoring the need to address the prevalence of plastics and microplastics in our environment.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Volunteer for Rhythm & Brews! Hear Good Music and Get Cool Stuff!

Join MountainTrue’s Recycling Team on Main St. during the Rhythm & Brews Concert Series in downtown Hendersonville this summer and fall to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Volunteers will be rewarded with an R&B volunteer t-shirt, a voucher for a free beverage, a koozie and a water bottle! Help educate attendees and monitor the waste stations.

Upcoming Concerts:
July 15: Abby Bryant & The Echoes with opener Andrew Thelston Band
August 19: Jamie McLean Band with opener Hustle Souls.
September 16: Mike and the Moonpies with opener Kenny George Band.
October 21: The Broadcast with opener TBD.

2 Shifts: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. & 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Volunteers needed: 4 per shift, 8 total
To sign up: https://signup.com/go/eRCebTq

Working to be Plastic Free Program Endorsed by Hendersonville City Council

L to R: Beth Stang, chair of Hendersonville’s ESB. Lyndsey Simpson, H’ville City Councilwoman, and Christine Wittmeier, chair of MountainTrue’s Recycling Team, hold a July 1st proclamation endorsing the Working to Be Plastic Free program.

On July 1, Hendersonville City Council approved a proclamation supporting Working to be Plastic Free — a plastic reduction program created by MountainTrue and the Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board. Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk signed the pledge and has encouraged staff to reduce the city’s use of plastic.

Many of the local merchants and restaurants participated in a plastics-use survey earlier in the year. Now, we’re encouraging them to sign the pledge and begin working to eliminate single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and take-out containers. Most of these plastics are not recyclable and end up in landfills or littering our rivers and streams.

MountainTrue is ready to help businesses find sustainable packaging alternatives, and participants will be recognized in press releases, newsletters, social media, and a webpage promoting the program. To get more information and sign the pledge, visit our webpage or contact MountainTrue’s Interim Southern Regional Director, Katie Breckheimer, at srogray@mountaintrue.org.

Congratulations to Our Broad River Race Winners: Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe

Broad River Race winners Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe accept the trophy from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper.

Our Third Annual Broad River Race was postponed when a thunderstorm moved across the area last Saturday, July 12. A day later, the race flag dropped, and the paddlers sped down the river. Four and a half miles and an hour later, Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe were the first to cross the finish line in a tandem canoe to take home our race trophy, Betsy the Turtle. Annie Keith and her son David Caldwell, our Broad Riverkeeper, were hot on their trail. It was great to see so many people enjoying the cool waters of the Broad River, and we look forward to seeing who wins next year.

App State Eco-Tox Team Collects Fish Tissue Samples From the Broad River

The Appalachian State Eco-toxicology Team returned to the Broad River to collect more water, sediment and fish tissue samples for an ongoing study of the bio-accumulation of heavy metals in fish. The team sampled upstream and downstream of two industrial sites with permits to discharge pollutants into the river. MountainTrue will use the results to determine if we need fish consumption advisories for the affected sections of the waterway. Special thanks to our High Country Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, and Appalachian State’s Dr. Shea Tuberty for leading this fantastic project.

ICYMI: Broad River Spring Sweep Collects Over 100 lbs of Litter

We had a small crew for this year’s Annual Broad River Spring Sweep on May 29, but we made a big impact by collecting over 100 lbs of litter (including a football) from the Broad River. It was also inspiring to see so many folks cooling off in the water and enjoying the river at the Greenway canoe access.

Western Regional News

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

Crossover Timber Project Update: Your Advocacy Is Making a Difference

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly documents the age of a 200-year-old tree in the Nantahala National Forest.

We asked, and you responded! MountainTrue’s members submitted 334 public comments (36% of which were customized) and 24 letters to the editors of relevant local newspapers during the comment period for the US Forest Service’s Crossover Project. As currently proposed, the project would log more than 300 acres of old-growth forest, rare species habitat, and remote backcountry in the Snowbird Mountains of Nantahala National Forest.

The Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership — a broad coalition of forest users representing recreation, conservation and timber interests of which MountainTrue is a member— has joined the fight and requested that the Forest Service remove these acres from the project. For its part, the Forest Service has indicated a willingness to collaborate with the partnership to develop a better alternative during the Environmental Assessment phase of the project. Thank you for speaking up for our forests!

We’re Hiring a Nonnative Invasive Plant Control Intern

MountainTrue seeks a dedicated individual to fill a part-time, 12-week paid internship for its western region in Fall 2021. The position includes a combination of on-the-ground stewardship of public and conserved lands, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and public outreach. It will require travel to various locations within a 60-mile radius of Murphy (including north Georgia) and substantial work outdoors. The application deadline is August 4, and the start date is August 30. Visit our website to learn more.

Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants Webinar Coming in August

Due to popular demand, MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward and Public Lands Director Bob Gale will host a webinar on how to eradicate non-native invasive plants (NNIP) on Tuesday, August 24 at noon. Tony and Bob will discuss the best tools to control common NNIP species and the best seasons for treatment. The webinar will include an in-depth discussion about herbicides, the active ingredients of commonly used products, and how to apply them correctly and with minimal impact on the environment. Register for the free webinar today!

Become A Georgia Green Landscape Steward

The Georgia Green Landscape Stewards certification program provides educational resources that teach landowners about increasing plant and animal biodiversity, conserving soil and water, providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improving public and environmental health. Participants can measure their activities with the program’s metric scorecard and earn certification status for their landscape. Along with the satisfaction of contributing to natural resource protection, Georgia Green Landscape certification includes an option for Georgians to purchase an attractive yard sign to designate their property as a sustainably managed landscape.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

July 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Headwaters Fun Float on the First Broad River
Join MountainTrue as we head up to the South Mountains for a fun paddle on the cool shady waters of the First Broad River! Read more.

August 24, 12-1 p.m.: MountainTrue University: Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants
Join us for an educational program about managing common nonnative invasive plants, including techniques for control, best seasons for treatment, and more. Read more.

