MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

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

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

Sign up & Learn More

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

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

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

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

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

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

Image Description: Secondhand equipment sits on the site of the proposed sewage plant in Seven Devils.

Action Expired

 

The Watauga doesn’t need another faulty sewage plant. The Town of Seven Devils has been approached to consider annexing a proposed development and sewage treatment plant along the Watauga River. This is bad news for water quality, trout, and all of us who depend on the Watauga for work and play. Will you make your public comment below to oppose this proposal?

After stalling for several months, this proposal is suddenly moving very quickly. There was a surprise special hearing about it on Monday December 7, and after we pressed for it, the Town has agreed to accept written public comments about the new plant until 2 pm today.

The Watauga River cannot handle more sewage plants. There are currently 36 permitted active and expired discharges on the Watauga River, many of which fail to meet standards. Just upstream from Seven Devils, The Ponds wastewater discharge plant has been in flagrant violation of North Carolina’s water quality regulations. When our Watauga Riverkeeper program began sampling there this summer, samples were 20-40 times over the EPA’s safety limit for E. coli pollution, and at times were so high that they maxed out our water monitoring equipment. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s follow-up visit to that plant discovered corroded leaking pipes, inactive overflow alarm systems and uncontrolled solids buildup – all indicating a serious threat to the river we love.

 

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

Join us online – we still want to see you, even if it’s only your head, neck and shoulders!

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a gathering of our members to recognize and honor outstanding volunteers, vote on new board members, and reflect on a year of hard work and – hopefully – some big wins! This October 21st, while we cannot gather in person, we hope you’ll join us online to celebrate another year of protecting the places we share.

With Each Other Even If We Can’t Hug Each Other:
MountainTrue’s 2020 Virtual Annual Gathering
October 21, 6-7 pm 
RSVP through the form below to get the link to join.

If you are having any trouble accessing the meeting, please contact Adam Bowers at 828-680-0738 or at adam@mountaintrue.org

Check here to confirm that your membership is current, and if you are not a member you can join or renew when you RSVP using the form below! 

Update on Swim Guide Testing in the High Country

Update on Swim Guide Testing in the High Country

Update on Swim Guide Testing in the High Country

Willa “Wild Bill” Hill helps out with water samples for our Swim Guide monitoring program. 

Our bacteria monitoring program in the High Country is in full swing, and this year we’ve expanded to include two additional testing sites on the New River and four more sites on the Watauga River tailwaters. So far we’re seeing mixed bacteria results across the watershed, with three of the sites we monitor consistently failing to meet EPA water quality standards: Calloway Bridge on the Watauga River, Guy Ford Bridge and Hickory Nut Gap Road on the Elk River.

Calloway Bridge is located in Foscoe, where high levels of E. coli are likely a result of failing infrastructures such as septic systems and small non-municipal sewage plants referred to as package plants. The higher bacteria levels at Guy Ford Road are likely due to agricultural runoff in the Beaverdam Creek area. And problems at Hickory Nut Gap on the Elk River are likely due to a mix of stormwater runoff from golf courses and failing sewer infrastructure. The high levels of pollution at Elk River Falls and our new Tennessee tailwater sites are also likely caused by failing sewer infrastructure.

This year’s water quality results have been worse than last year’s, which could be due to changes in how land near our rivers is being used and/or higher than average rainfall. Water pollution is caused not only by leaks in broken sewer pipes, but also when heavy rains overwhelm sewage systems and cause them to overflow – releasing large amounts of untreated sewage directly into rivers, streams and lakes. Unfortunately, these pollution events are common, and we believe many of them go unreported to the public. When they are reported, it can take weeks to find out and the public is expected to learn about them through legal ads in local newspapers. We believe that such overflows are contributing to rising bacteria and nutrient levels resulting in algal blooms in the Elk and Watauga Rivers as well as Watauga Lake. 

To better track sources of pollution we’ve hired Hannah Woodburn as our AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator, added lab capacity to our testing program and have begun using new cutting-edge techniques. One such technique is using a fluorometer to trace the optical brighteners and detergents commonly found in sewage in order to track pollution in real-time.

To help tackle the likely sources of bacterial pollution, MountainTrue has launched the ILoveRivers.org campaign and we need your help in pushing for a package of reforms at the federal, state and local levels to increase investments in fixing our sewage infrastructure, help farmers improve their agricultural practices, and upgrade our public notification system so the public learns about SSOs when they happen not weeks later.

For resources on how to help improve water quality in the High Country take action at ILoveRivers.org.

News About MountainTrue’s Work In the Coming Weeks — And Our COVID-19 Activity Guide

News About MountainTrue’s Work In the Coming Weeks — And Our COVID-19 Activity Guide

News About MountainTrue’s Work In the Coming Weeks — And Our COVID-19 Activity Guide

As our mountain communities brace for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, MountainTrue is doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus, and mitigate the health risks to our communities and our staff.

As of Monday, March 16, our four offices in Asheville, Boone, Hendersonville and Murphy are closed to the public. Our staff will still be working hard to protect the places we share, but many of us will be doing so from home or out in the field where we’ll be following recommended protocols.

