Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Update: The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is postponing the public hearing and extending the period for public comments until April. They have yet to announce the new hearing date and comment deadline, but as soon as they do, we’ll let you know. Sign up for our Action Alerts here.

Speak up for stricter discharge permits and a healthier and cleaner Pigeon River. Email DEQ with better recommendations today.

Blue Ridge Paper Products has a long history on the Pigeon River in Canton. It has provided good quality jobs for decades, but also caused significant environmental impacts to the Pigeon River. Because of the pressure brought to bear from the public, environmental groups and the EPA, significant improvements in the amount and quality of the discharge to the river have been obtained, but we have a long way to go.

The goals of the Clean Water Act are to have all waters be fishable and swimmable. The way that regulators have tried to achieve those goals while balancing the interests and needs of industry is by slowly reducing permit discharge limits over time. The draft permit as proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) takes a step backwards by weakening regulations, requiring less monitoring and allowing for more pollution to be discharged to the river.

We are calling on the public to make their voice heard for continued improvements at the mill, so the Pigeon River can finally meet the goals of the Clean Water Act, almost 50 years after its passage. Attend and speak at the public hearing and submit comments to DEQ.

 

What you can do

    1. Provide Public Comment via email to the Department of Environmental Quality.
      The public comment period has been extended. Take action today. 
    2. Speak up at the online public hearing:
      The new date for the postponed public hearing has not been set. Sign up for our Action Alerts and we’ll let you know as soon as it is.

Resources

 

Talking Points

 

Temperature: Over 8,500 fish were killed in the summer of 2007 from an extremely hot discharge from the paper mill. This hot water discharge did not violate the temperature permit limits at the mill, because their limits rely on a monthly average, which allows wild swings in the temperature of the discharge, and potential fish kills. We are calling on the Department of Environmental Quality to create a daily average limit for the mill, so we can make sure that aquatic life is protected and future fish kills are avoided.

Dioxin: Reduction in dioxin fish monitoring in the draft permit is being proposed. Current monitoring requires monitoring 3 times in 5 years, but the new draft permit reduces that to once every 5 years. This is problematic for two reasons. The most recent sampling conducted in 2014 still shows dioxin in fish tissue, and therefore monitoring on at least the same schedule should be continued until dioxin is no longer present in fish tissue samples. Secondly, the permit renewal cycle is many years overdue, the last fish tissue sample was taken over six years ago. That means, if new sampling is conducted only once in the next five years, that could mean that we only have one sample in 11 years. For these reasons we call on DEQ to continue the same sampling schedule of three times within every five years.

Fecal Coliform: The mill not only processes its own waste, but also serves as a wastewater treatment plant for the town of Canton. Violations for fecal coliform have been frequent in the last decade with MountainTrue documenting at least 25 permit violations, sometimes in excess of 250 times the safe limit for fecal coliform. The Mill has also commonly violated its permitted standards for total suspended solids and biological oxygen demand. There is an urgent need for significant improvements to the wastewater treatment plant to ensure the river and downstream river recreation users are protected from harmful and dangerous levels of bacteria in the river.

Chloroform: DEQ is proposing to allow the mill to increase their discharge of chloroform, a possible carcinogen. The goal of the Clean Water Act is to reduce pollution discharges until all waters are fishable and swimmable. In this instance, not only is the discharge not decreasing, but the mill will be allowed to discharge even more cancer causing chemicals into the Pigeon River. The 2010 permit allowed for chloroform discharge allowances of 5.1 lb/day (as monthly average) or 8.6 lb/day (daily maximum). The 2021 proposed permit ups those limits to 6.27 lb/day (as a monthly average) and 10.5 lb/day (daily maximum). DEQ should be reducing those allowance, not letting the papermill pollute more.


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.

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 92 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River.

A Florida developer is planning to build 1,545 luxury residential condo units, a 250-room hotel, a 59,000-square-foot office space, and 30 1,000 square-foot buildings in Woodfin adjacent to Richmond Hill Park and on the banks of the French Broad River.

MountainTrue opposes this project in its current form, because of the potential impacts to the public commons – 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!

