Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC) has merged with Western North Carolina conservation nonprofit MountainTrue as of July 1. Both organizations share a commitment to protecting our waters and forests. The merger is an important step toward building one organization that can effectively advance the interests of our mountain region through a combination of grassroots organizing, community-driven planning and strategic advocacy.
HRWC will maintain its Murphy, NC office, and its work in North Carolina and Georgia will continue under the name MountainTrue. However, HRWC Executive Director Callie Moore will take on the expanded role of MountainTrue’s Western Regional Director.
This merger is the result of focused discussions within and between both organizations’ boards and staffs since November. Prior to merging, each group reached out to their major funders, partner groups, and other stakeholders. The overwhelming conclusion from this exploration was positive, and both boards voted to support a formal merger in early June. Then, MountainTrue members were polled and voted to approve the merger in accordance to that organization’s bylaws.
In Fall 2018, wanting to have an on-the-ground presence in the seven far western counties — Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain — MountainTrue posted a job listing for a regional director. When Callie Moore, the executive director of HRWC, saw MountainTrue advertising the position, she wondered if it would be possible to gain more capacity for HRWC’s mission by collaborating in some more formal way with MountainTrue.
After consulting with the HRWC board executive committee, Callie met with MountainTrue co-directors, Julie Mayfield and Bob Wagner. That discussion led to considering a merger. “When Callie suggested working together in the western region we immediately put our hiring process on hold in order to start exploring a merger,” explains Bob Wagner.
Much of the two organizations’ work, especially around water quality and watershed protection, is complementary. HRWC has built up a local grassroots constituency of volunteers and supporters to improve water quality in the Hiwassee watershed in Georgia and North Carolina through water quality monitoring and education, controlling sediment pollution by restoring stream banks and stream side native habitats, and reducing bacterial pollution from septic systems and agricultural operations. MountainTrue has a nearly identical set of programs through their Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga Riverkeeper programs.
“It makes a lot more sense to join forces with an organization that already has an impressive list of accomplishments and a strong base of support than to build all that from scratch.” explains MountainTrue’s other co-director, Julie Mayfield.
Both organizations approached their respective boards. Interest was high and formal discussions began to tackle the hard questions: What are the benefits of merging? And what are the challenges and concerns?
For the HRWC, it was clear that merging with MountainTrue would open new doors for growth. HRWC is financially stable but a small operation with an annual budget of only around $140,000. Many larger foundations and funders are hesitant to provide big grants if it means that they would make up a significant portion of an organization’s annual budget. With 37 years of experience and a $1.7 million budget, MountainTrue is a better fit for larger institutional funders.
Merging with MountainTrue would also allow HRWC to streamline their operations and direct more time towards projects and programs. MountainTrue has an experienced staff of 20 professionals who can provide HRWC volunteer/member engagement, communications, and management support — including back-of-the-house services such as bookkeeping and database management. MountainTrue has a communications and engagement team to help with event and program promotion, a development team for assistance with fundraising, and a public lands team ready to lend their expertise. “I am very excited about handing over many of my administrative responsibilities to someone else so that I can focus more on programs,” says Callie.
“Our organizations are stronger together,” explains Jason Chambers, chairperson of the HRWC board of directors. “The merger means that HRWC’s long-standing mission of sustaining good water quality will continue, but with better resources for our programs, services, and on-the-ground projects.”
“Both organizations recognize how important it is for HRWC’s supporters to feel their voices are heard and their concerns continue to be addressed,” Callie Moore notes. “There’s going to be a transition period where both organizations will maintain their websites, but the long-term goal is that HRWC’s volunteers and supporters will be just as proud to be members of MountainTrue.”
“The merger is an important step toward building one organization that can effectively advance the interests of the mountain region of Western North Carolina and North Georgia.” says Bob Wagner. “At MountainTrue, we know that the people of Western North Carolina and the people of Towns and Union counties have a shared love of our forests, rivers and natural environment that crosses county, state, and partisan lines. We want to harness those shared values for the benefit of all our communities. That’s what it means to be MountainTrue.”
