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.

A Black Naturalists Journal

A Black Naturalists Journal

A Black Naturalists Journal

The serenity of nature is like the hug from a friend we all desperately need. The glow and warmth it leaves me with brings me in touch with this land, our planet, not as we have made it, but as it is.

September 23, 2020. Justice was outright denied for the young, lively, human being Breonna Taylor. September 23, 1955. Justice was spit on in the case of poor, young Emmett Till. It is the morning after the ruling in Breonna’s case, I’m sipping coffee, paying mind to how I really feel.

(For context, I’ve recognized my tendency to have physical reactions to the cuts of trauma. It’s not uncommon in BIPOC, to experience chronic pain, exhaustion, fatigue, all of which being any combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. My particular flavor is chronic pain (CP) in my cervical spine, with a heavy dash of mental exhaustion. Watching bodies pile up due to violence and sickness, an uncoincidentally high amount of black bodies, can do its damage.)

It’s raining, forcing me to reschedule a field day. On one hand I don’t mind, as this CP flare up probably means I need to rest. On the other hand, I find myself looking at the dozens of photos I’ve taken over the last weeks. Photos of deep forest, leaves, flowers, mushrooms, caterpillars, rivers, and of course mountain views. A video of a little red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) shimmying itself under leaf litter, trying to hide itself from danger. I want to be outside, where the birds tune out the noise of society, even if only for a while.

Nature therapy, for me, has become a means for coping with the daily trauma we have collectively been witnessing, and disproportionately been experiencing. I have a kind of survivor’s guilt for having that opportunity (let alone for that opportunity to be my work), as well as the opportunity to graduate from college, live in my own apartment, and have support systems, rather than being obligated to support. Injustice takes many forms.

Yet no amount of love for nature will convince me to explore the outdoors alone, not as a young woman of color in western North Carolina. Especially within days of a bizarre, racially intimidating vandalism of the entrance sign to Foothills Parkway. In fact, when I’m hiking I practically always have the company of a white man. In a way that makes me simultaneously feel shame, it makes me feel safe.

But I daydream often. I have a deep love for folk rock, songs that give me ambedo (a ‘feeling you can’t explain,’ n. A kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details- raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee- briefly soaking in the experience of being alive, an act that is done purely for its own sake). There are many ways to connect with nature.

Visions of life illuminated by the tranquility of my environment, accompanied by the soundtrack of that movie I play in my head. In that movie, I go for long drives and get lost in the woods by myself, and I always come home. There are many ways to connect with nature, to pay respect to the greater, the smaller, to the strange fruit we bury like seeds of a bountiful forest.

The world, not as we have made it, but as it is.

The Soundtrack: The Bottom of It / Fruit Bats; Dark Days / Local Natives; Willy’s Song / Rayland Baxter; Louise / Mipso.

Tamia Dame is MountainTrue’s AmericaCorps Forest Keeper Coordinator. She is a graduate of UNC Asheville and a native to the Appalachian foothills of Lenoir, NC, where she spent much of her childhood exploring the outdoors and longing to live in the mountains. 


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.

On Division, Communicating the “Inflammatory”

On Division, Communicating the “Inflammatory”

On Division, Communicating the “Inflammatory”

A hot word: “Divisive.” Here in the United States, we talk a lot about how divided we are. But how do we become divided? Before our divisions are philosophical, they are linguistic. Ask any Facebook user what it’s like to use that platform to engage with others on any important issue or hot topic, and their head just might explode. We all see what’s happening around us objectively: we are in a pandemic, nationwide protests happen almost daily, it is an election year, first Australia was engulfed in flames, then the Western US coast. We are living through the same objective events, and most of us are likely seeking similar outcomes: we want health for ourselves and our loved ones, we want as little loss of life as possible by the end of this pandemic, we want our nation to serve justice, we want our planet to be habitable for future generations. Above all, we keep hearing how important for Americans to once again be united as a people, how we’re all so tired of the division. While we all originate from different backgrounds, cultures, family structures, and we have lived different lives, had different experiences, and possess different goals, I like to think that we’re not as different as we think we are.