  • Send a message to Asheville City Council asking them to join the fight against this development. The City owns Richmond Hill Park, and the roads that would be impacted by the development are in the City. The City needs to get involved to protect its interests and the interests of its residents.
  • Send a message to Woodfin Town Commissioners asking them to oppose the rezoning of this property as Multi-use High Density.
  • Donate to Richmond Hill River & Rescue to help cover the legal fees and expert analysis needed to fight this development.
  • Attend the January 19 Virtual Woodfin Town Commission Meeting to oppose this project and request a postponement of the Board of Planning and Zoning Meeting meeting currently scheduled for February 1 to allow the community to gather experts and evaluate the project. The Town Commission should acknowledge that notice was done right before Christmas and that this is a pandemic, creating a situation where the community has not had an adequate chance to respond. Click here for information on how to join the zoom call.

 

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, a 250-room hotel, a 59,000-square-foot office space, and 30 1,000 square-foot buildings 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 3,000 trips a day. These cars would use narrow, winding residential streets and Riverside Drive, and a proposed new bridge over the French Broad River.

The proposed new bridge could harm sensitive aquatic habitats. The plan proposes a new bridge over the French Broad River that could negatively impact two streams, as well as a wetland on the west side of the river.

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.

December 2020 E-Vistas Newsletter

December 2020 E-Vistas Newsletter

December 2020 E-Vistas Newsletter

Call on Congress: Support Major Public Transit Funding In The Emergency COVID-19 Aid Package


Public transit systems all over the country are at risk of laying off workers and cutting back service due to the pandemic. Will you take action here to call on Congress to include major support for public transit systems this week in its emergency COVID-19 aid package?

Right now Congress has the opportunity to save transit systems that are lifelines for essential workers – who we know are more likely to depend on public transit than other workers – and to make sure public transit can keep growing after the pandemic to build more livable and climate resilient communities. Take action here to call on Congress to provide emergency funding for public transit this week. Take action.

 

Congratulations 5Point Raffle Winners And Thank You All!


We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to MountainTrue through our 5Point Film Festival fundraiser this month. It was a great success in support of all our programs, and we hope you enjoyed the show as much as we did! Congratulations again to our raffle winners: Stephen Hendricks, Dan Comer, Penny Hooper, Diane Huey, Kimber Kessinger and Rachel Bemis. We hope you enjoy your sweet new gear from festival sponsors!

 

Read “A Black Naturalist’s Journal” By AmeriCorps Forest Keeper Coordinator Tamia Dame


We have two new blog posts up on our website by our AmeriCorps Forest Keeper Coordinator Tamia Dame, in which she explores intersections of anti-Black racism, communicating across political differences and the natural world. A brief excerpt:

“It’s raining, forcing me to reschedule a field day. On one hand I don’t mind, as this CP flare up probably means I need to rest. On the other hand, I find myself looking at the dozens of photos I’ve taken over the last weeks. Photos of deep forest, leaves, flowers, mushrooms, caterpillars, rivers, and of course mountain views. A video of a little red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) shimmying itself under leaf litter, trying to hide itself from danger. I want to be outside, where the birds tune out the noise of society, even if only for a while.

Nature therapy, for me, has become a means for coping with the daily trauma we have collectively been witnessing, and disproportionately been experiencing.”

Read more of Tamia’s journal.

 

MountainTrue Is Hiring A Temporary Development And Operations Coordinator


We’re looking for a detail-oriented individual to join our Development team while one of our staff is on maternity leave. The position is responsible for processing donations, issuing donation acknowledgments and maintaining accurate data in the organization’s database. This is a four month position at 20 hours per week with a rate of pay of $18 per hour. Read more and apply. 

 

Help Make Our Region Better By Donating To MountainTrue Through Give!Local

Mountain Xpress’ Give!Local Guide showcases local nonprofit organizations that do good work in our region. By giving to MountainTrue through the Give!Local you can earn great incentives such as a MountainTrue hat, or a discount at Mast General Store. Check our listing out.

 

Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Update from French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson on Asheville’s Stormwater Task Force


After successfully advocating for a Stormwater Task Force to respond to Asheville’s chronic water quality problems this summer, the Task Force is now meeting regularly to improve water quality and flooding issues in the city. The Task Force has 10 members that are developing recommendations for the City of Asheville on green infrastructure, water quality in Nasty Branch, the stormwater ordinance and funding. We are also looking at examples of other communities across the state and country on how best to improve the pollution and flooding that has become common after rain events. We anticipate having some draft recommendations available to bring to Asheville City Council in the spring.

