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.


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.

Join Us At A Forest Management Plan Comment Party

Join Us At A Forest Management Plan Comment Party

Join Us At A Forest Management Plan Comment Party

As many of you have heard through news reports or from our last e-news, the draft management plan and environmental impact statement for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests were released on Friday, February 14. Our forest team is reviewing the more than 2,000 pages contained in those documents and will soon be offering our members and supporters thorough analysis to assist you in providing meaningful public comments to the forest service.

We are also scheduling a series of Forest Management Plan presentations and comment-writing parties throughout our region where our staff will present our analysis, answer your questions and help you write your comments, if desired. Below is our first round of events.

More public comment events hosted by MountainTrue are being planned and we will update you when dates and locations are confirmed for events in Mills River, Sylva, Morganton, Asheville and Bryson City.

As we schedule additional events, we’ll also be adding them to our Forest Plan Calendar.

The Nantahala and Pisgah belong to all of us, and this is the process whereby we, the public, ensure that the Forest Service manages and maintains them according to our values. The management plan determines which areas are protected, which areas will be scheduled for timber projects or managed for restoration, and how projects, like trail building and maintenance, are prioritized.

This forest management plan has been in development since 2013, and this is the public’s last significant opportunity to have our say. The public comment period lasts 90 days (until May 14), and you can submit as many public comments as you like. So, even if you’ve already submitted a comment, you can attend our parties to learn more and add your additional concerns to the public record.


MountainTrue’s Josh Kelly participated in Carolina Public Press’s NewsMakers Forum on the Future of Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest. Watch it here.

Our first impressions of the Forest Plan is that the Forest Service has made a good faith effort to include the values of all constituencies, but that there’s still a lot of room for improvement. All the action alternatives have some elements that we like, and some we don’t.

Some specific areas of concern that we’ve already identified:

  • The draft plan does not include any certain protections for existing old-growth forests. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement documents that all forest ecosystems are deficient in old-growth, very young forest, and open canopy forest compared to the best models of the natural variation in these systems. Unsustainable logging 100-140 years ago, fire suppression, and other factors have gotten us where we are today. Cutting existing old-growth will only make the matter worse, and the Forest Plan should require that old-growth be protected from regeneration harvest — the process by which older forests are cut to make younger forests.
  • The draft plan does not specify if or how old-growth forests will be tracked, making monitoring of the goal of increasing the amount of old-growth on the ground unachievable.
  • The draft plan does not include specific directions to protect many Natural Heritage Natural Areas that contain the best examples of rare species and natural communities in North Carolina. In all forest plan alternatives, between 34,000 and 68,000 acres of NHNAs are included in management areas with scheduled timber harvest. The Forest Plan should preclude regeneration harvest if a site-specific review finds them to be in a condition consistent with their identification as natural areas by the state.
  • The draft plan proposes a 15 ft. buffer on intermittent streams – streams that dry up during a drought. We believe that the intent is to protect those streams, but the plan should require a 50 ft. buffer of protection from heavy equipment such as bulldozers and skidders a default.
  • The current forest plan stipulates that any timber harvest on slopes over 40% must be accomplished with an aerial cable, where at least one end of the log is lifted off the ground, or other aerial logging method to protect soils and reduce the risk or erosion or landslides. The draft plan does away with that requirement and leaves the decision, increasing opportunities for human error. The new plan should also require that all harvest methods on steep slopes should protect the soil as effectively as aerial cable harvest.
  • Alternative C is the only alternative that would manage Big Ivy consistent with the Buncombe County resolution calling on the Forest Service to protect the area.

Moving forward, we continue to contribute as a member of the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership to come up with a collaborative, win-win proposal that takes the best aspects of each alternative provided by the Forest Service, and fixes any of the plan’s deficiencies in protecting water quality, old-growth forests, and natural areas.

To keep up with the latest Forest-related news and action alerts and to receive updates as we add forest plan events to our calendar, sign up here.


