MountainTrue offers to bid on reckless Southside Timber Sale to stop important old-growth forests from being cut

MountainTrue offers to bid on reckless Southside Timber Sale to stop important old-growth forests from being cut

MountainTrue offers to bid on reckless Southside Timber Sale to stop important old-growth forests from being cut

ASHEVILLE, NC — Today, the US Forest Service closed bidding on 98 acres of the Southside Timber Sale (pictured above), which aims to eventually log 300 acres of North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest, including critical tracts of old-growth forests. To stop the logging of old-growth forest, MountainTrue is offering to pay the Forest Service to keep the 37 acres of trees in place and the Forest intact. 

This offer would protect exceptional old-growth forests from unnecessary logging and ensure the Forest Service recoups its investments in this sale. In fact, the Forest Service would make more money by accepting payment from MountainTrue, which is offering to match any offers for the value of the timber. Leaving the forest in place would free the Forest Service from the expense of administering the sale and overseeing roadbuilding and logging activities. 

While the Forest Service typically does not accept payment to keep forests intact, this extraordinary offer is an effort to stop an extraordinarily harmful sale. 

“We are willing to pay the Forest Service in order to save this old-growth forest and the critical habitat that it provides for native species,” explains Josh Kelly. “Our bid is both the most environmentally responsible and profitable option for the Forest Service.”

The 37 acres targeted by the Southside Timber Sale on Brushy Mountain are incredibly important ecosystems. Old-growth forests are made of trees that have been standing for centuries and hold tremendous amounts of carbon. Cutting these trees releases that carbon – tons of it – into the atmosphere, where it will worsen the impacts of climate change. Keeping these remarkable tracts of forest in the ground is a key step to fighting the climate crisis. 

These forests also provide habitat for what experts recently documented as one of the most important green salamander populations in the state. Cutting these forests threatens this already-imperiled species. In fact, Forest Service leaders have ignored concerns from the agency’s own scientists about the impact logging could have on this already-imperiled species.

The Forest Service acknowledges that 17 acres on Brushy Mountain are old-growth and knows about the presence of the critically imperiled Blue Ridge lineage of green salamanders at the site but still insists on cutting this forest. Logging these critical tracts of forest will threaten at-risk species, worsen the impacts of climate change, and do permanent damage to these important ecosystems. USFS leaders should instead preserve these forests for generations by allowing MountainTrue to purchase the carbon rights to the forests for sale at Brushy Mountain in Southside Timber Sale – or by scrapping this misguided project altogether.

 

Have questions? Email Josh at josh@mountaintrue.org.

MountainTrue Staff Spotlight: Forest Plan

MountainTrue Staff Spotlight: Forest Plan

Over the rivers and through the woods in

Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests

A brief chat with these amazing MountainTrue team members working hard to protect our region’s beloved national forests:

How long have you been involved in this process?

Bob: “I’ve been involved since the Forest Service’s planning process officially started in 2013. Prior to this, I also attended the first meetings held by The Wilderness Society (I think in 2011) when it first began to pull together a partnership of stakeholders in anticipation of the start of the planning process.”

Callie:I’ve been involved in this forest planning process almost since the beginning, first as Executive Director of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and then in my current role as MountainTrue’s Western Regional Director. I helped organize the Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership in 2011. Our initial focus was on making the best Forest Plan ever, but what we’ve really created over the past decade is a ‘lasting voice for innovative management and public investment in the public forests of North Carolina’s mountains for the future.’

Josh:I’ve been involved with this Forest Plan revision for almost 10 years. MountainTrue was involved with the very first Forest Plan in 1987. We championed a petition to the Chief of the Forest Service that led to the 1987 Plan being remanded and the creation of the 1994 Amendment.”

Why is this an important part of your work and why is it important to you on a personal level?

Bob:It’s an important continuation of the forest protection work I did for what was then the Western North Carolina Alliance (now MountainTrue) during the decade before Josh came aboard. As a botanist/forest ecologist, I’ve always felt it’s important to work to keep our mountain ecosystems as healthy and secure as possible, given the continuing challenges from development, fragmentation, poor forest management, and climate change. On a personal level, my heart is in these mountains!”

Callie:Almost 20 years ago, I chose to make my home in Western North Carolina because of the amount of public land in these mountains. Nantahala National Forest is only eight miles from my house by car. It’s the view out my window — it’s my backyard!”