 

Close The Gap: Take A Step Forward for Asheville


The City of Asheville is updating the City’s Greenway (G), Accessibility (A), and Pedestrian (P) Plans. The combined plan, known as “Close the GAP”, will be the City’s plan to update and expand the network of accessible sidewalks and greenways in our community. MountainTrue endorses this project and we would like your help in supporting it. Please take the general Close the GAP survey and ADA Transition Plan survey (if you have a disability) and be a part of this exciting planning effort.

Take the Close the GAP survey.
Take the ADA Transition Plan survey.

High Country Regional News

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

Update on Seven Devils Sewage Plant on the Watauga River


Thanks so much to all of you who stood up to protect the Watauga when a surprise vote about a new sewage plant in Seven Devils came up last week. Almost 500 people took action to contact the Seven Devils Town Council in only a few hours – the most incredible turnout we’ve ever had for an action like this in the High Country! While the Seven Devils Town Council voted 3-2 to approve the annexation Tuesday night, all the yes votes sounded reluctant, and I truly believe your public comments are what led to the vote being so close.

We have the chance to fight this project again when it goes to the Town Board of Adjustment for a vote. In the meantime, I hope you’ll get involved in other ways to protect the Watauga River, like signing up for live staking days to plant trees along river and stream banks and helping us sample for microplastics in the river. Stay tuned for upcoming volunteer opportunities on MountainTrue’s events calendar and Watauga Riverkeeper social media platforms.

 

Livestaking Dates Coming Up In February


Did you miss our livestaking events in November and December? Don’t worry, we have more work days planned for February! Sign up here to join us with planting on Feb 6.

 

How Many Microplastics Are In The Watauga?


Microplastics are found across the globe, infiltrating even the most pristine areas. We want to figure out just how many microplastics are in the Watauga River, but we need your help!

Interested in collecting water samples? Sign up here to join our volunteer online training January 20th at 2pm.

 

Call For Volunteers For Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE)


Our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) samples for aquatic bugs as bioindicators to gain information about water quality. The second round of SMIE sampling in April is approaching fast! If you are interested in sampling or learning more about this program, sign up to be the first to hear about the upcoming training.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Give Your Decorations a Second Life with Holiday Recycling in Henderson County!


MountainTrue is proud to host our annual holiday recycling event at Jackson Park, Ball Field #6 on Saturday, January 9 from 9 am to 2 pm. We’ll be collecting trees, wreaths, lights and cards. Just make sure to remove any decorations from your trees and wreaths before you drop them off.

Trees will be mulched on-site with help from Henderson County and City of Hendersonville staff, as well as a mulcher donated by King Hardware & Rental. You’ll have the option to take some mulch home with you – a great opportunity to turn your tree into nutritious mulch for your gardens, plants and veggies. Lights and cards will be recycled by the Henderson County CoOp Extension Service for the 4H Project. Read more.

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 and Online Auction Fundraiser Taking Shape


Sara Ruth Posey won this highly coveted bonsai donated by Tim Ryan at the 2016 Gala auction.

Although we won’t be gathering in person next February for our traditional gala, we hope you’ll still plan to participate with us online as we celebrate our rivers, lakes and streams and honor those who provide us with leadership and inspiration along the way. Our team is working to make this event as much fun as it can be without being in each other’s physical company, and there’s no required $50 ticket this year, either. Plus, you’ll still want to support our Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner! Look for that announcement in January.

The 2021 Gala auction will be held completely online, and we’re counting on you to help make it a success! Bidding will open at 12 pm on February 15 and close on February 25 at 9 pm (after the Gala event). But before then, we need item donations! This is an excellent opportunity for artists, crafters, restaurants, wineries, breweries and other businesses to gain exposure across MountainTrue’s whole 26-county region. Contact me at callie@mountaintrue.org if you would like to donate an item or have an idea of one for us to recruit. Visit our Gala webpage for more event details and to sign up to be notified when the auction opens!

