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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Expired

1. Email the Forest Service

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

2. Send a Letter to the Editor

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

3. Support Our Timber Monitoring Program

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

Take Action For Funding To Map Landslide Hazard Areas In WNC

Take Action For Funding To Map Landslide Hazard Areas In WNC

Take Action For Funding To Map Landslide Hazard Areas In WNC

Action Expired

 

Landslides in our mountains are a threat to homes, roads, drinking water, and even lives. But we can make our communities safer if we know where to expect them. Call on the NC Senate to continue funding for the mapping of dangerous landslide hazard areas in Western North Carolina below!

To make sure we know where landslide risks exist in our mountains, the NC Department of Environmental Quality began mapping these areas back in 2005. This program was halted in 2011 and then restarted in 2018 with funding from the NC General Assembly. However, the funding for the highly trained, technical mapping staff – the staff who are the boots on the ground for this work – will run out this June. We need to make sure this important work continues!

As climate change causes more frequent and heavy rainstorms, landslides become more common and dangerous. In fact, every record rainfall our region has experienced in the past decade has come along with a sharp increase in landslides. Over the last few years, these landslides have:

  • Destroyed and condemned homes across the region
  • Killed people in Watauga, Polk and Macon counties
  • Impacted a major gas line in Polk County
  • Blocked key roads like I-40 in Haywood County and US 19/74 in Swain County for weeks
  • Moved significant excess sediment into Franklin’s drinking water supply

To make our communities more resilient to future landslides, we must first understand where the risks are so we can plan, prepare, and adapt accordingly. Take action below to call on your State Senator to include funding to continue the landslide hazard mapping program in this year’s budget.

To make your message most effective, we highly encourage you to personalize it and explain why this issue matters to you!

 

Call on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and Asheville City Council: Build Back Better With Public Transit!

Call on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and Asheville City Council: Build Back Better With Public Transit!

Call on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and Asheville City Council: Build Back Better With Public Transit!

Action Expired

 

As our community recovers from Covid-19, building a more resilient and accessible public transit system in Buncombe County is more important than ever. Take action below to call on the Buncombe County Commissioners and Asheville City Council to increase funding for public transit in their budgets this year!

Here’s what we’re asking the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners:

  • Create a Transit Master Plan to improve transit access in Buncombe County. While Asheville has its own Transit Master Plan, that plan largely focuses on transit within the city limits. This plan will lay out a roadmap for transit expansion in the County, prioritize transit connections between City and County routes, help increase federal funding for transit and lay out an action plan for the County to transition its fleet to 100% electric vehicles by 2030.
  • Restore the County’s subsidy for Mountain Mobility services. In the past, the County provided Mountain Mobility service to the City at a reduced rate and subsidized the costs. But over the past couple of years, the County has reduced and then discontinued this subsidy, creating another strain on Asheville’s already underfunded transit system. We call on the County to restore this important health and human service for residents who need it.

Here’s what we’re asking Asheville City Council:

  • Fund extended evening hours from Year 1 of the Transit Master Plan. We thank the City for agreeing to operationalize transit at their recent retreat, and know the next steps in doing that are funding the rest of Year 1 and priority items for Year 2 of the Transit Master Plan. Extending evening hours is the highest priority of transit riders who are advocates for a better system and a must-have for a reliable public transit system in a city like Asheville, where many service workers have night shifts.
  • Fund priorities from Year 2 of Asheville’s Transit Master Plan, including increased frequency of the S3 and S6 on Hendersonville Road. Increasing frequency for the South Asheville routes will provide more reliable access for residents to living wage jobs in South Asheville, while connecting more of our neighbors living in affordable housing in South Asheville to downtown and other parts of the city. This will also connect residents to critical health and human services like MAHEC.

The Buncombe County Commissioners and Asheville City Council are both deciding what will be in their yearly budgets this month. Make sure transit makes the cut by contacting these local governments below. We hope you’ll personalize your message and write about why better transit is important to you!

 

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Action Expired

Update: SE Asphalt Renews Its Effort to Build an Asphalt Plant in Residential Area.

