Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Susan Bean on MountainTrue’s support of the missing middle housing study proposed by the City of Asheville: 


As an environmental advocacy group, MountainTrue recognizes the undeniable connection between the built environment and the natural environment. How we build in our cities and where people are able to live has a tremendous impact on our region’s farms and forests. The more choices people have about how close they can live to schools, jobs, and grocery stores, the more they can access the lifestyle that suits their needs best. 

By creating more housing options that are within walking distance of restaurants and bus routes and commercial centers, people will be better able to age in place or decrease their commute times. This kind of lifestyle is both attractive to a growing population and also benefits the environment through increased energy efficiency and decreased carbon emissions. The development of modest-sized, compactly built, energy-efficient housing within walking distance of jobs and services is one of the best things we can do to fight climate change. 

I hope this study will take into consideration concerns existing residents like me have about the prospects of gentrification and displacement, preservation of urban tree canopy, and local neighborhood character. However, I am also hopeful that considering such concerns from the start as we pursue the creation of more climate friendly housing options for people who want to find a home for themselves in our community, will allow for all of us to welcome new neighbors in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition.

I look forward to continuing to support the City of Asheville as it works to remove barriers to missing middle housing and seeks to provide more housing choice within our community for our neighbors who need places to live. Thank you for your consideration and for this opportunity to speak with you tonight.

Make your voice heard: Duke Energy’s rate hikes are unfair!

Make your voice heard: Duke Energy’s rate hikes are unfair!

Make your voice heard: Duke Energy’s rate hikes are unfair!

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) recently approved the disappointing Carbon Plan, which gives Duke Energy the green light to pursue a combination of energy sources, including gas and nuclear, to achieve North Carolina’s carbon reduction goals. Now, before any concrete plan of action is presented, Duke Energy Progress is asking NCUC to approve rate hikes that will be imposed on customers for the next three consecutive years. This three-year rate structure was authorized as part of the legislation that also mandated the creation of the Carbon Plan.

You have a chance to make your voice heard! NCUC is hosting a series of public hearings across the state, and they kick off in the mountains on March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Haywood County Courthouse:

What: Duke Energy Progress Rate Hike Public Hearing

When: Monday, March 6, 2023, at 7:00 p.m.

Where: Haywood County Courthouse, 285 N. Main St, Courtroom 2-A, Waynesville, NC

Energy is getting more expensive, burdening everyone, especially low-income households. Last summer, customers experienced an average monthly energy bill increase of $10.58 due to rising gas prices. The following monthly increases are expected on the average residential electric bill if Duke Energy Progress gets its way: 

  • $14.72 per month starting fall 2023, followed by 
  • $5.62 per month in 2024, followed by
  • $5.21 per month in 2025 

By 2026, the average annual residential electric bill will be $306.06 higher than it is today. To put this in perspective, workers making minimum wage will have to work an extra two and a half weeks per year to pay their energy bills if this rate hike is approved. Duke Energy Progress customers already spend an average of 19% more on their electric bills than Duke Energy Carolinas customers. Why should Progress customers’ rates go up even more? Check this map to find out if you’re a Duke Progress or Duke Carolinas customer. 

Duke’s justification for the rate hikes is largely for new distribution and transmission grid upgrades. Making our grid more reliable is important, and we need to build out the power distribution grid to better accommodate new renewable energy development like wind and solar. But, in addition to building out a robust transmission grid, Duke needs to maximize investment in energy efficiency measures to help low-income customers offset rising energy costs. Duke now has the ability to use “performance-based ratemaking” mechanisms that incentivize clean energy investments to benefit both the utility and the public. Duke underutilized this opportunity in its rate hike application. NCUC should aggressively require that Duke’s profits be tied to achieving public policy goals such as low-income energy affordability, decarbonization, and investments in energy efficiency and distributed renewable energy resources.

We need to tell NCUC to minimize rate increases on customers, advance aggressive goals around energy efficiency, affordability, and renewable sources through performance-based ratemaking, and pursue other strategies to protect and support low-income customers from rising costs. Be there on March 6 to make your voice heard!

For more detailed talking points and pointers for how to engage in the hearing, click here. Thanks to our good partners at NC Sierra Club for pulling these together!