 

Caney Fork Creek at East LaPorte Park Will Be Shadier Next Summer


This November and December, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward ordered, delivered and helped plant native trees and shrubs for three live staking workdays. This collaborative effort was funded by the TVA and led by American Rivers and Mainspring Conservation Trust, with other key partners including the Jackson County Parks & Recreation Department and the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River. Staff and volunteers from these organizations planted 160 trees and shrubs, and installed hundreds more live stakes of vegetation along Caney Fork Creek at East LaPorte Park on the Tuckasegee River. This project will cut down on streambank erosion, improve habitat at the water’s edge and provide shade to keep water temperatures cooler during the hot summer months. Learn more about live stakes.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Jan. 9: Give your Christmas Tree, Lights & Holiday Cards a Second Life in Hendersonville
MountainTrue is proud to host our annual holiday recycling event at Jackson Park, Ball Field #6 on Saturday, January 9 from 9 am to 2 pm. This is a great opportunity to turn your tree into nutritious mulch for your gardens, plants and veggies.

Jan. 12: MountainTrue University: Restoring Island Park
Join us January 12 at 1 pm to hear Tony Ward, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, discuss his role in helping to restore Island Park in Bryson City. The project is a partnership between the town of Bryson City, the Tuckasegee River Alliance and MountainTrue.

Jan. 19: Winter Tree ID Zoom Class
Join MountainTrue’s very own Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly, for our Winter Tree ID workshop. This class will cover the concepts you’ll need to successfully identify trees in the Southern Appalachians, no matter your experience level!

Jan. 20: Microplastics Sampling Program Training for the Watauga
Microplastics (a term for tiny pieces of plastic) are found all across the globe, infiltrating even the most pristine areas. Help us figure out how present microplastics are in the Watauga River and get trained to collect water samples with us.

Jan. 23: Winter Tree ID Hike at Big Laurel Creek Trail
Join MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly for our Winter Tree ID Workshop Hike at Big Laurel Creek Trail. This hike is open to aspiring tree identifiers of all skill levels.

Feb. 6: Live Staking Workday in Sugar Grove
Fight sediment pollution and erosion with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks.


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.

Are we ready for the next threat to public lands?

Are we ready for the next threat to public lands?

Laurel Creek is part of the headwaters of Fires Creek, a favorite trout stream for many anglers in our region.

​I’d like to introduce you to Chris Broomfield, a member of MountainTrue and the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, one of our partner organizations. In June, Chris celebrated when the US Forest Service purchased a 49-acre block of private land in the headwaters of Fires Creek, following a 10-year battle to protect the creek — a favorite trout stream for Chris and many locals.

It all started in 2008 when a group of people requested permission to build a road along Laurel Creek to a piece of property they’d bought high up on the rim of the mountains.

“Thing is, their proposed route was really close to pristine waters and cut through rock formations that would likely cause acid runoff,” said Chris, reflecting back on the project. “We’d read on the state’s website about streams that were permanently damaged by acid runoff generated by other roads constructed through this same geologic formation. There was a very real risk that any kind of road construction would cause irreparable damage to the pristine streams flowing into Fires Creek.”

Long-term fights like this one are not new to MountainTrue. It took thousands of staff hours to protect Fires Creek, and this would not have been possible without the support of our members and donors. Consider making a donation today so that MountainTrue is ready for the next threat to water quality and our public lands.

From the very beginning, MountainTrue and the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition led the legal and advocacy work that resulted in the private landowners abandoning the road building project. With this purchase, the land is now part of Nantahala National Forest and Fires Creek will continue to run clean and clear.

“It took 12 years to win this. It wouldn’t have happened without organizations like MountainTrue, who have staying power over the long term and the history of working in these mountains to ensure that clean water and our public lands…our communities are protected in the future!”

With the impact of COVID-19 on fundraising events and small business support, your donation is needed more than ever. We need your help to secure the longevity of MountainTrue. We rely on the generosity of people like you who love both the natural and built communities in these mountains to make sure we are here for the long haul, and with the capacity needed to reach our goals! Make a donation today and help protect more places like Fires Creek in the future.

MountainTrue Western Region program coordinator Tony Ward evaluates native and invasive plants while developing a restoration plan.