When it comes to planning our future as a collective nation, it seems as if all of our similarities might have never even existed. We tend to get direly lost in translation, emotionally driven to react to whatever triggers the perception of threat or judgment. We have a terminal addiction to placing our differences ahead of our similarities. In today’s social media age, it seems to be a victimless infraction. We have the right to free speech, the right to our own opinion, and the right to agree or disagree with our government and with one another. This is true. The more I talk with folks, the more I realize that we exist in the same physical universe but live in vastly different worlds. We fundamentally, truly, do not understand each other.

American passion, a historically critical quality of the trailblazers that have brought us from history to here, is our own weakness. The diverse nature of American society has long been prohibited from simultaneously taking up space, until now. Legal gay marriage in the US is younger than Netflix. My 2011 Toyota Camry has existed for longer than Black Lives Matter, the organization. The status quo is being challenged, as it has been before us, cloaked in a different disguise with each passing generation. Have we forgotten that we are history in the making?

“Connect before you correct,” I hear the voice of Ms. Roberta Wall carefully advise. This is one of the basic principles of nonviolent communication (NVC), as I’ve learned it. It means to establish the space to both recognize and be heard, before addressing the issue at hand. It is a practice of empathy, driven by a desire for mutual understanding. I’ve come to realize that this applies to both interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict. When we become fired up at controversial speech, at its core, it’s often because we’re feeling a need be unmet, threatened, or disrespected. We humans are emotional animals. We just care so much! I challenge you, dear reader, to remember that next time you’re in this situation. We have no right to shame ourselves for our passion, but passion, too, is a skill, and developing any skill takes practice.

Step one: hear/read/see controversial speech, action, or decision. Step two: get fired up, think of all the ways the other party is SO wrong. Step three: thank yourself, your brain, for reminding you that you’re not a bad person for caring. Step four: remember that we exist in the same universe, but different worlds. Step five: realize that the other party cares too, in ways we may not be able to understand. Step six: identify any shared needs (safety, health, to be heard). Step seven: choose how to proceed.

These steps, for me, help cool the flames of what I find inflammatory.

Working on these skills restores our power and ability to communicate effectively. I seek to take back the power of my passion, and not let it be threatened by that which and those who I simply don’t understand. My threshold for reactivity has risen, and I spend more of my passion on making a difference. I’ve been able to reach across the aisle, while standing firm in my personal morals and beliefs.

Dear reader, if you identify as an ally of the underrepresented, I challenge you to identify your own reactivity threshold. If you wince at notions of defunding law enforcement, or support black lives matter but don’t appreciate dialogue on white supremacy, if you feel like discourse on social issues has a tendency to just go too far, and you don’t understand, but you believe in unity; I share this as an act of empathy. It is our right to stand true to ourselves, and it is also our right to soften our edges just enough to let our perspectives broaden. When issues drive our emotions and our emotions drive our opinions, we don’t come to understanding by explanation alone, we have to want to understand.

When we give our power of reactivity away, when we expect that others adapt their adopted language to appease those who otherwise would withdraw their support, we continue to perpetuate systemic oppression. By this form of censorship, we force those who have been neglected justice to do more emotional work as they actively fight for equity.

Before our divisions are philosophical, they are linguistic.

Same universe, different worlds.

Passion is a natural reaction to tragedy, yet it takes many forms. We don’t have to be lost in translation. Let’s talk better.

Tamia Dame is MountainTrue’s AmericaCorps Forest Keeper Coordinator. She is a graduate of UNC Asheville and a native to the Appalachian foothills of Lenoir, NC, where she spent much of her childhood exploring the outdoors and longing to live in the mountains. 


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.

Laurel Creek Inholding now part of Nantahala National Forest

Laurel Creek Inholding now part of Nantahala National Forest

Laurel Creek Inholding now part of Nantahala National Forest

by Callie D. Moore, MountainTrue Western Regional Director

On June 17, 2020, the U.S. Government purchased a 49.33-acre in-holding at the headwaters of Laurel Creek, in Clay and Cherokee counties, making the land public and part of Nantahala National Forest! The purchase from the Mainspring Conservation Trust closes the loop on a 12-year battle by the former Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, MountainTrue and several other partners to prevent private landowners from building a road through the National Forest and cabins at the top of pristine headwaters of Fires Creek.