Swim Guide Sponsor Spotlight: Blue Ridge Tourist Court

Swim Guide Sponsor Spotlight: Blue Ridge Tourist Court

Swim Guide Sponsor Spotlight: Blue Ridge Tourist Court

Mira and Brian Williams made Boone, NC, their home 14 years ago after falling in love with the area over frequent trips during and after college. As Mira puts it, “We love the area, the community, and the mountains.” They are now the owners of Blue Ridge Tourist Court, a passion project they pursued after seeing the demise of many historic buildings in Boone. When they aren’t busy running the restored motel or raising their kids, Mira works as a CPA, and her husband, Brian, works as a contractor.

Supporters of MountainTrue since 2019, Mira and Brian sponsor the Brookshire Park Swim Guide site through Blue Ridge Tourist Court. “We thought it would be fun to sponsor a site near the motel. We feel that the work MountainTrue does to protect our waterways is crucial, and sponsoring a Swim Guide site ensures the safety of the waterway’s ecosystem. We watch how MountainTrue engages with our community and the wild space we want to protect, and the way they give back to the community and protect this area is really inspiring.”  

Mira and Brian, we’re so grateful for Blue Ridge Tourist Court’s sponsorship and all of your support. We couldn’t do the work we do without you! 

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, MountainTrue volunteers collect weekly water samples from popular recreational areas. The results are posted online before the weekend, so you know where it’s safe to swim. Swim Guide sponsors allow this important work to happen! Click here to learn more about our Swim Guide Program. 

If you’re interested in sponsoring a Swim Guide sampling site (sites can be sponsored by businesses OR individuals), contact If you want to become a MountainTrue member or make a general donation to support our work, please visit:


Septic System Facts & Tips

Septic System Facts & Tips

Septic System Facts & Tips

Here at MountainTrue, we’re all about taking practical steps to improve water quality and lower your environmental footprint at home. If you don’t live in close proximity to a city or town, chances are high that you have a septic system. Onsite septic systems treat wastewater on residential lots and usually include a concrete tank and a drain field. 

When used correctly, septic systems have many benefits. Proper use reduces the risk of diseases and exposure to harmful pathogens by treating wastewater before it reaches surface drinking water sources or waters used for recreation. Decentralized waste systems also lower the infrastructure and energy costs communities would otherwise put towards collecting and treating wastewater. 


How Septic Systems Work

Septic systems treat the wastewater going through your drains and slowly release wastewater into a drainage field to neutralize pathogens, pollutants, and other contaminants before the water transitions back into the natural water cycle. A typical system separates the solids and oils — the sludge — from the rest of the liquid waste — the effluent — which then exits the tank into the drain field through perforated pipes surrounded by gravel. The water percolates, filters, and purifies as it continues going down through the drainage field soil. Here’s a visual representation of a septic system in action.


Septic System Problems

Problems with septic systems usually arise as systems age or when maintenance is neglected. Septic tanks should be inspected and pumped every three to five years, depending on the household size. Because the sludge remains in the tank, it needs to be removed before it fills the tank and causes septic system failure. System failures can lead to costly repairs, hazardous waste overflows, and excess nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) infiltrating groundwater sources. If improperly treated sewage leaches into nearby drinking waters, it can cause severe illness to those who come in contact with the water.

Other potential issues can arise when improper waste products, such as harmful chemicals and grease/fats, are disposed of down the drain. Harmful chemicals can kill helpful bacteria and other organisms that break down the wastewater, and grease/fats can lead to clogged drains or pipes. Additionally, disposing of bulky food waste and slow decomposing materials down your drains can drastically increase the amount of waste buildup in your septic tank.

Microplastic dispersion into the environment is a little-known problem in which septic systems play a prominent role. Microplastics — pieces of plastic that continuously break down into smaller pieces over time — are usually too small to be filtered by gravel and sand. As a result, microplastics and their chemical additives often leach into surface water and groundwater. 

While plastic waste and litter contribute to microplastic pollution, many folks are unaware that personal care items and laundry can also be a source of microplastic pollution. Clothing items made of polyester, nylon, rayon, or spandex shed microfibers when washed. And even though microbeads were banned from rinse-off cosmetics in 2015, they are still allowed to be used in makeup, deodorants, and lotions. Individual consumers can mitigate household microplastic pollution by: 

  • Wearing clothes made from natural fibers and reducing consumption of clothing made from synthetic materials, when possible. 
  • Installing a microfiber filter on the household washing machine.
  • Washing clothing made from synthetic materials in laundry bags and/or throwing microplastic collection balls into laundry loads.
  • Doing laundry less often with fuller loads. 