Following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and public health officials, we are also canceling all of our public events, hikes and training sessions for this spring, and our volunteer-based water monitoring programs, river cleanups and public lands workdays will be on hiatus until further notice.

This Isn’t A Goodbye, It’s New Way of Saying ‘Hello Neighbor’

Together, there’s still so much that we can do to advocate for our environment and our communities, and to break through the isolation of “social distancing.” Though we’ll miss interacting with our members, volunteers and supporters face-to-face, we’re excited to be able to provide you with easy options to take action and new ways of engaging with us and each other.

Seven Things You Can Do Right Now

Sign the petition for I Love Rivers – Our Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga Riverkeepers and our Western Water Team have developed a comprehensive plan for cleaning up our rivers by tackling faulty sewer and septic system infrastructure, helping agricultural landowners prevent bacterial pollution, and reducing litter from single-use plastics. Show your support! iloverivers.org

Plant a native garden – Help protect our forests, public lands and local wildlife by planting a sustainable garden. Our invasive plants team has put together a great resource for gardeners and landscapers that offers beautiful native plant alternatives to our region’s most damaging non-native invasive plant species. mountaintrue.org/plantguide

Go on a hike and keep yourself healthy and calm – Getting out in nature is good for the body and soul. While we’re sad to have had to cancel our annual spring hikes and outings, MountainTrue’s Public Lands and Engagement teams are excited to be working on a list of self-guided hikes. More to come soon!

Complete the 2020 Census online – The Census comes around every 10 years and this year’s couldn’t have come at a more challenging time. Make sure you are counted because the census helps determine the number of seats that are allocated in the U.S. House of Representatives, how federal monies are distributed to state and local governments, and how local, state and congressional district boundaries are drawn. 2020census.gov

Support our local businesses – As the CDC issues stricter guidelines, local restaurants and businesses are suffering. Consider buying gift cards from your favorite businesses that you can use once isolation is over. And instead of crowding into local bars and restaurants, consider ordering for delivery or pickup. For Asheville, check out #AshevilleStrong for a directory of businesses where you can buy gift cards. In other towns, contact the businesses directly.

Attend worship services online – Maintaining your connections to your community is important and for many of us that means attending church or worship services. Our Creation Care Alliance program has a running list of local churches providing services online.

Talk to us on social media – It’s going to get pretty lonely, so let’s connect on Facebook and Instagram. MountainTrue and our Riverkeepers all have Facebook and Instagram accounts, and we want to engage with our members to establish a deeper dialogue about the work we do, the priorities of our organization and the needs of our region.

MountainTrue
on Facebook
MountainTrue
on Instagram
Broad Riverkeeper
on Facebook
Broad Riverkeeper
on Instagram
French Broad
Riverkeeper
on Facebook
French Broad
Riverkeeper
on Instagram
Green Riverkeeper
on Facebook
Green Riverkeeper
on Instagram
Watauga Riverkeeper
on Facebook
Watauga Riverkeeper
on Instagram
MountainTrue West
(Western Region)
on Facebook
Creation Care Alliance
on Facebook
  Creation Care Alliance
on Instagram
 

 

In the coming weeks and days, we’ll be rolling out more things for you to do during the pandemic, more community resources and some ideas for mutual aid. But we also want to hear from you! Please feel free to respond to this email with your ideas, struggles and stories of perseverance. Let us know how you are keeping your spirits up, finding community in the age of COVID-19, and helping your neighbors during this trying time.

In the coming months, COVID-19 is going to test our health care system, our economy and our society. That’s why it is so important that communities around the country and here in our region find ways to help each other even when we can’t hug each other. During more normal times, it’s easy to treat our neighbors as strangers. Easier to avert our eyes than to initiate an awkward hello. Now, we all feel that imperative to connect and help each other even if we don’t really know each other, yet. Let’s tap into that need for connection to strengthen our communities and build new ones.

Let’s be good neighbors.

Ask The General Assembly To Support WNC Rivers in the Budget

Ask The General Assembly To Support WNC Rivers in the Budget

Ask The General Assembly To Support WNC Rivers in the Budget

Action Expired

 

Over the past few months, MountainTrue has been working with lawmakers to support a number of conservation projects that could end up being adopted in the next state budget. Specifically we are asking lawmakers to support funding to:

  • Provide the NC Department of Environmental Quality with the resources it needs to investigate and clean up hazardous spills from unknown sources.

  • Provide state funding to monitor popular WNC rivers and streams for E. coli and other pollutants that can make people sick.

  • Improve fish habitat and fishing access by providing matching funds to remove the Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River in Watauga County.

  • Improve public access to a popular recreation area on the Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk counties.

  • Expand camping and fishing tourism with investment in the Watauga River Paddle Trail in Watauga County and the French Broad River Paddle Trail in Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe and Madison counties.

These items have all made it into the NC Senate’s proposed budget and are now being discussed in final budget negotiations with the state House of Representatives. MountainTrue – and our region – is fortunate to have a number of lawmakers who have been willing to support these projects including Representatives Chuck McGrady, Josh Dobson, Kevin Corbin and Brian Turner and Senators Chuck Edwards and Deanna Ballard.

Please contact your legislators and thank them for supporting these important projects and initiatives.