Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County has won the 2021 Bioblitz over Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species.

There were several notable performers in the Bioblitz, with 14 people making over 50 observations! The top three participants were Max Ramey (643 observations, 455 species; Watauga and Transylvania), Tim Lewis (408 observations, 323 species; Jackson), and Janaye Houghton (289 observations, 276 species; Jackson).

MountainTrue staff selected several people for recognition for their outstanding participation in the Bioblitz. Winners will receive gift certificates for local conservation-friendly businesses.

Max Ramey, as previously noted, was stellar and took home awards for Most Observations, Most Observations in Watauga County, and Best Observation for a stunning image of a Hellbender (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82943347).

Tim Lewis was recognized for Most Observations in Jackson County and Sherry Downing won Most Observations for Transylvania County. Scott Persons got the award for Best Bird Observation for a crisp image of an Indigo Bunting. (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82101741)

Erin Martin won Best Fungal Observation for a marvelously textured photo of the Common Toadskin Lichen (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82589987)

Janaye Houghton won Best Arthropod Observation for an otherworldly image of a Spittlebug (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82367166). 

The participation in the 2021 MountainTrue Bioblitz was phenomenal! It’s inspiring to see so many people learning about and appreciating the incredible diversity of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoyed this year’s MountainTrue Bioblitz, stay tuned for next year. We plan to have many more group and in-person opportunities at the next Bioblitz. 


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.

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.

ACT NOW: EMAIL THE FOREST SERVICE.

THREE WAYS YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

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.

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


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.

Our 2021 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Powered by iNaturalist

Our 2021 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Powered by iNaturalist

Our 2021 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Powered by iNaturalist

Every year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz event where we gather experts, enthusiasts and lifelong learners together to document every living organism we can find in a given area. This year, we are looking forward to another iNaturalist BioBlitz during which you can wrangle a group of friends, or participate while socially distanced. In 2020 we launched our first iNaturalist exclusive BioBlitz, and we were blown away to find that 97 observers documented 2,618 organisms and 1,186 unique species, including at least one that has never been documented in Madison county! 

To add to the fun, this year we are hosting a tri-county smackdown-style competition between Jackson, Watauga, and Transylvania counties! We think these are the most biodiverse counties in the MountainTrue Service Area. Help us crown the champion!

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

Scores will be tallied by county and by individual, with prizes and bragging rights in store for winners (note: you must sign up using the form below to be eligible to win). Scoring categories for counties will include numbers of observations, species, and participants, while scoring categories for individuals will include overall best observation as well as numbers of observations, species, birds, arthropods (including insects!), and fungi. Submit the form below to register to participate and be eligible to win!

If you’re already familiar with iNaturalist, scroll down for specific instructions on how to join our BioBlitz Project. You will also receive the project info when you sign up to participate using the form below.

iNaturalist is a citizen-science tool used to collect and verify data on biodiversity. Individual users upload observations, which are checked by other users and experts, and then added into a massive database of information. This data becomes publicly available, making it useful for scientists, researchers, students and enthusiasts to use for various purposes and projects. It is one of the most popular tools out there, with over a million users, and has useful functions for any level of learner, from novice to expert.

Anyone with a smartphone or computer can use this app by downloading it on the app store or visiting iNaturalist.org. They have great video tutorials for both first-time and experienced users on their Getting Started page. The basics are simple: take a photo of a living thing, upload it, and iNaturalist can help you identify what it might be. The more pictures you add, the better it works. For the best identification, try to take up-close shots of different parts of the plant or animal. Once your files are uploaded, other people from around the world can confirm your identification or take a guess if you have no clue. And if you’re a botanical enthusiast, you can help others learn by identifying their uploads!

If you’re looking for an even simpler version of this interface, there are multiple spin off apps that are generally designed to help kids and students engage with the natural world. Seek is an app that gives more guided (and simplified) instructions. EcoExplore helps kids make their own observations, and offers ipad rentals through local libraries to make citizen science more accessible. Both of these programs upload their data to the iNaturalist platform, and all can be used for our BioBlitz!

With just a single picture, iNaturalist can often help you narrow down what you’re seeing. Each suggested species comes with identification information that can help you confirm your find and know what to look for next time!

Whether you’ve used iNaturalist hundreds of times or have never heard of it, we’re hoping you’ll join us in this year’s BioBlitz. We are thrilled to host this regional competition to determine the 2021 champion of biodiversity, bringing forth county pride and natural curiosity for a BioBlitz like none before. Sign up below to participate. Happy hunting!

Specific Instructions for Joining our 2021 BioBlitz Project:

The first step is to create an account with iNaturalist. This is easily accessible on the app or web browser, and your account will be viewable under the “Me” tab on the app, or the upper right corner on the website. 

Once you have an account and are logged in, you can start joining projects. Please sign up for all three counties to track the competition. Search for MountainTrue 2021 Bioblitz in the main search bar at the top of the website.  Once you’ve found our project, hit “Join” in the About section on the website view. On the app, you can either search for this project through the search bar in the “Explore” tab, or on the “More” tab, under “Projects.” It may be necessary to scroll down to make the search bar visible on the “Projects” page. Once you’ve joined, you should be able to follow along and see what observations others are making!