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 Team Experiments on Invasive Species

Public Lands Team Experiments on Invasive Species

Public Lands Team Experiments on Invasive Species

​MountainTrue takes pride in being at the forefront of conservation techniques in many areas. Last summer, Public Lands Director Bob Gale decided to work on finding new ways to tackle two of our worst invasives: Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) and Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica).

For the invasive stiltgrass, we are typically stuck hand-pulling it in mid-summer.  This can be a rewarding activity to do with a large volunteer group, but takes a lot of people-hours to accomplish.  However, Bob Gale noticed that in some infested areas, there were pockets of ferns that weren’t being pushed around by the stiltgrass.  Bob decided to work with interns and our Forest Keeper Coordinator, Rhys Burns, to test their ability to fight back. They picked out areas at a local wetland ranging from highly invaded to unimpacted, laid out 4×4-foot plots, and transplanted 48 ferns into these areas.  The ferns continued to establish through the fall, and we will return this spring to see how they fared. Wouldn’t it be nice to fight plants with plants!

Japanese Knotweed is widely considered one of the worst invasives we have.  If broken up, it can resprout from tiny pieces or float down the rivers where it likes to live until it finds a new home.  It is also resistant to many common herbicides, including the low-impact chemicals we like to use in sensitive areas. However, a new herbicide was developed that may kill this unstoppable plant.  In collaboration with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy, we were able to purchase some of this expensive chemical, and put it to the test. Although it will take several years to determine if it truly works, the initial results are hopeful!  In a study conducted over 3 treatments last summer, we were able to kill the knotweed using some methods of application, and rule out others.

With both of these experiments, we will continue to monitor and treat these plots, and work with partners to share the data we collect. Here’s to hoping!


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.

Healthy Forests = Good Fishing

Healthy Forests = Good Fishing

Healthy Forests = Good Fishing

by Fred Mix

I’ve been an avid fisherman since before I could speak. In fact, I’ve even got a photo of me holding up a fish I caught from when I was still in diapers. And in all my time fishing, I’ve never been as concerned about the health of our rivers and streams as I am now.

That’s why I support MountainTrue — they help keep our rivers and streams fishable and clean.

One of my favorite fishing spots lies just below the Forest Service’s proposed Buck Project timber sale. The exact spot is this fisherman’s secret, but it’s a beautiful stream designated as an Outstanding Resource Water by the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Buck Creek is one of the largest and most biologically diverse of its type in WNC. It’s also the largest tributary of the Nantahala River above the headwaters, where there is no commercial development.

Not long ago, the Forest Service invited me and other stakeholders to tour the Buck Project site and assure us that we had nothing to worry about. They’re planning to cut new roads, bury culverts to redirect water and then to take them out when they finish up. While they told me this, all I could think about was all the water and mud that would wash right down the valley into Buck Creek. If they push this project through, our pristine waterway is gone. The Forest Service staff are good people, reasonable and smart, but are dead set on cutting those trees no matter the cost.

When I was younger, we caught a fish and we killed it. We were takers back then. Now I catch and release because I’m more interested in preserving what we have. Unfortunately, the Forest Service is stuck in the taking mode.

You can help protect our Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests by supporting MountainTrue’s PublicLands Team. Join as a MountainTrue member today and protect places like Buck Creek – because it’s the right thing to do, now and for future generations.

Fred Mix is a life-long Fisherman & MountainTrue supporter. He was born in New Orleans, raised in Atlanta, and has lived most of his life somewhere between Bluffton, SC and the Nantahala Gorge. Fred spent 11 years in the fire service, and has maintained a boat brokerage business for the last 30 years. He is an avid fisherman who volunteers his time and expertise surveying fish populations in Nantahala.

Protect the Places We Share

Have fun with us, learn more about the incredible natural treasures of our region, and make a difference in your community.


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.

Meet the 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners

Meet the 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners

Meet the 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners

MountainTrue is proud to announce our annual award winners for 2019. These awards are given to MountainTrue members and volunteers who have been outstanding in their commitment to preserving WNC’s natural heritage. Awards will be formally presented at our Annual Gathering on October 23 at New Belgium Brewing Company in Asheville.