How To Locate Your Septic Tank and Drain field

It’s important that you can identify the location of your septic tank on your property. The easiest way to find your septic tank is to obtain a copy of your septic system permit from the local health department. A septic system permit will indicate the approximate location of your tank, drain field, and potentially a secondary drainage area (only found if your home was built after the 1980s). 

You can also locate your tank by following the pipes that extend from your home into your yard. First, you’ll need to locate the main sewer outlet pipe, which is usually four inches in diameter and typically found in the basement or crawl space. Note where the pipe exits the house and go outside to the same location. Using a thin metal stake, probe every two feet or so, following the pipeline underground as closely as possible. Septic tanks are normally located 10-25 feet away from the house and are no closer than three feet. As soon as your probe strikes a flat concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene surface, you’ll know you’ve found your tank.

A septic tank’s lid may be visible above ground in most newer housing developments. If the septic tank lid is underground (common for older homes), you may be able to locate it by using a metal detector. Another alternative is to use a flushable transmitter — once flushed, it can be tracked to the inlet area of the septic tank.


Action Steps For a Safe and Effective Septic System

Here are nine important practices to consider when maintaining your own septic system: 

  1. Do not overload your system with water. Conserve water by avoiding excessive use and fixing leaky pipes and dripping faucets.
  2. Have solids pumped from your septic tank every three to five years. Maintenance schedules will depend on the tank size and the number of users.
  3. Keep the soil over the drain field covered with grass or other shallow-rooted plants to prevent erosion. Deep roots can clog systems. Maintain a healthy stand of grass to prevent erosion and excessive infiltration of water or ponding. 
  4. Do not drive on or otherwise compact the soil above the drain field.
  5. Flush only toilet tissue and human waste down the toilet. Septic systems are not designed to treat pet waste.
  6. Do not use toilet cleaners that hang in the tank, as they can corrode your toilet’s inner workings.
  7. When possible, refrain from using your garbage disposal. Do not dump coffee grounds, grease, oils, or fats down your drains.
  8. Do not use harsh household cleaners or put other toxic chemicals like bleach, paint, solvents, or pesticides down the drain.
  9. Learn the signs of a malfunctioning or failing system. Backed-up water in drains or toilets, abnormally green vegetation, soggy areas over the drain field, and a foul smell could all indicate system failure. 

Septic systems are excellent residential waste treatment options if they are properly maintained. Learn more by checking out the EPA’s SepticSmart program, and stay tuned for our upcoming MountainTrue University session! 


Is your septic system in need of some TLC? MountainTrue has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to provide septic repair funds to qualifying property owners in Buncombe, Cherokee, and Henderson counties! Click here to learn more and apply. 

The Importance of Watersheds

The Importance of Watersheds

The Importance of Watersheds

Part of MountainTrue’s mission is to protect and restore local waterways here in the Southern Blue Ridge. Watersheds are essential to this mission, though they are often not well understood. Learning about local watersheds is an important first step toward improving water quality and preserving ecosystems in your area. 

So, what is a watershed? A watershed is an area of land that channels rainfall, snowmelt, and groundwater into streams and rivers that flow into common points, like lakes or oceans. Watersheds can be small, such as the area around a single creek, or they can encompass hundreds of miles; the Mississippi River Watershed drains the water from 31 different U.S. states. Every body of water has a watershed, and you likely live in more than one.

Healthy watersheds contain a variety of landscapes, native flora and fauna, and intact natural communities. Water can pick up sediment, pollutants, or harmful bacteria as it flows into larger rivers or lakes, which can lead to increased negative impacts on water quality further downstream. Healthy watersheds provide critical services; the condition of our local watersheds directly impacts our health and well-being. Elevated pollutants can result in unsafe drinking water, fish and aquatic species becoming unfit for human consumption, and swimming waters that can make us sick. 

Watershed Pollution

There are two major types of pollution: point-source and nonpoint-source. The first is relatively easy to identify, as these contaminants tend to come from a pinpointed source, and their emissions are often highly regulated. Point-source pollution can come from factories or power plants with smokestacks, drainage ditches, or discharge pipes. While still a significant source of pollution in the U.S., the impact of point-source pollution has dropped dramatically since the inception of the Clean Air Act (1970) and the Clean Water Act (1972).