It costs approximately $400 a day — or $2,800 a week — to operate the MountainTrue Western Regional Office, including staff time and expenses for our clean water, public lands and healthy communities work. If every person reading this letter gives just $100 today, we can enter 2021 with half of our much needed funding secured! How much would you give to ensure that we’re here to protect your nearby waters, forests and communities?

Your donations matter. Here are some of the long-term projects we’re currently working on locally that depend on your support:

  • Corridor K Transportation project in Graham & Cherokee counties: Working to ensure community transportation needs are met, while minimizing forest fragmentation and overall environmental impact.
  • US Forest Service Timber projects in Macon & Clay counties: Protecting high-quality old-growth forests, natural heritage areas and water quality as timber is harvested and forest communities are restored.
  • Lake Nutrient Reduction projects in Towns & Union counties: Curbing pollution from leaking septic systems, farms and construction projects to reduce algae growth and the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.
  • Restoring Clear Water to the Tuckasegee River in Jackson & Swain counties: Working with partners to eliminate excess sedimentation from construction projects and eroding stream banks and helping to restore native plant communities along streams.
  • Assisting with planning parks, trails and greenways across all nine counties of MountainTrue’s western region.

Will you help ensure our mountain waters, forests and communities stay healthy in the future? Please help us get a strong start in 2021 by making a donation today.

Thank you for joining me and MountainTrue in our mission to protect the places we share.


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.

November 2020 E-Vistas Newsletter

November 2020 E-Vistas Newsletter

November 2020 E-Vistas Newsletter

Join MountainTrue this #GivingTuesday for a very special virtual screening of the 5Point Adventure Film Festival! We’ll be screening a selection of inspiring films from the 2020 Festival.

5Point Film Festival is built on five guiding principles: respect, commitment, humility, purpose and balance, and the belief that we can all be ambassadors of the environment. The festival inspires us to explore wild places and return with a renewed vigor to protect our natural world. Proceeds from the event support our conservation work. 
Get your tickets and enter to win our raffle.

 

MountainTrue Co-Director Julie Mayfield Elected To NC State Senate

MountainTrue’s Co-Director Julie Mayfield has won her race to represent Senate District 49 in the North Carolina State Senate. In a letter to our members, Julie explains what this means for the organization, her work schedule and our legislative advocacy work. Read more.

 

Public Lands Are More Popular Than Ever, And They Need Your Help

2020 has brought record visitation to public lands in our region, with many of the people visiting these lands doing so for the first time. While the new wave of interest is exciting, the crowds and all the newcomers have also brought growing pains in the form of overflowing parking lots, trash bins, and piles of litter. MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly, shares some ideas in this blog post about how we can all encourage newcomers to be better stewards of our public lands. Read more.

 

Take Action: Stand Up For Solar Power In Western North Carolina

A proposal to build a large-scale solar farm on top of a retired landfill in Woodfin is in jeopardy. Will you call on the NC Utilities Commission to approve this important clean energy project?

To meet the challenge of climate change, we need North Carolina to move forward on large-scale renewable energy projects like this solar farm, and quickly. This will bring the benefits of new solar energy directly to our community: new solar jobs, reducing local carbon emissions and making real progress on our renewable energy goals. At the same time, building solar on low-value land like a landfill preserves other land for new affordable housing, tree canopy, public spaces and other highly sought after uses in our region. Learn more about the Woodfin solar farm proposal and take action to support it here!

 

Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers This Holiday Season

As we approach the holiday season, it’s a good time to think about where that turkey, pork, or beef comes from that will round out our family meals. In this post, Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell discusses how farming practices have changed over time and how we can be more conscientious about where we buy this year’s holiday feast.
Read more and find your local, sustainable farmers.

 

High Country Regional News

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

Live Staking Workdays Resume

Live staking volunteers plant live cuttings of trees and shrubs to reduce sediment pollution.

Fall brings warmer colors and cooler weather to our mountains. It also ushers in our live staking season – the time of year when we plant live cuttings of dormant trees along stream banks. In the spring, these cuttings grow into trees that help prevent soil erosion, filter stormwater runoff and create vital aquatic habitat.

Each year, we set a goal for ourselves to plant 10,000 trees along stream and riverbanks in the Watauga River Watershed. Will you join an upcoming work day to help make the Watauga River more resilient? Visit our events page at mountaintrue.org to sign up.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Paddlers Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT) Is Back In Action!