Josh:The new Forest Plan will set the management direction for over one million acres of Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests for the next 20 years. These forests are incomparable in their ecological and social value. They support thousands of species — many of them found nowhere else, they nourish the hearts and souls of millions of people, and they’re a huge part of important traditions.”

What’s one thing you want folks to know about the Revised Forest Plan?

Bob:Because the Forest Plan has not become finalized (due to the ongoing objection process), I’m not quite sure yet. But, there’s currently a strong focus on timbering that people should know about. I do think it’s encouraging that we have a diversity of partner organizations in place who have stated their commitment to helping the Forest Service implement the Plan over the next two decades. Their collaboration will be essential in shaping good management out of whatever becomes the Final Plan.”

Callie:While water quality and riparian protections are pretty strong, the Plan sets up the next 20 years to continue the tradition of making Nantahala the ‘working forest’ and Pisgah the ‘recreational forest.’ While timber harvest and recreation will of course continue to occur on both forests in a variety of locations, the emphasis for Nantahala is much more oriented toward timber harvest.”

Josh:The Revised Plan puts too much emphasis on logging cove forests. Southern Blue Ridge Cove Forests are some of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet. They grow the biggest trees in our region, support diverse understories of wildflowers and medicinal plants, protect water quality, and have historically been over-exploited. The new Forest Plan should instead put more emphasis on thinning and burning the fire-adapted forests that respond positively to timber harvest and are suffering from a lack of fire.”

What’s your favorite location in one or both of the forests?

Bob:My favorite conservation-related places are the old-growth forests in Nantahala’s Big Choga Creek area and Pisgah’s Daniel Ridge area. I’m also equally fond of the rare Southern Appalachian bogs in both national forests. My favorite recreation area is probably Pisgah’s Pilot Cove Loop (which is also a Natural Heritage Area), but it’s hard to pick out a single place!”

Callie:Fires Creek. Hands down. With its crystal clear, cold waters, unique biodiversity, trout fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, picnicking, swimming, and hunting, Fires Creek offers something for everyone!”

Josh:There are many great areas in Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, but none are better to me than Santeetlah Creek in Graham County. It’s just an incredible landscape that inspires me every time I visit.”

Josh’s Forest Plan update:

We and our organizational partners had a great time at the Pisgah Party + Rally for the Forest, organized by I Heart Pisgah on August 1, 2022. Over 500 people attended and made clear that too much of Nantahala and Pisgah are being prioritized for logging. The Objection meetings hosted by the Forest Service from August 2-4 went well. The dialogue was high-quality and our team was well prepared — we made our case and the Forest Service should realize they need to make some changes to the new Forest Plan. We hope the Forest Service seriously reviews and implements the solutions included in the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership’s proposal. The Forest Service expects to respond to all objections and finalize the Forest Plan by late 2022. Click here to read our blog detailing our objections to the Draft Forest Plan.

More Forest News

ACTION ALERT: Protect Our Forests and Farms from Sprawl

ACTION ALERT: Protect Our Forests and Farms from Sprawl

ACTION ALERT: Protect Our Forests and Farms from Sprawl

We need you to email the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to ask them to take action to prevent sprawl and protect our forests, farmland, and rural communities.

Henderson County is drafting its new Comprehensive Plan — the blueprint that will guide growth and development here for the next twenty years. As part of that process, they have surveyed members of our community, and that survey shows broad support for conservation.

Henderson County residents identified:

  • protection of open spaces and forests (55.30%),
  • farmland preservation (45.16%), and
  • conservation (35.04%) of unique natural areas

as their top 3 priorities for the 2045 Henderson County Comprehensive Plan.

Unfortunately, MountainTrue has serious concerns that the comprehensive plan being created by the county’s consultants is out of step with the desires and needs of Henderson County residents. The County has circulated a draft Future Land Use Map that prioritizes sprawl — development that spreads too far into the countryside, unnecessarily destroying forests, farmland, and rural communities — at great expense to taxpayers and against the desires of county residents.

So we need you to act today. Email your Henderson County Commissioners, and ask that they adopt a smart, responsible and sustainable comprehensive plan.

Watch: How Henderson County can accommodate growth without sprawl.

Chris Joyell, MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities Director, discusses how Henderson County can welcome far more population growth than the state anticipates without causing sprawl. Watch.