Of greater concern today is nonpoint-source pollution, which comes from multiple sources simultaneously. A major example of nonpoint-source pollution is stormwater runoff containing pollutants washed by heavy rainfall from impervious surfaces like parking lots, roofs, and streets into sewers or directly into bodies of water. These pollutants include car oil, tire scraps, pet waste, litter, and other types of garbage. Agriculture runoff is also an issue where the soil in the fields no longer has the capacity to hold as much water after years of intensive use without adequate ground cover. Animal waste, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can all get washed away in the rain and drain into local waterways. Nonpoint-source pollution can be tricky to prevent because the pollutants come from so many different sources and activities. 

Watershed Management 

Managing our watersheds can be a complex task. Managers need to identify and implement sustainable land and water use practices so people can utilize natural resources in a given area without harming the existing plants, animals, and ecosystems. MountainTrue’s Clean Waters Program works to restore and support healthy waterways through collaboration with our organizational partners and communities. Our four Riverkeepers and Clean Waters staff continuously monitor point-source pollution, test for bacteria levels in waterways during the summer months, host volunteer cleanups to raise awareness about the problems our waterways face, and so much more.

Making a difference

Here are some steps you can take to support the health of your local waterways:

To check out which watershed you are a part of, visit the EPA’s How’s My Waterway tool. After typing in your address, you can also see if there are any identified problems in your local watershed. 

From May to September, MountainTrue’s Riverkeepers and volunteers collect weekly water samples from the Broad, French Broad, Elk, Green, Hiwassee, New, Notterly, and Watauga river watersheds as part of our Swim Guide Program. We process and analyze each sample and post the results to the Swim Guide website and mobile app before the weekend so you know where it’s safe to swim.

Want to get involved? Join us on a volunteer workday! Our dedicated volunteers help to collect water samples for E. coli and microplastic testing, eradicate nonnative invasive plants along waterways, plant native trees along stream banks, clean local rivers and shorelines, and more. Feel free to contact us for more information about how you can get involved

Interim Creation Care Alliance of WNC Coordinator

Interim Creation Care Alliance of WNC Coordinator
Western North Carolina
Apply Now

Position Description

The Interim Creation Care Alliance (CCA) Coordinator will aid CCA volunteers, the CCA steering team, and MountainTrue staff in completing the mandatory tasks of the CCA Director while she is on maternity leave. This will include planning, promoting, and facilitating various programmatic offerings of CCA, overseeing organizational social media pages (Facebook and Instagram), completing administrative tasks (email correspondence/phone calls), attending internal staff meetings, writing the monthly organizational newsletter, and helping with community outreach. The Interim CCA Coordinator will report to MountainTrue’s Deputy Director of Strategy & Communications.


The Creation Care Alliance of WNC is the faith-based program of MountainTrue. MountainTrue is a nonprofit organization that works with communities across 26 mountain counties in Western North Carolina and in Towns and Union counties in North Georgia to champion resilient forests, clean waters, and healthy communities in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. For more information: CCA is a network of people of faith and congregations who have united around a moral and spiritual call to preserve the integrity, beauty, and health of God’s creation. For more information:


Experience: Administrative experience, whether formal or informal, is necessary. A background in faith-based work/congregational life, knowledge of and sensitivity/openness to different faith communities, and a general understanding of the environmental issues facing our communities (such as climate change, species loss, and environmental injustice) are heavily preferred.

Education: Applicants with degrees or experience in fields related to communications, administration, ecology/biology, religious studies/theology, or social work could all be well-suited for this position. 

Skills/Framework: Excellent organizational skills, excellent people skills, strong written/verbal communication skills, strong critical thinking skills, social media ability, the ability to work well in a team, and the ability to learn quickly and jump into a fast-moving environment required.

Additional Requirements

Access to a personal computer and reliable internet service. Flexible schedule and flexibility around start date. 

Start/End Date:

Training for this position will take place in late February – early March 2023. The start date will rely upon when the CCA Director begins maternity leave (likely beginning in late March). Maternity leave will last 14 weeks. The end date for this position will be 14 weeks from the first day of the CCA Director’s maternity leave.

Work Schedule

Approximately 20 hours per week. Flexibility in work schedule, though events and staff meetings will require availability on the scheduled day (sometimes including weekends). Staff meetings are held on the first Monday of each month from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm (virtual or in-person). Steering team meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm (virtual).


Location & Compensation

This position will focus on communities throughout Western North Carolina and living in Western North Carolina is necessary for this position. $20 per hour. Mileage is reimbursed at approximately $0.47 per mile.

To learn more about the position and current openings/discuss this opportunity: Contact CCA Director Sarah Ogletree at or by phone at 828-506-9467.