MountainTrue is pleased to announce that David Caldwell, MountainTrue’s program director for the Broad River Alliance, is now the new Broad Riverkeeper and will serve as a fundamental protector of the Broad River watershed. MountainTrue’s riverkeeper programs are key to our endeavors to monitor and protect the quality of our region’s waterways. MountainTrue is one of the few organizations in the nation with four Waterkeeper Alliance Riverkeeper programs: the French Broad Riverkeeper, the Green Riverkeeper, the Watauga Riverkeeper and now the Broad Riverkeeper.
Quote from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have David Caldwell as the eyes, ears, and voice in this this vital watershed and community. Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and David is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”
David moved to the Broad River watershed in 1987 after receiving an Engineering degree from Clemson University. He worked in manufacturing for several years in Shelby, and has been fishing, paddling and exploring the watershed’s rivers and tributaries for over three decades now.
David’s first civic involvement was in the late 90s, when he joined efforts to rebuild and restore the carousel in Shelby City Park. The carousel is now a jewel of the City of Shelby Parks system. Since 2000, David has also run a woodworking business at his home in Lawndale.
In 2015, David became the Coordinator for the Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate and program of MountainTrue. David has teamed up with regional representatives from the Broad River Greenway, Rutherford Outdoor Coalition, Rutherford County and Cleveland County Development Authorities and others to protect and promote the waters of the Broad River basin.
Quote from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper:
“I’ve spent the past three decades falling in love with the Broad River and its tributaries. It is an honor to be able to call myself a Riverkeeper and to continue my mission to ensure our rivers are safe and clean for the people who live, swim, paddle, and fish here. Folks in our watershed are passionate about our beautiful rivers and have amazed me with their enthusiasm and support. We have a lot of great programs and activities planned for our community in the year ahead. I hope that you will join us.”
Quote from Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue:
“MountainTrue is proud of our partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Our Riverkeepers fight for safe and healthy waterways for all citizens of their watersheds by bringing together and empowering local residents and communities to identify pollution sources, advocate for and enforce environmental laws, and engage in restoration. We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to our Broad River communities.”
Quote from Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“David will have an incredibly important job. Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water, from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible government officials. Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters, and the will to enforce the law, there will always be a great need for people like David to fight for our right to clean water.”
Before you head out onto the water, don’t forget to check theswimguide.org. MountainTrue’s four Riverkeepers post up-to-date water monitoring results for the Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga rivers just in time for the weekends. The Swim Guide is the public’s best resource for knowing which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in, and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.
“Right before jumping into the river, the number one question people ask us is ‘Is it clean?’” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Swim Guide is the answer to that question.” Each week throughout the spring, summer and fall, the volunteers for each of MounainTrue’s four Riverkeeper programs collect samples from their rivers’ most popular streams and recreation areas every Wednesday. By Friday afternoon, those samples are analyzed for levels of E. coli and the data is posted to theswimguide.org.
“We get the results to the public as quickly as possible because we want Swim Guide to be up-to-date in time for the weekend,” says Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan.
“E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer leaks, failing septic tanks and stormwater runoff. One of the biggest culprits is runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers,” explains Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell. In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or protected public lands that lack agricultural, developmental or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and least affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.
Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. “As it rains and the river becomes muddier, levels of bacteria pollution generally get worse,” Watauga Riverkeeper Andy explains. “But when the water is clear, it’s a great opportunity to get out for a swim in the river without worry.”
What: Nantahala Gorge BioBlitz, presented by MountainTrue, Nantahala Outdoor Center and Nantahala River Lodge.
Where: Nantahala Outdoor Center, 13077 Highway 19 W, Bryson City, NC 28713
When: Meet up on Saturday, June 1 at 9 a.m. at the Big Wesser restaurant at the Nantahala Outdoor Center
The Nantahala Gorge BioBlitz is an opportunity for people who love the great outdoors and want to learn more about the plants and creatures who call Nantahala Gorge their home. Nantahala Gorge is characterized by the unique geology of the Murphy Marble Belt. This soft rack has been carved by the Nantahala River into a scenic gorge that is known to harbor many unique species reliant on calcium – a soil nutrient in short supply in the Blue Ridge. Despite its outstanding character, the Nantahala Gorge has never had a systematic biological inventory and the BioBlitz is likely to turn up new records for the area.