August 29, 7 p.m.: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River
MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River. Read more.


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.

What we’re up to: Fixing bad timber sales, bioblitzing, and competing to be the MountainTruest

What we’re up to: Fixing bad timber sales, bioblitzing, and competing to be the MountainTruest

June E-Vistas Newsletter

Who is the MountainTruest? Summer 2021 Engagement Competition

We’re kicking off a friendly competition this summer to recognize environmental champions across our region. You can participate by doing things like volunteering, responding to calls to action, and attending events — all ways you can help MountainTrue fulfill our mission! Click here to learn more.

Celebrate Black Emancipation this Juneteenth

This Saturday is Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery. To help celebrate the end of American slavery, MountainTrue staff offer up some of our favorite movies, books and podcasts that tackle the issues of race, empowerment and equity. Read our picks.

Protect Our Forests. Fix the Crossover Project

The US Forest Service is proposing a new timber sale called the Crossover Project, which would log 1,500 acres in the Snowbird Mountains in Nantahala National Forest. The proposal includes logging of backcountry and old-growth forests and would impact drinking water supply watersheds and rare species.

Act now to tell the Forest Service to protect 100 acres of ancient forests from logging, keep the Ash Cove Backcountry Area wild, and scale back road building in the steep slopes of the Snowbird Mountains. Read more and take action.

Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Michael Franti Returns to Play the French Broad Riverkeeper Concert

Michael Franti, the globally recognized musician, humanitarian, activist and award-winning filmmaker, returns to the Salvage Station on August 29 for a high-energy night of inspiring music in support of the work of MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper. Tickets are on pre-sale Thursday, June 17 at 10 a.m. with the purchase code FRANTILOVE. General ticket sales go live on Friday at 10 a.m..

Help Make Solar Available to More of Your Neighbors through Solarize!

As a core member of the Solarize Asheville-Buncombe coalition, MountainTrue is fundraising to make solar energy accessible to more people in our community. That’s why, in addition to the bulk purchasing discount that all Solarize participants receive, we’re crowdfunding to make solar grant funds go even further and help moderate and lower-income neighbors afford solar through our Neighbor-To-Neighbor program. In the process, we’re building community and moving Buncombe County closer to reaching our 100% renewable energy goal. Learn more about Solarize’s Neighbor-To-Neighbor solar funding program and donate here!

Become an Energy-Efficiency Volunteer and Help Weatherize 1000 Homes for Asheville Housing Authority!

Looking for a fun, hands-on volunteer opportunity to lower the energy cost burden of limited-income families AND fight climate change at the same time? Join Energy Savers Network as a volunteer for their Asheville Housing Authority Project. The goal is to retrofit 1,000 homes over the next year through simple tasks like changing light bulbs, caulking air leaks, and installing low-flow water fixtures. Read more at energysaversnetwork.org/1000-homes or sign up for a three-hour shift. Recurring volunteers and volunteer groups are welcome!

Stop The Bluffs. Come Out to the Hearing on June 24!

Volunteers have worked hard for six months to hold off The Bluffs. Now we need your help! Help fight a planned mega-development that would be built on 80 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River.

Here’s How You Can Take Action:

  1. UPDATE: The Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments hearing of the Bluffs Issue that was scheduled for Thursday, June 24 meeting has been POSTPONED for 60 days. Once a new hearing is scheduled, we will send an email to let you know. 
    Attend the Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments meeting on Thursday, June 24 and wear green! It’s crucial that we have a large turnout of people that oppose the Bluffs at this meeting.

    What: Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments In-Person Meeting
    When: Thursday, June 24 at 6:30 pm
    Where: Woodfin Community Center
    20 Community Center
    Woodfin, NC 28804
  2. Donate to the Richmond Hill & River Rescue GoFundMe page. All financial contributions will help with the costs of hiring a stormwater engineer to analyze the full extent of the development’s potential impact to the French Broad River. To donate directly through MountainTrue, list your donation as restricted for Richmond Hill & River Rescue.

Learn more about The Bluffs proposal.

High Country Regional News

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

Litter Report From Boone’s First Trash Trout

This month, we installed Boone’s first Trash Trout on Winklers Creek! The trash trout is a device that collects litter while floating on the river, and in just six days after installing it, the device stopped 278 pieces of junk from flowing downstream into the New River. Our staff removed the litter from the trout and tallied the amount, types and brands of the trash collected. In this first sweep, our team found most items were styrofoam packaging from fast food restaurants, cigarette butts, plastic bags and bottles. Unfortunately, styrofoam and plastic can break down and persist in the environment for hundreds of years — well beyond our human lifespan. We appreciate the collaboration with The Town of Boone and Asheville Greenworks to make this project possible. We are excited for the role the trash trout will continue to play in cleaning up our rivers.

Beech Mountain Concert Series

The Wood Brothers playing at Beech Mountain Resort. Photo by Micah Davidson

MountainTrue is proud to partner with Beech Mountain Ski Resort and to be a part of the resort’s Summer Concert Series. Get your tickets to enjoy some great music and support the critical work of MountainTrue. You can also swing by our tent, where we will have cool MountainTrue merchandise and cold water to beat the heat. We would love to meet and talk with our supporters in the High Country. Read more and get tickets. 

Show dates and times:
Umphrey’s McGee August 6th 5:00PM GATES / 7:00PM SHOW
Umphrey’s McGee August 7th 5:00PM GATES / 7:00PM SHOW
Tedeschi/Trucks August 14th 5:00PM GATES / 7:00PM SHOW
Greensky Bluegrass August 21st 5:00PM GATES / 7:00PM SHOW

July 15 – Paddle with the Watauga Riverkeeper on Price Lake

Want to meet fellow environmental enthusiasts? Come paddle on Price Lake with the Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue’s Water Team staff. This event will be BYOB (bring your own boat!), but kayak and canoe rentals are available onsite at Price Lake. This is one of our most pristine Swim Guide sites, with gorgeous mountain views located on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Learn more. 