The long journey to public ownership began back in 2008 when the Forest Service released a scoping notice for a proposed road-building project in the Fires Creek watershed of Nantahala National Forest in Clay County. Through the scoping letter, we learned that in March 2006 some people had collectively purchased an almost 50-acre inholding (piece of private land completely surrounded by public land) on the rim of the Fires Creek watershed with no vehicular access and they were requesting to build a road to it. The preferred route was following a very old logging road, turned horse trail, for 3.5 miles up the Laurel Creek and Hickory Cove Creek drainages, and then constructing 0.34-miles of new road at the very top.

The potential environmental impact of this project was extreme. Of the 3.84 miles of proposed road, 57% (including all of the new road construction) lies within the Nantahala (geologic) Formation. As was reported in the Environmental Assessment, “The Nantahala Formation is one of many formations known to the North Carolina Geologic Survey as posing a high risk of generating acid runoff because of the abundance of iron sulfides in the rock.” Additionally, there are 13 stream crossings and 1.44 miles (37%) lies within 100 feet of perennial streams.

Fires Creek is classified by North Carolina as an Outstanding Resource Water (ORW). There are only nine ORWs in WNC! Yet, despite this and a state Significant Aquatic Natural Heritage Area designation, as well as the area’s popularity for a wide variety of recreational activities from hunting, fishing and horseback riding to hiking, swimming and nature study, and the potential environmental impacts, the Forest Service continued to favor and would ultimately approve the Laurel Creek route for the road.

Over a 10-year period, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, MountainTrue and our partners advocated for water quality protections related to the road-building activity though comments, objections and appeals. After five revisions to the Environmental Assessment, the final decision included many provisions that made the project cost-prohibitive for the landowners. In 2018, they sold the inholding to Mainspring until the Forest Service could acquire the funds to purchase it.

This is a major victory for clean water, public lands and outdoor recreation. And it’s a victory that would not have been possible without the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Without the requirement for the Forest Service to solicit and consider public input, there would likely be a 4-mile road (open for vehicular traffic only to the inholding landowners and their guests) right beside Laurel and Hickory Cove Creeks in the heart of the pristine Fires Creek watershed! There would probably be private homes up on top of the rim and a superb 3-day backpacking loop permanently severed. Without NEPA, we probably wouldn’t have even known about the project until construction and water quality violations began.

Project partners in alphabetical order:
Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition
NC Wildlife Federation
Mountain High Hikers
MountainTrue (and Western NC Alliance before that)
Southern Environmental Law Center
The Wilderness Society
Trout Unlimited NC Council
Wild South


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.

Ash Re-Treatments Underway

Ash Re-Treatments Underway

Ash Re-Treatments Underway

Over the past few years, MountainTrue has taken on the task of identifying and treating priority ash groves around WNC in response to the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer. This non-native invasive insect is wreaking havoc throughout the state, and many of the trees we have treated are surrounded by bare branches from neighboring dead ashes. We have treated over 1,100 trees throughout the region, and committed to re-treating these trees after their initial 3-year treatment wears off.

So far, we have retreated over 100 trees in a beautiful grove on Bluff Mountain in Madison County, along the Appalachian Trail. The trees we have treated have a bright painted dot on the farside of the tree that isn’t visible from the trail. No need to look for the paint, though. These trees are surrounded by diverse wildflowers that shouldn’t be trampled. If you see a living ash tree on Bluff, it’s probably been treated.  

We will also be establishing a new site above 4,000 feet in the Big Ivy area of Pisgah National Forest. This area does not yet have any treated groves of ash, and the new site will add to the representation of preserved groves across the landscape.

If you are interested in helping us continue to save these populations, learning about the treatment, or just want to get involved, contact us at josh@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.