How to Apply

Please submit a resume and cover letter to CCA Director Sarah Ogletree ( and MountainTrue Deputy Director of Strategy & Communications Karim Olaechea ( with “Creation Care Coordinator” in the subject line.

Application deadline: Friday, February 24, 2023

40 Years of Environmental Advocacy

40 Years of Protecting the Places We Share

Let’s honor our past and commit to protecting our future by tackling important issues together. Every donation helps; $65 saves one Ash tree from invasive pests, a gift of $500 allows us to monitor a Swim Guide site all summer long, and a gift of $1,000 sends our policy team to Raleigh to advocate for a better future in the Southern Blue Ridge.

Please contact Development and Operations Coordinator Amy Finkler ( if you’re having trouble donating.

We’re counting on you

Your support helps us do what we’re most passionate about — protecting the places we share. MountainTrue is your champion, working alongside you and other environmental organizations to protect and improve the quality of our environment. We take a two-pronged approach, working at both the grassroots and policy levels.

At home

Our four regional offices allow the MountainTrue team to assume a hyper-local approach to our work, focusing on issues that matter most to you.

In Raleigh

Our staff advocates for state-wide policy changes in Raleigh as well as with elected officials in our cities, towns, and counties. 

In our communities

Our Healthy Communities Program advocates for vibrant, thriving urban and rural communities with equitable access to affordable housing. 

On the rivers

With four in-house riverkeepers looking after the BroadFrench Broad, Green, and Watauga rivers, MountainTrue is its own ecosystem of water defenders and protectors. 

In the forests

Our Public Lands team monitors timber sales on over one million acres of public land to ensure old-growth stands, water quality, and sensitive ecosystems in these ancient mountain forests are protected. 

In biodiverse habitats

We help to restore native plant and animal habitats by safely treating and removing nonnative invasive species, because abundant, thriving native biodiversity is our best defense against climate change.

MountainTrue’s Chris Joyell Writes About Housing, Open Space, and Climate Change in MTX

MountainTrue’s Chris Joyell Writes About Housing, Open Space, and Climate Change in MTX

MountainTrue’s Chris Joyell Writes About Housing, Open Space, and Climate Change in MTX

In this Mountain Xpress Contributor Piece, MountainTrue Healthy Communities Program Director Chris Joyell explains the undeniable connection between housing and the integrity of our natural environment. Joyell discusses how Buncombe County’s Open Space and Affordable Housing Bond Initiatives will help the county meet its goals of ensuring stable housing for children, homeownership for working families, and safe housing for seniors, while also protecting mountains, forests, productive farmlands, and clean water in our streams and rivers for future generations. 

MountainTrue and our organizational partners are proud to endorse both the Open Space and Housing Bond Initiatives, and we encourage you to vote yes on both bonds this election season. Learn more about the bonds and how they work, see what other community institutions endorse them, and read a helpful FAQ on the Better With Bonds website

“A colleague of mine recently closed on his first house. After years of anxiously scanning listings in Asheville and Buncombe County, he realized that if he were ever to become a homeowner, it would have to happen in another county — in this case, Haywood County.

Likewise, another colleague recently graduated college and began working at MountainTrue last year. She, too, has been frustrated by the housing market, having to settle for a substandard rental unit with a negligent landlord. As rent costs in Buncombe County soar, she has grown doubtful that she will find a better living situation soon. The prospect of owning her own home here is beyond imagination.

Both their struggles reflect our growing housing crisis, where people with stable jobs and decent pay are running out of housing options in Buncombe County. People like the teachers, artists, service industry workers, small-business owners, nurses and others who make Buncombe County such a vibrant place to live.

In response to this dilemma, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners recently approved a ballot referendum that will direct $30 million toward the preservation of open space and $40 million toward the development of housing that is affordable for the county’s workforce. This November, county residents will get to vote on the bonds separately.

The open space and housing bonds can work in conjunction with one another. Buncombe County remains largely rural, and ample land is available to develop housing. The county will likely prioritize the more rural and remote areas for land conservation. On the other hand, housing that is affordable for the county’s workforce is best located in areas already developed and closer to transit services, jobs, schools and commercial centers.”

No Man’s Land Film Festival 2022


No Man’s Land Film Festival

Presented by MountainTrue and New Belgium Brewing on November 29 in Asheville, NC. No registration is required for in-person attendees. If you plan to view the virtual screening, please choose from the two registration options below: 

About the event

MountainTrue and New Belgium Brewing Co. are proud to invite you to No Man’s Land Film Festival (NMLFF) – the premier all-women adventure film festival – at New Belgium Brewing’s Brewhouse in Asheville, NC, on November 29 (Giving Tuesday!). NMLFF is free to attend, and the event will also be available virtually for those who cannot attend in person.