July 10 – Snorkel the Watauga and See the Teeming Life Just Below the Surface

Just below the surface or our rivers, an entire freshwater community is teeming with life. Get up close to rainbow and brown trout, darters and other aquatic life on this snorkel. We will provide gear, and we’ll walk you through river snorkeling safety on this guided adventure. River swimming is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Join us. 

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Asphalt Plant Developer Recognizes Defeat, Withdraws Rezoning Application Again

Once again, the community of East Flat Rock came together to defeat an asphalt plant proposal that would harm community health, clean water and local public lands. Just hours before the June 1 Board of Commissioners meeting where the rezoning application was to be decided, the developer withdrew his application because he knew he didn’t have the votes. This marks the second time we’ve defeated this dangerous proposal. A huge thanks to the neighbors who came together to stand up, speak out and tell Henderson County leaders that an industrial plan has no place in East Flat Rock. Read the full blogpost about the victory.

2021 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Can Transylvania Come Back from Behind?

Our 2021 BioBlitz is in full swing. Every year, MountainTrue hosts a bioblitz to get experts, naturalists, and nature lovers outdoors to document every living organism we can find. This year, we are hosting a regional competition – a tri-county smackdown! – to determine the 2021 champion of biodiversity. Right now, Transylvania County is trailing Jackson and Watauga counties, but I believe in underdogs. The competition doesn’t end until Sunday, June 20, so show your county pride and let’s win this WNC regional bio-battle! Find out more here and register to participate and win.

Join us for the Broad River Headwaters Fun Float on Sunday, July 18

Our Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, is leading a fun paddle on the cool, shady waters of the First Broad River on Sunday, July 18! This beautiful section of river is located in the foothills of the South Mountains just a few miles west of Casar, NC. We will cover approximately five miles of river in four hours. Space is limited, so sign up.

Western Regional News

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

Let’s Win the BioBlitz for the Western Region

Our Tri-County BioBlitz competition is in full swing, and you can still participate through Sunday, June 20th! Every year, MountainTrue hosts a bioblitz to get folks outdoors with a mission to document every living organism we can find. This year, we’ve made it a regional competition between Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties to determine the 2021 champion of biodiversity.

Show off your county pride and natural curiosity in this regional bio-battle! Register to participate and win prizes. You’ll receive instructions after you register, but be sure to “Join” MountainTrue’s Jackson County Project on iNaturalist – the biodiversity website (and app!) we’re using for the bioblitz – and your observations will automatically be included in the fun.

Jackson County is in the lead, and YOU can help ensure that we win!

Help Us Improve the Forest Service’s Crossover Project

The US Forest Service is currently soliciting input on a 1,500-acre timber sale proposal in the Snowbird Mountains of Cherokee and Graham counties. We need you to tell the Forest Service to improve the proposal by protecting 100 acres of ancient forests from logging, preventing impacts to designated Natural Heritage Areas, and keeping the Ash Cove Backcountry Area wild. The Forest Service can have a successful timber project while also protecting Natural Heritage Natural Areas and existing old-growth forests. Act now to help us improve the Crossover Project!

Walking Tour of Bryson City Set for August 20th

Please join me and MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities Director, Chris Joyell, on a walking tour of downtown Bryson City. Along the way, we’ll reflect on past plans for revitalizing Main and Everett Streets, see where progress has been made, and explore how future efforts can contribute to the vitality of this historic town. We’ll also visit some ongoing projects that are making Bryson City more livable and enjoyable for residents and visitors. Register today!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

June 5-19: 2021 BioBlitz: Tri-County Smackdown
Get out into the woods to document the natural environment in Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties and help crown the regional champion of biodiversity. Read more.

June 15, 9-11 a.m.: Restore Native Habitats in Hendersonville
Help combat non-native invasive plants and restore native habitats along the Oklawaha Greenway. Read more.

June 23, 12-1 p.m.: MountainTrue University: Fighting Climate Change Through Community-Powered Solar
Join MountainTrue’s Organizer & Communications Manager, Eliza Stokes, to learn about how solar energy purchasing programs in Buncombe County are helping us meet our renewable energy goals. Read more.

July 10, 10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Snorkel the Watauga River
Join MountainTrue’s High Country Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, and explore the unique ecosystems of the Watauga River. Read more.

July 11, 4-5:30 pm: Summer Fun Float on Lake Junaluska
Join Western Regional Director Callie Moore for a leisurely, family-friendly float on Lake Junaluska. Organized in partnership with Haywood Waterways Association. Read more.

July 14, 12-1:00 p.m.: MountainTrue University: Climate Change and the Built Environment
Join Chris Joyell, Director of the Asheville Design Center and MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities Program, as we explore how climate change will impact our decisions around affordable housing, transportation and racial equity. Read more.

July 18, 10 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.: First Broad River Headwaters Fun Float
Join MountainTrue as we head up to the South Mountains for a fun paddle on the cool, shady waters of the First Broad River! Read more.

August 20, 10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Bryson City Downtown Walking Tour
Join Western Regional Director Callie Moore and Healthy Communities Director Chris Joyell for a walking tour and discussion on past, present and future plans for revitalizing downtown and making Bryson City more livable. Read more.

August 21, 10:00 a.m.- 2 p.m.: Fontana Lake Historic Paddle
Explore the Hazel Creek arm of Fontana Lake and the remnants of Proctor, NC – a town that was evacuated and flooded when the lake was created in 1944. Read more.

August 28 – September 6: Second Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament
No cash, no prizes. What’s on the line is the title of “Broad River’s Best Angler.” Read our tournament rules and sign up.

September 18, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Asheville Urban Bike Tour
Learn about Asheville’s urban core, how redlining has shaped our city and what the future could hold for Asheville with Chris Joyell. Read more.

September 18, 7-11:30 p.m.: Broad River Moonlight Float
Come paddle the Broad River by the light of the moon. Read more.


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.

Celebrate Juneteenth with Black Media and Stories About the Struggle for Freedom

Celebrate Juneteenth with Black Media and Stories About the Struggle for Freedom

Celebrate Juneteenth with Black Media and Stories About the Struggle for Freedom

Image credit: The late Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Disney

This Saturday is Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery. The story of Juneteenth goes back to when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom on June 19, 1895 — two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.

Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, MountainTrue will be observing the day on Friday, and our offices will be closed for a long weekend. To help celebrate the end of American slavery, MountainTrue staff offer up some of our favorite movies, books and podcasts that tackle the issues of race, empowerment and equity.

Susan Bean, our Director of Engagement, recommends the 2016 documentary film “I Am Not Your Negro” by Raoul Peck. The film is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House and explores the history of racism in the United States.

For a fist-pumping blockbuster that still offers a lot to think about, Susan also recommends “Black Panther.” The Marvel superhero flick features an almost entirely Black cast, grapples with challenging issues facing people of African descent, both in America and in Africa, and is highly entertaining. Western Regional Director Callie Moore chimed into our email thread to second this recommendation.

Susan also suggests “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a 2014 article in The Atlantic magazine that lays out a thoughtful and compelling case for why America needs to reckon with the question of what we owe to the descendants of enslaved people in this country.

AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator Grace Fuchs recommends the book Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage by William Loren Katz. This accessible nonfiction work dives into the often-overlooked history of mixed Blacks and Natives and brings to light the challenges of blood quantum laws, marriage laws and slavery. Parts of the book focus on South Eastern Tribes, so it’s locally relevant too.

Forest Keeper Coordinator Tamia Dame recommends the Netflix film 13th, a thought-provoking documentary that analyzes the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S prison boom; Judas and the Black Messiah, the Oscar-winning biopic of Black Panther Fred Hampton; and the podcasts Code Switch and Louder Than A Riot on NPR and Resistance by Gimlet media. Tamia extolls, “The three podcasts are phenomenal, but Louder Than a Riot might be my favorite. For both Resistance and Louder, I’d recommend listening to them in their entireties.”

Communications Director Karim Olaechea recommends the four-part HBO series “Exterminate All the Brutes,” in which filmmaker and activist Raoul Peck mixes documentary, personal stories, and historical reenactment to tell the history of white supremacy, slavery, and colonialism. Karim also recommends “King In The Wilderness,” a documentary by Peter W. Kunhardt that explores how Martin Luther King Jr. followed his heart and put his life on the line to expand the fight for civil rights into a Poor People’s Campaign against racism, war, and poverty.

Finally, Healthy Communities Director Chris Joyell chimes in with a simple but very appropriate recommendation: “I realized that I have never read the actual text of the Emancipation Proclamation. I find it really interesting that Lincoln framed it as a wartime measure necessary to suppress the rebellion. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought the proclamation was the catalyst for the Civil War, and the attack on Ft. Sumter was a response to that proclamation. Instead, Lincoln delivers this almost two years into the war.”

We hope this list offers plenty of inspiration for your Juneteenth weekend. Have yourself a happy Emancipation Day!


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.

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Volunteers have worked hard for six months to hold off The Bluffs. Now we need your help!

Help fight a planned mega-development that would be built on 80 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River.

Here’s How You Can Take Action:

UPDATE: The Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments hearing of the Bluffs Issue that was scheduled for Thursday, June 24 meeting has been POSTPONED for 60 days. Once a new hearing is scheduled, we will send an email to let you know. 
1. Attend the Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments meeting on Thursday, June 24 and wear green! It’s important that we have a large turnout of people that oppose the Bluffs at this meeting.

What: Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments In-Person Meeting
When: Thursday, June 24 at 6:30 pm
Where: Woodfin Community Center
20 Community Center
Woodfin, NC 28804

2. Donate to the Richmond Hill & River Rescue GoFundMe page. All financial contributions will help with the costs of hiring a stormwater engineer to analyze the full extent of the development’s potential impact to the French Broad River. To donate directly through MountainTrue, list your donation as restricted for Richmond Hill & River Rescue.

What else should you know?

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.

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.

  • 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.

Send in your comments 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.

Commission members are: Adrienne 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.


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.

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

The US Forest Service is proposing a 1,500-acre timber sale in the Snowbird Mountains in Nantahala National Forest that would log documented old-growth stands, steep headwaters of pristine streams, and areas recognized by the state of North Carolina for their outstanding biodiversity and healthy forests.

Act now and tell the forest service to fix their proposal and protect our natural heritage.

This is the latest in a series of bad faith projects on the Nantahala National Forest that propose road building and timber harvest in some of the wildest and healthiest forests in our region. The Crossover Project would prejudice the new Forest Plan against the protection of old-growth forests, rare species, and backcountry areas and put water supply watersheds at risk. This is not what we consider a “collaborative” project that furthers ecological restoration for Nantahala National Forest.

Josh Kelly, MountainTrue’s field biologist explains: “The Forest Service worked with a broad group of stakeholders, throughout the forest management plan process. With one hand, they assure us that they take collaboration and our input seriously, then with the other hand they draw up these plans that plainly contradict the recommendations of hunters, hikers, anglers, equestrians, timber companies and other forest users. This is an old-school timber sale that targets the most sensitive and controversial areas for logging. If this project represents Nantahala National Forest’s priorities for the next 20 years, everyone should be very concerned, not just because of the damage it would do to the land, but because of the lack of relevancy, it would ensure for the agency. ”

The Crossover Timber Project would log 158 acres of the Ash Cove Backcountry Area which was proposed for Backcountry Management in Alternative C in the new forest plan and endorsed by the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. Commercial logging and building logging roads are incompatible with the Backcountry Management Area. The proposal for Crossover, following on the heels of a similar decision in the Buck Project, shows that Nantahala National Forest is biased against Backcountry Management.

The Crossover Timber Project would log 51 acres of Natural Heritage Areas. Within the project area, the slopes of Teyahalee Bald have been identified by the State of North Carolina as Natural Heritage Natural Areas for their outstanding biodiversity. These areas are home to some of the healthiest forests in North Carolina that include rare species like Mountain Catch Fly that would be harmed by commercial logging.