Link for Jackson County: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2021-mountaintrue-jackson-county-nc-bioblitz

Link for Transylvania County: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2021-mountaintrue-transylvania-county-bioblitz

Link for Watauga County: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2021-mountaintrue-watauga-county-bioblitz

Our iNaturalist Project is designed to capture all observations uploaded in all three counties between June 5th and June 20th — even if you haven’t joined our specific project. This allows us to capture uploads from the EcoExplore and Seek apps as well.

If you are having difficulty accessing our Project or have other questions, please contact josh@mountaintrue.org. We’re here to help. Thanks for learning with us!

 

Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants In Hot Springs With Tamia Dame and Bob Gale

Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants In Hot Springs With Tamia Dame and Bob Gale

Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants In Hot Springs With Tamia Dame and Bob Gale

Last December, I headed out with MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, to treat non-native invasive plants with a few volunteers at an Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead in Hot Springs, NC. This trailhead leads hikers straight to the parking lot for Laughing Heart Lodge, which is just one of the many hostels along the trail that provides accommodations to thru-hikers. The small town of Hot Springs is a hub for AT thru-hikers because of its position along the AT, its charming accommodations and its natural beauty.

Trailheads are often vulnerable to the spread of non-native invasive plants due to their proximity to roadways, since tires and shoes can carry the seeds of invasive plants and deposit them onto the ground around them. Upon meeting around ten in the morning at the trailhead, we were greeted by a plethora of multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), kudzu (Pueraria montana), oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and a newly appearing vine here, Akebia quinata, also known as five-leaf akebia or chocolate vine. Only a short distance up the trail ahead, invasive plants were sparse – making this a great opportunity to prevent them from spreading further.

After a brief training in cut-and-paint herbicide use, non-native invasive plant identification and safety, the group broke up to tackle the dense foliage from each corner of the parking lot. Cut-stump herbicide treatment is ideal for woody stem plants such as multiflora rose and Chinese privet, and easy to figure out for first-time volunteers. Here’s how it works: Once plants have been cut to the base of the stem, take a small bottle with a sponge tip and a needle that protrudes with pressure and presses onto the cut stump, sending the herbicide down into the roots. The herbicide contains a blue dye as an indicator for safety or spill purposes, which also makes it easier to tell the difference between treated and untreated plants in areas dense with invasives.

The weather was cool and sunny; great weather for battling a thorny wilderness of multiflora rose in long sleeves under little tree canopy. This exotic invasive perennial shrub is particularly harmful because of its natural lack of predators, incredible shade tolerance and high seed production, to name a few factors. When we arrived, the southeastern corner of the parking lot had several mature multiflora rose plants which had effectively overtaken the native plant life beneath them.

Bob and Tamia worked on this corner until it was nearly rid of invasives and visibly much healthier, promoting an environment in which native plant life can thrive as hikers pass through. Positioned on the north and northwestern corners of the lot, volunteers Scott and Kayla cut through thickets of multiflora, privet, oriental bittersweet and kudzu. Diligently cutting and painting through the morning and afternoon, these two were able to significantly improve the appearance of this side of the parking lot and make great progress on this non-native invasive removal project.

While the situation here is not yet perfect, we were able to put an impressive dent in the sheer volume of non-native invasive plants that stood when we arrived. We look forward to continuing our invasive treatment work on the Hot Springs AT trailhead as the weather warms, and thank Scott and Kayla for their hard work with 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.

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

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

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

Based on what I’ve seen this year, local public lands are sure to break some visitation records. I’ve never seen the trails of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests as crowded as they have been this year. With the pandemic preventing most international travel, and outside being the safest place for people to be, folks have been looking closer to home for travel and recreation options, which has led people to local public lands in droves. Many of those people are getting into the outdoors for the first time. This could be a great thing for public lands and our culture, as more people fall in love with nature and become advocates for conservation. The downside is that many of the newcomers to public land have not yet been educated on how to be good stewards, and that’s where you, our MountainTrue members, come in.

MountainTrue members are conscientious people. You care enough to advocate for clean water, resilient forests, and public lands that are managed for people and native species. Most of you are familiar with Leave No Trace Principles and you follow them. At this particular moment in time, there is a need for you to pick up some slack for the newbies, and also for you to kindly mentor people who are not as educated as you.

The “kind” part is important, because it is essential to grow the constituency for public lands and wild nature. Fewer and fewer people are exposed to nature through their everyday lives, so I am encouraged that so many people are getting exposed to something other than a virus this year. If you see folks that aren’t behaving well in the woods, let them know what they are doing wrong, and how to do it right. Not everyone knows to pack their trash out, or to keep their noise down to respect other people. If you can communicate all of that in a way that’s not condescending or angry, we’ll all gain allies for the places we love.

Just as important (and a whole lot easier!) than the needed social work is to hit the trail ready to leave the land better than you found it. I like to hike with a trash bag and gloves so that I can pick up any trash I find along the way – and there’s a whole lot of trash in the woods this year. I also hike with hand pruners and a hand saw so that I can cut brush or any small trees that fall across the trail. For those of you that are advanced in your identification of non-native invasive plants, it’s a huge help for you to pull the bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, privet and garlic mustard you find on the trail.

MountainTrue will highlight particular places that need your help throughout the fall, winter and spring, so keep an eye out for some “choose your own adventure” cleanups we’ll be organizing. Contact MountainTrue Forest Keeper Coordinator Tamia Dame for more information.


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.