The awards are as follows:

Esther Cunningham Award Winner: Katie Breckheimer
This award is given in honor of Esther Cunningham, the founder of the Western North Carolina Alliance, and is MountainTrue’s most prestigious award.

Katie Breckheimer has been a leader in environmental advocacy in WNC for over three decades. She was active with the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO) in Henderson County, and then was crucial to the success of the transformative 2015 merger between ECO, the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (JMCA) that created MountainTrue. Not long after the merger, Katie’s natural capacity for leadership and her commitment to our work led her to serve a term as MountainTrue’s Board Chair.

Katie has played a major role in advocacy efforts including green energy, promoting greenways and recycling, and stopping coal ash pollution and expansion of Asheville’s Duke Energy power plant. Katie launched and continues to host Green Drinks in Hendersonville, a monthly social gathering and lecture series on environmental issues. Her passion for and dedication to environmental protection is beyond compare, and has positioned her as a leading voice for natural resources across the region.

Volunteer of the Year for the High Country Region: Chris Souhrada

Shortly after moving to Banner Elk, Chris connected with MountainTrue and immediately became one of MountainTrue’s most dedicated and reliable volunteers in the High Country. Chris has been a long-running water quality volunteer with the Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program. High Country Regional Director Andy Hill calls him “the MVP and anchor of the water quality team who covers for others when needed, goes above and beyond what is asked of him and is always willing to help with other projects like livestaking and non-native invasive removal.” In general, Andy says Chris is just a hell of a guy and we are pleased to award him our High Country Region Volunteer of the Year!

Volunteers of the Year for the Southern Region: Kay Shurtleff and Lucy Butler

Kay and Lucy have both been committed volunteers with MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Office water quality monitoring programs for over a decade. Together they coordinate over 30 water testing sites by collecting samples from all of the volunteers and transporting them to the lab every month. They also participate in and coordinate biomonitoring for water insects in local streams twice per year. In addition to their ongoing commitments to our water programs, they have helped with a variety of other initiatives including Christmas tree recycling, river cleanups, local festivals, and advocacy at public meetings. Southern Region Director Gray Jernigan says “they are two of our most dedicated and reliable members and set the example by being great stewards of our natural environment.” Congratulations Kay and Lucy!

Volunteer of the Year for the Western Region: Charlie Swor

As the former secretary of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC) board of directors, Charlie worked hard on the complex and successful merger between HRWC and MountainTrue this past summer. Charlie also participates in our volunteer water quality monitoring program, taking monthly water chemistry and E. coli measurements from Corn Creek. He spearheaded a partnership between Young Harris College and HRWC for management of the Corn Creek riparian corridor, creating a much healthier stream environment and a more pleasant walk on the college’s streamside trail. Charlie float-fishes area rivers on a regular basis and lets us know when he discovers issues that might impact water quality. “Charlie is one of those ‘go-to’ guys when we need help with set-up for an event or really any ‘ole thing,” says Western Regional Director Callie Moore. “If he’s not busy and his wife, Rachel can take care of the kids (thanks Rachel!), he’s there!”

Volunteer of the Year for the Central Region: Erin Gregory

Erin has been a key volunteer for the French Broad Riverkeeper program for the last two years, spending hours each week collecting water samples that have led to the team finding no fewer than three major sewer issues. When French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook were out of town earlier this summer, Erin texted them to report an issue and then also contacted the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality on their behalf to instigate a quicker response. She has single-handedly created a French Broad River Festival for our Beer Series at The Wedge, including gear builders, outfitters, and other local producers, and she prompted the Asheville Yoga Center to designate MountainTrue their Charity of the Month. We couldn’t do it without you Erin!


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.

Update on the Buck Project in Nantahala National Forest

Update on the Buck Project in Nantahala National Forest

Update on the Buck Project in Nantahala National Forest

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Biologist, Josh Kelly, next to a “temporary road” built in 2012 in Nantahala National Forest.