The Crossover Timber Project would log at least 98 acres of existing old-growth forests. The Forest Service’s own records show that all of these forests are over 130 years old, and fieldwork conducted by MountainTrue has documented trees over 200 years of age in these areas. MountainTrue alerted the Forest Service to the location and presence of these rare old-growth sites and they are still being targeted by this timber sale.

The Crossover Timber Project proposal would log more than 400 acres at the source of Robbinsville’s drinking water supply. Seventeen stands slated for analysis of commercial and non-commercial timber harvest treatments lie in the Long and Rock Creek watersheds. These streams flowing off the ridge of the Snowbird Mountains are all classified as High-Quality Waters and feed public drinking water supplies for the Town of Robbinsville.

The Crossover Timber Project would permanently decommission the western half of the Snowbird Mountain Trail. Recreation groups within the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership had asked that the trail be improved, not decommissioned within their recommendations for the forthcoming forest management plan.

If the Forest Service truly believes in collaboration, the solution is easy: Follow the recommendation of the partners you’ve been working with for the past 8+ years. The Forest Service can have a successful timber project while protecting Natural Heritage Natural Areas and existing old growth, and keeping Snowbird trail open.

ACT NOW: EMAIL THE FOREST SERVICE.

THREE WAYS YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

1. Email the Forest Service

The Forest Service is now soliciting input on the design of its Crossover Timber Project!

2. Send a Letter to the Editor

Send a letter to the editor of the Smoky Mountain News to raise public awareness.

3. Support Our Timber Monitoring Program

MountainTrue monitors and analyzes every project in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests to support vulnerable species, safeguard old-growth forests, and make sure you have wonderful outdoor spaces for biking, hiking, hunting, fishing and foraging.

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Ward Mill Dam Removal Connects Aquatic Habitat, Makes River Healthier

Boone, NC — In a huge win for local aquatic wildlife, the Ward Mill Dam just a few miles from Boone, North Carolina has finally been removed. The first dam was constructed at the location in 1890 and improved upon over the years. The mill complex served the community for generations providing electricity, jobs, firewood and building materials. The dam had been an obstacle for local aquatic wildlife for the past 130 years. Now, native fish such as the tangerine darter and threatened salamanders like the hellbender will be reunited and benefit from a reconnected and improved cold-water aquatic habitat.

The Ward Mill Dam Removal project has been a partnership between American Rivers, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, MountainTrue, the Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The dam removal was a high priority for experts and biologists and was ranked a top priority among projects by the Southeast Aquatic Resource Partnership and “tier one, priority one” by the North Carolina Aquatic Barrier Assessment Tool.

MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper, Andy Hill, is excited about the environmental benefits and the opportunity to connect the Watauga River Paddle to create more recreational opportunities. “We’ve greatly improved aquatic habitat and river health, and promoted safe river recreation while honoring the historical and community cultural value of the Ward Mill.”

The Ward family continues their generations-long environmental stewardship by removing this aquatic barrier and graciously surrendering their hydropower license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. While the instream dam structure has been completely removed down to bedrock to reconnect the watershed and allow for sediment transport downstream, the iconic sawmill, historic buildings and complex have been preserved in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office. Please respect the decision and the privacy of the Ward family.

“We are excited to see the long-term environmental benefits associated with removing the dam, but are also excited about preserving the rich history of the dam complex by documenting and saving the nearby historic buildings,” explains Jonathan Hartsell of Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development. “This complex project has been successful from start to finish due to a well thought out gameplan from the project management team, agency partners and, most importantly, the landowners.”

The complex project had to be done carefully due to the delicate biodiversity of the Watauga River and its streams. Dr. Mike Gangloff and Dr. Derek Martin of Appalachian State University led a team of researchers collecting valuable data on pre and post-removal aquatic habitat. This has included sediment flow research, aquatic habitat surveys and numerous nocturnal SCUBA dives searching for elusive nocturnal Hellbender salamander. Sediment flow research and aquatic habitat surveys will better inform future dam removal projects and contribute to the field of knowledge for river restoration.

“Rivers are like a circulatory system, and thanks to this dam removal, American Rivers with our partners celebrate a free-flowing Watauga River which is the lifeblood of a thriving community, healthy ecosystems, and clean water for people and nature,” says Dam Removal advocate and American Rivers Science Program Director and Southeast Conservation Director Erin McCombs.

Removing the Ward Mill Dam reconnects 35 miles of aquatic habitat in the main stem of the Watauga River and 140 miles of streams across the watershed. Dams, though providing benefits in certain circumstances, can also significantly damage rivers. Dams increase water temperature, reduce river flows, reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen available to fish and other species, block the natural flow of sediment and debris, and serve as physical barriers for recreational users such as paddlers and anglers, as well as aquatic wildlife such as fish and amphibians. Additionally, most dams require maintenance and many require removal or rebuilding after 50 years.

The dam deconstruction was performed by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service National Fish Passage Program Aquatic Restoration team and Wildlands Engineering. Project funding was generously provided by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, Patagonia, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Beech Mountain Resort, Hunter Banks of Asheville, and Boone’s Fly Shop.


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.

What we’re up to: science, boots on the ground & collaboration

What we’re up to: science, boots on the ground & collaboration

What we’re up to: science, boots on the ground & collaboration

We’re Hiring: Four Open AmeriCorps Positions! Apply by May 31

MountainTrue, through AmeriCorps Project Conserve, is seeking dedicated individuals to fill four positions that serve critical conservation needs in Western North Carolina The positions are Water Quality Administrator positions in both Hendersonville and Boone, and ForestKeeper Coordinator and Outings & Education Coordinator positions in Asheville. Each member will serve 1700 hours from September 1, 2021 through July 31, 2022. The deadline to apply is May 31.

Check out our jobs page to read individual position descriptions, learn about AmeriCorps Member benefits and eligibility requirements and apply!