On April 15, our community successfully organized to get the Henderson County Planning Board to recommend that the County Commissioners deny the asphalt plant proposal. Thanks to everyone who turned out to make this possible!

Now we turn to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, who will make the final decision.

What You Can Do

June 1, 6 pm: Attend the Board of Commissioners meeting where the final decision will be made!

Henderson Board of Commissioners Special-Called Meeting
Historic Henderson County Courthouse
1 Historic Courthouse Square, Suite 1
Hendersonville, NC 28792
June 1, 2021 at 6 PM
Notice of Public Hearing

More About The Asphalt Plant

SE Asphalt wants to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single family homes, small farms, and the Green River Game Lands. The site drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

The developer has applied for conditional rezoning for 6.5 acres to a conditional district to construct the new asphalt plant. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant because:

The asphalt plant is too close to residential areas, homes and businesses.
The proposed site is across the Spartanburg Highway from a mobile home park and is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The parcel is currently zoned for Community Commercial. By seeking conditional rezoning to allow for the asphalt plant, the developer is effectively trying to rezone a site — that is bordered by residential areas — for industrial use.

A study by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) showed 45% of residents living within a half mile of a new asphalt plant reported a deterioration of their health, which began after the plant opened.

Asphalt plants are a source of harmful air pollution.
Asphalt fumes are known toxins and contain pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics can cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.

The asphalt plant could harm our natural environment.
The proposed site is dangerously close to the Green River Game Land and borders the headwaters of Laurel Creek. Air pollution and water runoff of pollutants from the site would impact the Game Lands and Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

The East Flat Rock asphalt plant is an environmental justice issue.
The site is across the road to a low-income community that would bear the brunt of air and water pollution, dust, noise, truck traffic, and exposure to harmful toxins. Low income communities are disproportionately impacted by industrial facilities across the nation, and that’s not right.

Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and put a stop to this pollution factory before it even gets started! Join us in the fight!

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Action Expired

 

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.Update: The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is postponing the public hearing until April 14 and extending the period for public comments until April 30.

What you can do

    1. Provide Public Comment via email to the Department of Environmental Quality.
      The public comment period has been extended until April 30. Take action today.
    2. Speak up at the online public hearing:
      You must register by noon on April 14. Click here for registration and hearing details.

    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 during that time relied on a monthly average, which allows wild swings in the temperature of the discharge, and potential fish kills. Data from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission shows a substantial impact of aquatic life between  up and downstream monitoring, and temperature is a likely factor in the reduced diversity and abundance of aquatic life downstream of the mill.   MountainTrue, with the help of SELC and Clean Water for NC fought and won weekly monitoring limits in the last permit cycle, but those limits are being rolled back to a monthly average. We believe daily monitoring and a daily average limit for temperature is critical to understanding and protecting the Pigeon River. Now is not the time to roll back protections for the river!


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

 

  1. Chloroform: DEQ is proposing to allow the mill to increase their discharge of chloroform, a possible carcinogen. This is to an internal discharge point, so we need additional information to determine how much of this discharge is reaching the Pigeon River. 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.

Call on Congress: Support Major Public Transit Funding in the Emergency COVID-19 Aid Package

Call on Congress: Support Major Public Transit Funding in the Emergency COVID-19 Aid Package

Call on Congress: Support Major Public Transit Funding in the Emergency COVID-19 Aid Package

Action Expired

 

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 below to call on Congress to include major support for public transit systems this week in its emergency COVID-19 aid package?

In Asheville and all across the country, public transit is in crisis. The pandemic has caused local and state revenue used to fund public transit to drop sharply, and new passenger limits to maintain safety on buses are causing riders to be left behind at bus stops. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), over half of transit agencies in the US reported that without federal funding they are considering laying off or furloughing staff, while 61% said they may need to reduce service.

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. We are standing with our friends at APTA and calling for $32 billion in emergency funding for public transit in the federal COVID-19 aid package. This issue can’t wait, as COVID-19 cases are only set to get worse this winter and budget deadlines for many transit systems are coming up in the next few weeks.

Tell Congress: Now is the time to provide emergency funding for public transit.