In August, Forest Service staff for Nantahala National Forest made their final decision on the Buck Project. As you may remember, the Forest Service had selected Alternative B as its proposed alternative in April, and we called on you to oppose this project because it would have harvested 845 acres of timber and constructed 9.1 miles of new road – much of that in sensitive places like existing old-growth forests, Outstanding Resource Waters, Natural Heritage Areas, and the Chunky Gal potential Wilderness addition. 


In response, the Forest Service created a new alternative for the project, Alternative G. In the positives column, Alternative G includes understory thinning and controlled burns in the Buck Creek Serpentine Barrens. It also calls for watershed repairs in areas where old roads, culverts and infrastructure are causing erosion and blocking the passage of aquatic organisms. But unfortunately, Alternative G still proposes to build 8.9 miles of road and to harvest timber in sensitive areas.  

Here’s where MountainTrue stands on the Forest Service’s new alternative:

  • We support Alternative G’s inclusion of water quality work and activities in the Serpentine Barrens.
  • While we welcome the reduction of timber harvest by 50 acres to protect old-growth forest and a North Carolina natural heritage area, as well as the .2 miles of reduced road construction, these are very small changes around the margins. This project still does tremendous harm to wild places, soil and water, old-growth forest, and goes against the wishes of hundreds of people that commented on the project.
  • Alternative G would still build new roads and harvest timber in one of the wildest places in North Carolina – the Chunky Gal Addition to Southern Nantahala Wilderness. At over 7,000 acres, this is the largest potential addition to an existing Wilderness in North Carolina, and one of the wildest, most remote, and ecologically healthy places in Nantahala National Forest. Proceeding with Alternative G would surely disqualify thousands of acres of Chunky Gal from management as either Backcountry or Wilderness for at least 20 years. This at a time when there is broad public support for protecting the area in the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan.
  • The 8.9 miles of road construction will have considerable risks for erosion, landslides, and the spread of invasive plants. The Forest Service has over 2,200 miles of roads in Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, yet they want to build more in the wildest remaining places. They are proposing a 10-mile roundtrip haul and 2 miles of new road construction to access just 50 acres of timber on Kitty Ridge. The new road would cross rock outcrops and extremely steep slopes, which increases the risk for erosion and landslides. The value of the timber being accessed is likely to be less than the cost of constructing this “temporary” road!
  • In compartment 110, the Forest Service still proposes to build a 14-16 foot-wide “temporary” road paralleling an unnamed tributary of upper Buck Creek. Both Buck Creek and this tributary are known to be native brook trout streams that are already under stress from non-native trout. Road construction will further jeopardize this fragile brook trout population.
  • Alternative G still contains existing old-growth forest with trees over 200-years-old in at least three locations. The Forest Service claims to be working with MountainTrue to exclude these areas from harvest, but still has them mapped inside harvest areas. The simplest solution would have been to exclude those areas from the decision to harvest. What happens if and when there is a disagreement about the location and boundaries of existing old-growth? The decision makes no promises in this regard.

MountainTrue continues to push for a modified Alternative D, which the Forest Service has acknowledged would meet the purpose and need for the Buck Project. We will object to the Buck Project, as this is our last recourse short of going to federal court. The Forest Service has not been responsive to our concerns on recent problematic decisions in the Mossy Oak and Southside Projects, and does not seem inclined to fix the problems with the Buck Project either. 

It’s also come to our attention that those who commented on the Buck Project through MountainTrue’s comment portal received a message from Steverson Moffat, NEPA Planning Team Leader for the Forest Service. While we’re glad that the Forest Service is taking the time to engage with people who comment on their projects, we have a very different take on the Buck Project than what Moffat’s message shared. You can read our response here.

The Forest Service proposed the very flawed Buck Project in early 2018. They have now made changes around the margins of the problem they created and called this a balanced compromise. Any compromise that relies on compromising the health of the land and water is unacceptable to MountainTrue.

Sincerely,

Josh Kelly, Public Lands Biologist for MountainTrue


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.