“BioBlitzes are a great opportunity for people connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “We’re going to be documenting a broad range of life at Nantahala Gorge, including butterflies, beetles, vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, birds, mammals, mushrooms, and more.”
Expert hike leaders will include faculty from UNC Asheville, Western Carolina University, Mars Hill University as well as naturalists from the U.S. Forest Service’s Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory,, Asheville Mushroom Club, Tangled Bank Conservation and MountainTrue.
We will lead groups for all fitness levels, from relaxed hikes to vigorous climbs up the side of the the gorge. Participants are encouraged to bring at least two quarts of water, rain gear, sturdy footwear and their own lunches.
This event is free and open to the public. Sign up below.
As you may have heard, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced recently that it will order a full cleanup of every coal ash pit in the state! This is truly one of the biggest environmental victories of our era. As if that wasn’t enough, last week Duke Energy announced that it has indefinitely postponed the construction of a 190-megawatt gas-fired peaker plant on Lake Julian, removing it from its list of future projects.
For six years, MountainTrue members kept the pressure on Duke Energy and the state Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the coal ash mess and to move beyond fossil fuels toward more efficiency and renewable energy. You are part of that legacy. Your support held Duke Energy accountable. These victories are an important reminder that your activism can change the course of history.
When you stand with MountainTrue, you fight for our environment. Will you stand alongside MountainTrue this Earth Day?
By donating to MountainTrue, you safeguard public lands, advocate for the common good in the halls of government, protect our waterways, and help build a sustainable future in the face of climate change.
In honor of Earth Day, act locally by making a contribution to MountainTrue today. With your donation, you will be helping to fight for future successes like these.
Thank you for being part of MountainTrue and making this work possible.
The emerald ash borer (EAB) – a voracious metallic-green beetle – is quickly eating its way across North America, killing our ash forests along the way.
The pest came across the ocean from Asia, transported in wooden packing materials.While many species in our forests were foreign to EAB, our ash trees provided a taste of home. The adults quickly began to feed on the leaves of these trees and lay their eggs between layers of bark to protect them. Back in Asia, parasitic wasps would occasionally prey on their larvae, but there are no wasps that hunt them here in North America. Given the abundant food source and lack of predators, the insect thrived.
The emerald ash borer is now eating its way through Pisgah National Forest, so MountainTrue and The Pisgah Conservancy have teamed up on a project to treat and save 100 ash trees this spring, 2019 … before it’s too late. Find out more and how you can lend a hand.
Help Save an Ash Tree in Pisgah
When the larvae hatch under the bark of an ash tree, they feed on important vascular tissue, creating swirling tunnels called galleries. Eventually, the tree becomes unable to transport nutrients and water from roots to branches, and it dies. Once the trees in one area have been killed, the insect moves on to new territory.
Ash borers can only fly a few miles each year, but they often hitch rides on firewood or other products. This has allowed them to spread more quickly despite the various quarantines and restrictions that are in place around moving wood products across state and county borders. The Emerald Ash Borer was first found on the Tennessee side of Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 and is now found throughout North Carolina, it’s spread having been assisted by people moving firewood.
When the Ash Borer has attacked a tree, you may find D-shaped holes in the bark made when the matured larvae exit the tree. Unfortunately, by the time these holes are visible, the tree is usually too damaged to be saved. Instead, we look for signs of early damage, such as dying branches, trees that are losing leaves early in the year, and other signs of poor health that are indicators of an infestation.
By treating them early, we can protect them throughout the infestation period, approximately 5-7 years. Once the beetle has exhausted its supply of untreated food, it moves on. Our plan is to then use the seeds of the trees that we have treated to reestablish our native ash tree stands for the enjoyment of future generations.
Learn more and help MountainTrue and The Pisgah Conservancy defend our ash trees against the Emerald Ash Borer, at mountaintrue.org/savepisgahsashes.
If you have observed signs of the emerald ash borer, please send a location and description of the tree(s) to email@example.com or your local county ranger for verification. For more information, visit the NC Forest Service FAQ.