The experienced paddlers of the PHHAT team head down the Green River to treat hemlock trees.

MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan, in partnership with Hemlock Restoration Initiative, American Whitewater and NC Wildlife Resources Commission, is back to work with the Padders Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT) to help preserve hemlock trees in the Green River Gorge. These trees are under threat due to the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid, but can be saved with proper treatment. The PHHAT team treats hemlock trees in the steepest areas of the Green River Game Lands, which are unreachable by foot and require the special skills of paddlers to access them by water.

If you are an experienced whitewater paddler and would like to join the PHHAT team, our last work day this fall will be on the Upper Green River this Sunday, November 22, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Please email gray@mountaintrue.org to RSVP. PHHAT will host more work days next spring.

 

SMIE Biomonitoring Season Finished Strong Despite Challenges

SMIE volunteers inspect water bugs to gauge the health of our rivers and streams.

Over 30 volunteers in MountainTrue’s Southern Region conducted Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) sampling at 24 sites this fall, including two new sites in the Broad River Watershed. SMIE is a program where community scientists sample streams for water bugs, which tell us important information about the health of these aquatic ecosystems. Despite the organizing challenges posed by the pandemic and extra precautions necessary to keep everyone safe, our volunteers rallied to get it done. SMIE sampling is conducted twice a year in the spring and fall. Keep your eye out for this volunteer opportunity in spring of 2021!

Western Regional News

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

1.8 Tons of Trash Removed From Lake Chatuge Shoreline

Longtime cleanup participant Benjamin Davis won the prize for most creative photo from this year’s cleanup!

More than 50 volunteers showed up for MountainTrue’s 10th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup on November 7. Together, we were able to clean up 1.8 tons of trash from the lake’s shoreline. That brings our 10-year total to nearly 14 tons of trash! We especially appreciate the participation of the Rotary Club of Lake Chatuge-Hiawassee and Cub Scout Pack 407.

In addition to our wonderful volunteers, we couldn’t be successful in this effort without the valuable contributions of our partners. Tennessee Valley Authority provided bags, gloves and grant sponsorship, the US Forest Service Blue Ridge Ranger District provided the big dump truck and driver, and Towns County Government provided the pavilion and disposed of all the trash for free.

 

Join Us On December 12 To Help Control Invasive Plants At Island Park in Bryson City

Photo caption: Severing vines of kudzu, oriental bittersweet and honeysuckle is the first step to controlling non-native invasive plants at Island Park.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to get rid of kudzu? Do you enjoy working with your hands and helping our public lands? Then we have a volunteer opportunity for you. MountainTrue has joined forces with the Tuckasegee River Alliance to eradicate non-native invasive plants at Bryson City’s Island Park, which is currently closed to the public pending storm damage repairs.

This beautiful island in the Tuckasegee River hosts a riparian forest with some very large trees. However, infestations of non-native invasive plants threaten its biological diversity. Join us on Saturday, December 12 from 11 am to 2 pm to learn how to identify and control non-native invasive plants and help bring native plants back to Island Park! No prior experience is necessary, and tools and training will be provided. Email Tony Ward, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, with any questions. 
Register here for the Island Park Invasive Plant Volunteer Work Session!

 

Native Trees And Shrubs Improve Water Quality

Volunteers plant native trees and shrubs along a small stream at the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center in January 2019.

More than 50 of you purchased native trees and shrubs at our Annual Native Tree and Shrub sale this year, raising $3,000 to support our work protecting riparian buffers in the Western Region!

The native trees and shrubs that make up our riparian buffers are key components to healthy streams, rivers and lakes. Streamside riparian buffers provide a wide variety of functions, including filtering pollution from runoff, trapping excess soil and taking up nutrients. As a result, these buffers keep water temperatures cooler, prevent erosion and loss of land and provide food and shelter for wildlife. MountainTrue staff and volunteers spend a good deal of time removing non-native invasive plants along streams and lake shorelines to ensure that the native vegetation stays healthy and protects water quality.