Learn more about NMLFF here.


New Belgium Brewing’s Brewhouse (21 Craven Street Asheville, North Carolina 28806)


Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Doors 6:15 p.m. + Showtime 7:00 p.m. While the event is free, space is limited. Please arrive early to secure your spot! 


Free! No registration necessary for the in-person screening. Register for the virtual screening below. 

Watch the trailer

Register for the virtual screening

Become a MountainTrue member

Thank you to our Event Sponsor

Thank you to our 40th Anniversary Sponsors

2022 Volunteer of the Year and Esther Cunningham Award Winners

2022 Volunteer of the Year and Esther Cunningham Award Winners

2022 Volunteer of the Year and Esther Cunningham Award Winners

Every year, MountainTrue recognizes five individuals from across the Southern Blue Ridge as our regional Volunteer of the Year and Esther Cunningham award winners. We look forward to celebrating these exceptional MountainTrue volunteers at our 40th Anniversary Celebration on October 12, 2022:

High Country Volunteer of the Year: Hayden Cheek

Hayden (pictured above) works at a local fly shop in Boone, NC. He’s an excellent angler and guide, and he often goes above and beyond to take care of his local waterways. His practice of giving back and leaving our rivers and woods better than he finds them permeates his friendships, work relationships, and his career. He’s a consistent water quality volunteer with our High Country water quality team and his impact is being passed on to those fortunate enough to spend time with him on the trail or in the river. Thanks so much for all you do, Hayden!

Central Region Volunteer of the Year: Jim Clark

Jim Clark has been helping us clean up the French Broad River for years. He’s been a Swim Guide volunteer for nearly ten years and has been a part of our microplastics sampling team from the very beginning. The data he’s gathered at Pearson Bridge has helped to get the new Real-Time E. coli Estimator (created in partnership with NCDEQ) up and running. He’s gone out of his way to keep trash out of the river, including lugging dozens of heavy, muddy tires out of its reach. Thanks for all your hard work to make the river a better place, Jim!

Western Region Volunteer of the Year: Stacey Cassedy

This year, Stacey has volunteered with both of our Adopt-A-Stream water quality monitoring programs (water chemistry and E. coli) and our Swim Guide program. Stacey’s unwavering dedication to our weekly Swim Guide sampling program helped many folks from across the Western Region know where it was safe to swim this summer! When her sampling site failed for the first time in August, she returned to resample and continued to check and photograph the beach for several additional days to monitor the source of the pollution: goose droppings! Stacey has offered to help with festival tabling events and is interested in doing anything needed to help with MountainTrue’s mission, particularly in the water quality program area. She’s a true super volunteer!

Southern Region Volunteer of the Year: Don Cooper

When Don learned about high bacteria levels in his community’s local waterways, he sprung to action and rallied the support of his fellow Rotarians. With his leadership, dozens of volunteers collected hundreds of water samples from streams in and around Hendersonville over the last several years. The data generated from his efforts helped us isolate the sources of bacteria pollution and direct our advocacy resources in the right direction to make meaningful change for water quality and public health. Thank you so much for your leadership, Don!

The 2022 Esther Cunningham Award Winner: Grady Nance

This award is given each year in honor of one of our organization’s founders, Esther Cunningham. Esther bravely stood in the face of opposition, rallied her community to stand with her, and tirelessly fought to protect and defend the forests of Western North Carolina. 

Grady and his wife, Kathleen, have been MountainTrue members since 2015. In that time, Grady has repeatedly stepped up to support MountainTrue and our region in a number of ways.  Grady spent his career in the electric utility industry and has been a crucial resource to our energy-focused work, especially as we were working both in opposition to and in partnership with Duke Energy. Grady also served on the Henderson County Environmental Advisory Committee for several years, pushing the county to do more in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Grady has served on MountainTrue’s board as our treasurer since 2019. He has acted more like a CFO than just a board member and has been enormously helpful as our budget and the complexity of our budgeting have grown. Grady also says yes to every request we make of him. He has been a thoughtful, conscientious, and diligent board member and treasurer, and we will miss him terribly when he rolls off the board at the end of this year. Because of his commitment and service to MountainTrue and his dedication to the environment, we are pleased to award him with the 2022 Esther Cunningham Award.