Ward Mill Dam Removal Reconnects Aquatic Habitat After 120 Years

In a huge win for local aquatic wildlife, the Ward Mill Dam just a few miles from Boone, North Carolina has finally been removed. The first dam was constructed at the location in 1890 and improved upon over the years. The dam had been an obstacle for local aquatic wildlife for the past 130 years. Now, native fish such as the brook trout, tangerine darters and threatened salamanders like the hellbender will be reunited and benefit from a reconnected and improved cold-water aquatic habitat. The removal project was a high priority for experts and biologists and accomplished by a partnership including American Rivers, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, MountainTrue, the Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Read more.

Get Your Ticket to No Man’s Land Film Festival!

MountainTrue is proud to bring the No Man’s Land Film Festival (NMLFF) back to the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains for a fourth year. This year’s film program will highlight intrepid climate activists, conservationists, problem solvers, committed grassroots organizers, and environmental justice champions – all women, and all inspiring! And this year’s festival is being paired with actions that the public can take to help keep our local rivers clean, stop industrial pollution and fight climate change.

“This year’s film festival will showcase dazzling vistas and tell stories that will inspire all of us to seek out adventure and fight to protect our mountains, forests and rivers,” explains MountainTrue’s Community Engagement Director Susan Bean, who is organizing the event. “We hope to have at least 300 actions taken during the festival to protect the outdoor treasures here in our own backyards.”

Get your tickets, watch the film trailers and take action.

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways During Six Month Period

More than one million gallons of sewage overflowed from inadequate wastewater infrastructure into the French Broad River and other area waterways in Western North Carolina between August 3, 2020 and March 4, 2021, according to state data acquired and analyzed by MountainTrue. The sewage spills happen when heavy rains overwhelm inadequate wastewater infrastructure, causing rainwater and sewage to overflow from manhole covers. Prior DNA testing conducted by MountainTrue showed that leaks from sewer and wastewater infrastructure were a significant source of bacteria pollution in the French Broad Watershed. Read more.

This DEQ data underscores those findings and supports a key MountainTrue policy goal: reducing human-derived bacteria contamination by fixing our broken sewer and wastewater systems. Take action to clean up our waters at ilovrivers.org.

2021 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Who Will Be Crowned Champion of Biodiversity in WNC?

Join MountainTrue for the 2021 BioBlitz to compete for the crown of 2021 Champion of Biodiversity. The competition takes place virtually across three counties (Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties) from June 5 through June 19, and is a great opportunity for experts and aspiring naturalists to get outside and add to the scientific record by documenting the vast biodiversity of our region.

Everyone can participate through the iNaturalist web and smartphone platforms. Scores will be tallied for each county and for individual participants, with prizes and bragging rights for our winners (note: you must sign up using our registration form to be eligible to win). Prizes will be awarded to individual winners in the following categories: Overall best observation, most total observations, most species, most birds, most arthropods (including insects!) and most fungi. We will recognize the County Champion of Biodiversity as the county that receives the most observations of unique species. Additional recognition will go to the county with the most participants and the most observations submitted. Learn more and sign up.

Help NC Get an Electric Vehicle Specialty License Plate

Plug-in NC is working to increase awareness and adoption of electric vehicles across the state. One aspect of this effort is getting an electric vehicle specialty license plate approved by the legislature. There must be 500 applications for the specialty plate to receive final approval, and there are currently only 350. Help push this effort across the finish line by submitting an application!

Take Action To Reduce Damage From Landslides

We saw the damage of landslides firsthand in Haywood County two years ago, when a landslide blocked I-40 and required over 26,000 people to take a 160-mile detour for two weeks. We’ve seen it when landslides have destroyed and condemned homes all over our region, impacted a major gas line, moved excessive sediment into Franklin’s drinking water supply and resulted in a tragic loss of life in Watauga, Polk and Macon counties. Unfortunately, as climate change causes more frequent and heavy rainstorms, landslides are also becoming more common and dangerous.

The good news is, we can make our communities safer from landslides if we know where to expect them. The NC Department of Environmental Quality has been mapping landslide risk in our mountains, but the funding for the highly trained, technical mapping staff who do this work will run out this June. Take action by asking your State Senator to continue funding for the landslide hazard mapping effort in this year’s Senate budget.

Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Solarize Asheville-Buncombe Reaches Its Cheapest Pricing Level!

Solarize Asheville-Buncombe has truly taken off like no Solarize campaign before it, reaching the final pricing tier – tier 8 – in record time. This means we have made solar energy more affordable for hundreds of residents in Buncombe County!

To extend accessibility further, Solarize Asheville-Buncombe also signed our first income-based solar grant last week. This grant will cover the full cost of a solar installation for a low-income family in Buncombe County – significantly reducing energy costs for many decades, and providing greater financial security while utility costs fluctuate.

At the same time, the workforce development component of Solarize is moving forward, as Green Opportunities has completed multiple weeks of solar installation training for community members with traditional barriers to employment.

We are so grateful to all of our supporters who have signed up or donated to make Solarize such a success. If you haven’t yet, here are some ways you can participate in the campaign:

  1. You can still sign up! Register for your free home solar evaluation here to see if solar energy will be a good fit for your property.
  2. Help make solar energy attainable for even more families by donating to our Neighbor-To-Neighbor solar crowdfunding campaign. 100% of funds will help more community members in Buncombe County afford solar energy.
  3. Want to learn more about the various ways to finance solar energy? Mark your calendar for Solarize Asheville-Buncombe’s financing workshop on May 26 from 6-7pm. See our events calendar below for more details.

Call on Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners: Build Back Better with Public Transit this Spring

On time, all day, and more often. These are the words that guide our advocacy for a more frequent and accessible public transit system in Buncombe County.

This spring we are advocating for more transit funding from Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and so far, we have good news. City Council has indicated support for our requests to fund the next steps in Asheville’s Transit Master Plan: extending evening hours, which will help night service workers get home without having to spend an hour’s wages or more on an Uber or Lyft; and creating more frequent transit service to South Asheville on Hendersonville Road, which will connect more residents to job opportunities and health services like MAHEC. Now, we need to keep the pressure on to make sure City Council follows through and includes these items in its final budget this month.