Learn More About the Henderson County Comprehensive Plan

Henderson County’s new Comprehensive Plan will serve as the blueprint for growth and development over the next twenty years. Learn about how this plan will help determine how our communities grow and develop to meet the challenges of climate change, a growing population, and increased pressures on our built environment.

Does MountainTrue care about trees? You bet your Ash we do!

Does MountainTrue care about trees? You bet your Ash we do!

Does MountainTrue care about trees? You bet your Ash we do!

Pictured above: MountainTrue’s AmeriCorps Forest Keeper, Ellianna McLaughlin, stands at the base of a large ash tree in Pisgah National Forest.

 

From April to June 2022, MountainTrue’s Public Lands team re-treated hundreds of ash trees in Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests to continue protecting them against the emerald ash borer. We’ve treated approximately 1,200 ash trees since 2017 with help from our trusted partners at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). Many thanks to our stellar MountainTrue volunteers and interns, the wonderful folks at Appalachian Arborists, and our ATC partners for making 2022’s successful treatment season a true “teamwork makes the dream work” scenario. 

Click here to read more about this year’s treatment season and our partnership with ATC in more detail. 

Quick facts:

What is the emerald ash borer?

The emerald ash borer is a nonnative invasive insect that was first identified in Michigan in 2002. This invasive beetle has spread to 35 states since then, including North Carolina. 

What does the emerald ash borer do?

Emerald ash borer larvae bore into the bark of ash trees to feed on the cambium — a cell layer that transports nutrients throughout the tree. The beetles girdle the trees as they feed on the cambium, causing them to die. The devastating effects of the emerald ash borer were seen throughout our treatment areas as the giant ash trees we left untreated began to fall. However, with a highly effective treatment method, MountainTrue has been able to save thousands of ash trees over the last several years. 

Where can I see treated ash trees? 

Hike along the Moffett Laurel section of the Appalachian Trail or make a pit stop off the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike the section between the Mills River Valley Overlook and Stony Bald View to see the thriving, treated ash trees! Pro tip: you can also use this as an opportunity to support MountainTrue by taking part in the 40th-anniversary Hike-a-Thon

 

Our 2022 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Powered by iNaturalist

Our 2022 BioBlitz Tri-County Smackdown: Powered by iNaturalist

Our 2022 Bioblitz WNC-wide 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 conducting our Bioblitz once again on iNaturalist, which makes it easier to document observations and tally up our results. In 2021, participants made 2.890 observations of 1,643 unique species. 

To add to the fun, this year we are hosting a four-county smackdown-style competition between Clay, Henderson, Madison, and Watauga counties! We think these are some of the most biodiverse counties in our region. Help us crown the champion!

What: MountainTrue 2022 Bioblitz
Where: Clay, Henderson, Madison and Watauga counties, NC — through the iNaturalist App.
When: June 4-19

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.

In-Person BioBlitz Events

iNaturalist is a public-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 to 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!

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 2022 champion of biodiversity, bringing forth county pride and natural curiosity for a BioBlitz like none before. Sign up below to participate. Happy hunting!

With just a single picture, iNaturalist can 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!

Specific Instructions for Joining our 2022 Bioblitz Project:

The first step is to install iNaturalist on their smartphones with the location services for their photos turned on and permission given to iNaturalist to use photo locations. iNaturalist can also be used on a laptop or desktop via the internet. Then, 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 four counties to track the competition. Search for MountainTrue 2022 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!

 
 
 
 
 

Our iNaturalist Project is designed to capture all observations uploaded in all four counties between June 4 and June 19 — 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!

 

Get Your Gardening Gloves on Our New Native Planting Guide

Get Your Gardening Gloves on Our New Native Planting Guide

Get Your Gardening Gloves on Our New Native Planting Guide

MountainTrue has published a brand new guide to help you replace harmful non-native invasive plant species with native alternatives that benefit wild birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife. This beautifully designed and durable guide conveniently folds up to fit in your wallet — perfect for your next visit to the garden center or nursery. 

How can you get one? Guides are available for free at invasive plant workdays and events.

  1. Sign up to volunteer for one of our workdays or join us for a hike
  2. Meet us at a tabling event.
  3. Buy one for $5 and get it mailed to your door by filling out the form below.

Want free copies for your neighbors, gardening club, or organization? Contact bob@mountaintrue.org to arrange for one of our Resilient Forests staff to present to your group and bring free copies for all.

Want to purchase multiple copies for personal use? Contact members@mountaintrue.org.