Not only do the proceeds from the native tree and shrub sale support this work, but the trees purchased are also a great way for landowners to improve their own stream, river and lake fronts. The dormant season (November-March) is the best time to plant woody trees and shrubs so that they can develop a strong root system before putting energy into flowers, leaves and fruit in the spring.
Watch this short video to learn the proper way to plant your potted tree or shrub!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Dec. 1: Virtual 5Point Adventure Film Festival Screening
Join us this #GivingTuesday for a virtual film festival full of inspiring short films about outdoor adventurers and the planet they love. Proceeds support the work of MountainTrue.

Dec. 10: Virtual Hendersonville Green Drinks: Recycling – What Can And Can’t Be Recycled, And Why!
Christine Wittmeier, the Environmental Programs Coordinator for Henderson County, will discuss the ins and outs of recycling and how “wishful recycling can cause big problems for recycling programs.”

Dec. 12: High Country Live Staking Work Day In Sugar Grove
Fight sediment pollution and erosion with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks.

Dec. 12: Island Park Invasive Plant Work Day In Bryson City
Help restore the native habitat of Island Park with MountainTrue and the Tuckasegee River Alliance.

Dec. 16: MountainTrue University: Rethinking Smart Growth
Join Chris Joyell of the Asheville Design Center as he tackles difficult questions about whether smart growth accelerates gentrification.


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.

Test Title. …

Test Title. …

Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2


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.

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

When MountainTrue was formed through the merger of the Western North Carolina Alliance, the Environmental Conservation Organization and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance in 2015, the organization inherited a broad scope of programs focused on protecting our rivers and public forests, reducing our region’s dependence on fossil fuels and encouraging smart growth to improve the health of our communities and reduce the impacts of development on our natural environment.

In the five years since the merger, the organization has been working on addressing issues of racism and equity: all MountainTrue staff members enroll in the Racial Equity Institute, the Building Bridges program or both; we’ve taken strides to diversify our board and staff; and we’re working to build partnerships with communities that are fighting for equitable access to resources and power.

That process has been coalescing and transformational. If you had asked us five years ago, two years ago or even just a few weeks back about our priorities and responsibilities on race and equity, you would have gotten different answers than today. We’ve been evolving toward a wider focus. Yes to protecting forests and rivers and advocating for better public transit, more greenways, clean energy, and dense development for the environmental benefits, but we are also thinking more broadly about how we can help foster communities where people are truly healthy. And this means communities that are free from racism, and where there is equity in the social determinants of health — housing, transportation, education and jobs.

Racial segregation and poverty are outcomes of bad policy.

Poverty and racial disparities have been sustained through bad policies that have disproportionately impacted people of color. This is clearly evident in the histories of Redlining and Urban Renewal. Redlining was the systemic denial of services, especially home loans, to people in Black communities established by the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 and replicated by private lenders and local governments that established racially-restrictive local zoning ordinances. Through a combination of redlining, deed restrictions, exclusionary zoning and leasing practices, and racism on the part of local governments, Black people were relegated to the poorest neighborhoods with the least public services. And because Black people could not get loans to improve or fix their homes, the quality of housing and other structures in these neighborhoods deteriorated and property values fell such that homeownership for Black families did not allow for the accumulation of generational wealth.

Despite these restrictions, Black communities in Asheville like Hill Street and Stumptown, the East End and the South Side were vibrant, thriving centers of Black life. City planners, however, saw only pockets of urban decay ripe for redevelopment under the guise of “Urban Renewal.” In the years after World War II, the federal government funded a massive building boom through the passage of the Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954, and the construction of a vast network of highways through the Federal Highway Act of 1944. With federal dollars flowing to municipal coffers, cities like Asheville were free to redevelop their urban cores, and it was poorer Black neighborhoods that were targeted. Much of the East End was razed to make way for South Charlotte Street and MLK Drive. In the Southside neighborhood more than 1,000 homes, 50 businesses and seven churches were demolished to make way for more upscale housing. In the Hill Street neighborhood, entire street grids were erased from the map to make way for Asheville’s Cross-Town Expressway.

In towns and cities across the country, vibrant communities of color were destroyed and their residents displaced. Some were forced to live in public housing communities that became pockets of concentrated poverty. Many others had to find cheap housing in the least desirable areas near highways, factories, refineries and landfills.

Pollution disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.