We are also calling on the County Commissioners to fund a Transit Master Plan at the County level and to restore the County’s subsidy for Mountain Mobility within Asheville city limits. The County used to pay for this important service, but removed it in 2019 – creating even more of a strain on Asheville’s already underfunded transit system. Take action for better public transit.

High Country Regional News

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

Swim Guide Launches this Memorial Day Weekend

The 2021 Swim Guide season will be in full swing for the summer starting Wednesday, May 26! Our High Country staff, interns and volunteers will take E. coli water samples weekly until Labor Day, and you can check out the weekly report on your favorite swimming or fishing hole at SwimGuide.org.

Interested in collecting samples over the summer? Fill out this form and our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn will contact you with more program details.

Help Welcome our Summer Interns!

My name is Caty Parham (she/her). I’m a senior at Appalachian State pursuing a degree in Geography with a GIS concentration and a Spanish minor. I’m hoping to spend more time out on the water through monitoring and to apply GIS skills to various MountainTrue projects. I’m excited to work with an organization that is so passionate about protecting our local lands and waterways, and to gain new skills this summer.


I’m Hutch Whitman
, and I’m in my third year at the University of California Santa Barbara studying Ecology and Evolution. Even though I’ve been living on the West Coast, I’ve become passionate about studying Appalachia, its freshwater ecosystems, and the flora and fauna within them (especially salamanders). I’m hoping my time with MountainTrue will give me hands-on experience working in rivers and learning the steps that go into protecting our waters and keeping them healthy.

My name is Annabelle Blackwell, and I’m an Appalachian State alumni with a degree in Sustainable Development. I look forward to serving my community by protecting the High Country’s freshwater ecosystems, and I’m especially eager to help with microplastics research and work with volunteers this summer. I’m passionate about all things relating to environmental sustainability. In my free time, I love to climb, hike and kayak.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Henderson County Planning Board Recommends Denial of Asphalt Plant Rezoning; Final Decision To Be Made June 1

On April 15, the Henderson County Planning Board voted to recommend that the Board of Commissioners deny the rezoning request for an asphalt plant in East Flat Rock. The Board of Commissioners took up the issue at a well-attended hearing this past Monday, and after nearly three hours, decided to table the final decision until a June 1 meeting at the historic courthouse in Hendersonville.

Be there wearing green on June 1 at 6 pm to keep up the pressure and tell the Commissioners that rezoning for an industrial plant in this location is unacceptable. You can also send comments to the Board of Commissioners here. Read more.

Broad River Spring Sweep May 29, Race Day and Fun Float June 12

Come out and join us on the water with the Broad Riverkeeper this spring! On May 29, we will be cleaning up our most popular and scenic section of the Broad River: Lake Houser to the Greenway. This five-mile stretch of river is an easy float with a few Class I rapids along the way to add in some fun. Sign up.

Then on June 12, join us for the 3rd Annual Broad River Race Day and Fun Float! Race your friends or take a leisurely float down the same beautiful stretch of river we just cleaned up. Bring your canoe, kayak, jon boat, raft, or any vessel you can paddle. Sign up.

Western Regional News

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

Swim Guide Launches For the Summer Season

MountainTrue’s 2021 Swim Guide program starts next Wednesday, May 26, just in time for Memorial Day weekend! In the Western Region, we will be collecting weekly E. coli samples from 15 sites across the Pigeon and Hiwassee River Watersheds from May to September. E. coli is a reliable indicator of the presence of other bacteria and pathogens in our waters that are harmful to human health. Results will be published in time for the weekend on the Swim Guide website (theswimguide.org) and on the smartphone app, which is available for Android and Apple smartphones.

We are also looking for volunteers to collect Swim Guide samples in Haywood County. Email Anna Alsobrook at anna@mountaintrue.org for more information.

2021 Carson Conservation Scholarship Winners Announced

Murphy High School senior Kaiya Pickens is this year’s top Glenn F. Carson, II Memorial Conservation Scholarship award winner! Kaiya plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Asheville in the fall, where she will pursue a double major in Ecology and Environmental Biology. Her scholarship is $2,000 and is renewable at $1,000 per year for up to three additional years. Additional $500 scholarships were awarded to Ethan Beavers from Robbinsville High School in Graham County, and Colby Davis from Hiwassee Dam High School in Cherokee County. Read more.

Help Us Win the Regional BioBlitz Competition!

Every year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz event to get experts, naturalists, and learners outdoors to document every living organism we can find. This year we’re hosting a regional BioBlitz competition – a tri-county smackdown – to determine the 2021 champion of biodiversity!

Here in the Western Region, Jackson County will compete against Watauga in the High Country and Transylvania in the Southern Region. The competition kicks off on June 5, when we will launch the events on iNaturalist.org and begin accepting submissions, and lasts through June 19. Scores will be tallied for each county and for individual participants, with prizes and bragging rights for our winners (note: you must sign up using our registration form to be eligible to win). Prizes will be awarded to individual winners in the following categories: Overall best observation, most total observations, most species, most birds, most arthropods (including insects!) and most fungi. We will recognize the County Champion of Biodiversity as the county that receives the most observations of unique species. Additional recognition will go to the county with the most participants and the most observations submitted.

We’re also hosting an in-person BioBlitz event in Jackson County on Sunday, June 6 from 2-5 pm. We’ll meet at the Richland Balsam parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then disperse to various overlooks and trails on the Jackson County side of the road. Participants in the in-person event must register in advance and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Sign up for the free Jackson County BioBlitz event today!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

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 & Ecologist Bob Gale and Public Lands 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-12 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, 12-1 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% 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.

May 26, 6-7 pm: Solarize Asheville-Buncombe Financing Workshop
When it comes to purchasing a solar system, most homeowners find that financing makes sense economically. We have set up this online workshop to help clarify how lending works for solar panels. Register by signing up for a free solar evaluation here.

May 29, 10 am-4 pm: Broad River Spring Sweep
Come join MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell as we clean up the Broad River! We will be working on one of the most popular and scenic sections, from Lake Houser to the Broad River Greenway. Sign up.