These neighborhoods where the air is thicker with automobile exhaust, smog and fumes, and the soil and water are more likely to be poisoned with lead, heavy metals and other industrial pollutants have been dubbed “sacrifice zones.” The higher concentrations of pollution in these areas have an enormous effect on human health and childhood development and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. For instance, generations of poor kids who grew up near highways breathed air thick with the exhaust of leaded gasoline, and, even now, children in these neighborhoods are more likely to have high blood lead levels because the soil near these roads is still contaminated. Lead has been linked to reduced IQs, attention problems and aggressive behavior, and has been identified as a possible cause of the crimewave that besieged the nation from the mid-sixties through the early nineties.

It would be a mistake to reduce this oppression to simply matters of historical mistakes, market demand and geography. Redlining was explicitly racist, as was the targeting for destruction of poor and communities of color by mid-twentieth century urban planners. Similarly, proximity does not fully explain why Black and Brown communities suffer higher levels of air pollution. The National Center for Environmental Assessment finds that Black and Latino people are exposed to about 1.5 times and 1.3 times more particulate matter, respectively, than White people and that emissions are generally higher from factories located in communities of color than those located in wealthier White neighborhoods. Decisions are being made to site more polluting factories in poor neighborhoods than rich neighborhoods, and then to run the factories in Black and Brown neighborhoods dirtier. This is more than economic oppression. It’s environmental racism and it’s a dynamic that has been repeated time and again — famously in the financial decisions that lead to the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the state’s negligent response. Poor people are exploited for profit, and Black and Brown people most of all.

No zone should be sacrificed.

The society that we now inhabit is one where Black and Brown people have fewer opportunities, are more likely to live in areas that are polluted and dangerous, and are more likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty. To make matters worse: layered on top of this structural racism is a brutal criminal justice system, a broken healthcare system, an anemic educational system, crumbling infrastructure and growing food insecurity. In each and every regard, the consequences of these systemic failures fall heaviest on poor Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Set to topple all these fragile civic institutions is the leviathan threat of Climate Change, which, if left unchecked, will flood our lowlands and mountain valleys in wet years and burn our mountaintops in drought years. Already, the outlines of this dystopia are clear: people and communities with resources will be better positioned to adapt, fortify and recover from disasters. Poorer communities will be sacrificed, largely abandoned by our federal government like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the American citizens of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the Black neighborhoods of Houston that were flooded by industrial pollution during Hurricane Harvey, or the towns in Eastern North Carolina where homes were flooded with water tainted by millions of gallons of animal waste during Hurricane Florence.

But acting on climate change is not simply altruism, because the security of wealth will be fleeting. Climate Change is proceeding at a pace that has taken scientists by surprise and contributes to a wide spectrum of related maladies such as water shortages, crop destruction and the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. The climate challenges laid out in the October 2018 IPCC report will be insurmountable for a nation that is depleted and divided. Time is running out: to avoid climate catastrophe, we must stop sacrificing our most vulnerable populations, unite and act now.

Our conscience demands action and unity.

The wider movement needed to repair our country, protect our environment and take on climate change must be multicultural and firmly committed to dismantling racism and all systems of structural oppression. This was the strategic rationale of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign — which he described as “the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity” — and later of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Both civil rights leaders understood that an anti-racist movement in which White participation is based only on notions of altruism of charity will exhaust itself and fail to create the mass politics needed to win lasting systemic change.

It’s been two years since the 2018 IPCC report was published warning of dire circumstances of not taking bold, swift action to curtail climate catastrophe. It has been nearly 40 years since Professor and NASA scientist James Hansen gave Congressional testimony about the threat of global warming. In that time our elected leaders have failed to meet the challenge head on. Worse, they’ve scoffed at proposals of the magnitude needed to address the climate crisis head on.

We have our work cut out for us. MountainTrue and its members must commit to the work of dismantling structural racism and uniting our communities in the fight for justice and survival in the face of climate change. Neither cause can succeed on its own; all are interconnected. We know that we don’t have all the answers, but we’re ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with communities fighting for justice.

As an organization, MountainTrue is committed to fighting racism and economic inequity, because meeting our core mission of protecting communities and the environment requires it. This means we must be ready to take on fights that are beyond the scope of traditional environmentalism. We will live our values and use our influence and institutional power to win a more equitable future, and we invite you, as a MountainTrue supporter, to join us.


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.