June 1, 9-11 am: Lewis Creek Preserve Nature Walk
The Lewis Creek Preserve is an eight-acre treasure that includes a boardwalk overlooking a rare remaining Southern Appalachian bog. MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, will lead a slow hike along the trail, interpreting the plant life, wildflowers, and value of pollinators on this property. Sign up.

June 4, 10 am-12 pm: High Country Snorkel
Join MountainTrue’s High Country Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, and take the plunge to explore the unique ecosystems of the Watauga River. Hannah is one of the leading experts on the ecology of the Watauga and is eager to help us find some smallmouth bass, blacknose dace, rainbow and brown trout, and hopefully some tangerine darters! 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.

June 6, 2-5pm: High Elevation In-Person BioBlitz in Jackson County
The in-person BioBlitz group will meet at the Richland Balsam parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway and then disperse to various overlooks and trails on the Jackson County side of the road. Advanced registration is required to participate. Sign up.

June 12, 2-5 pm: Broad River Race Day and Fun Float
Come on out for the 3rd annual Broad River Race Day! We welcome folks to race at your own pace, and enjoy these five miles on the most beautiful stretch of the Broad River. Sign up.

June 12, 1-5 pm: Wicked Weed Float and Cleanup
Come ready to float, clean up our river, and taste the release of the Riverkeeper Beer at the after-party. We will meet at the Pearson Bridge put in at 1 pm, pick up trash along the way, and take out in Woodfin. Sign up.

June 23, 12-1 pm: MountainTrue University: Community-Powered Solar in the Fight Against Climate Change
In this community conversation, MountainTrue’s Organizer & Communications Manager Eliza Stokes will focus on the power of two recent collaborative solar energy purchasing efforts in Buncombe County and explore how similar campaigns could build momentum for renewable energy in other communities in the Southern Blue Ridge. 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.

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

Photo credit: Alan Cressler, USGS. Public domain.

Asheville, NC —  More than one million gallons of sewage overflowed from inadequate wastewater infrastructure into the French Broad River and other area waterways in Western North Carolina according to state data acquired and analyzed by MountainTrue. The data was collected from August 3, 2020 until March 4, 2021 by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Asheville Regional office and is the best available estimate of the amount of sewage that overflows from wastewater infrastructures such as pipes and manhole covers into area rivers and streams across 19 counties of western North Carolina.

TAKE ACTION TO FIGHT E. COLI POLLUTION IN OUR RIVERS

We know the sources of E. coli pollution. Now we have the solutions to clean up our rivers. Advocated for major investments in wastewater infrastructure, and stand up for science-based policies to help farmers fence cattle out of streams and property owners fix their septic systems.

MountainTrue, a local conservation organization, monitors water quality throughout Western North Carolina and in Union and Towns counties in North Georgia for pollution, including levels of E. coli — an indicator of the presence of bacteria and other pathogens that are harmful to human health. The organization has documented a dramatic increase in bacteria pollution of the French Broad River Watershed over the past two years and concerning trends in other area watersheds.

“What we have seen over the past few years has me worried about the future of river recreation on the French Broad River,” explains Hartwell Carson, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper. “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. Then in 2020, that site failed 81% of the time. Or Mud Creek in Henderson County, that site used to be safe at least 50% of the time and now it fails 93% of our tests.”

In April, MountainTrue released results from DNA testing that showed leaks from sewer and wastewater infrastructure were significant sources of bacteria pollution in the French Broad Watershed. The six-month sewer system overflow data from DEQ underscores those findings and supports part of MountainTrue’s policy agenda: reducing human-derived bacteria contamination by fixing our broken sewer and wastewater systems.

“The French Broad River is a significant public resource and a linchpin for our local economy” explains Hartwell Carson. “Protecting it will require action on the part of elected officials and agency personnel at all levels of government. Through our iloverivers.org advocacy campaign, we succeeded in getting the City of Asheville to participate in a Storm Water Taskforce. In the General Assembly, we’re advocating for targeted clean water investments to be included in this years budget, such as $3 million for septic system and wastewater upgrades through the Community Conservation Assistance Program, and $26 million to help farmers keep cattle and stormwater runoff out of our rivers through the Agricultural Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program. In Congress, we’re calling on our delegation to support the $111 billion in the American Jobs Plan that is allocated for water infrastructure.”

The public can read more about the issues affecting water quality, and advocate for the policies and reforms needed to fix them at iloverivers.org.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC – MountainTrue is hosting its annual 2021 BioBlitz as a regional competition to crown the 2021 champion of biodiversity. The competition will take place virtually across three counties from June 5 through June 19, and is a great opportunity for experts and aspiring naturalists to get outside and add to the scientific record by documenting the vast biodiversity of our region.

What: MountainTrue 2021 BioBlitz
Where: Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC through the iNaturalist App.
When: June 5-20

Sign up & Learn More

The competition kicks off on June 5 on the iNaturalist web and smartphone platform. Scores will be tallied for each county and for individual participants, with prizes and bragging rights for our winners. Prizes will be awarded to individual winners in the following categories: overall best observation, most total observations, most species, most birds, most arthropods (including insects!) and most fungi. We will recognize the County Champion of Biodiversity as the county that receives the most observations of unique species. Additional recognition will go to the county with the most participants and the most observations submitted.

“The MountainTrue 2021 Bioblitz is a great opportunity for people to connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “This year, by expanding the blitz to three counties and making a game of it, we hope to be able to engage more people and find more species. . We might even find some that have never been recorded in our region.”

MountainTrue first took its Bioblitz to iNaturalist in 2020 as a safer alternative during COVID-19. Last year, 97 observers documented over 1,100 unique species. This year, by expanding the blitz from one county to three, MountainTrue hopes to record even more species and make a greater contribution to the scientific record for our region. Tell your friends, neighbors, family, and fellow naturalists and citizen scientists, and get prepared for a BioBlitz like no other!

IMAGE DOWNLOAD: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pT3KrHIgpQK0qlcoSI3DxlxpjsyTMHRd?usp=sharing 

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


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.