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.

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!

 

June 29 – A Milestone For Our National Forests

June 29 – A Milestone For Our National Forests

June 29 – A Milestone For Our National Forests

Upper Creek Falls on Upper Creek (part of the Catawba River watershed) in the Pisgah National Forest. Photo by Ken Thomas

Monday, June 29, 2020 MountainTrue delivered more than 600 public comments on the Draft Management Plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests that were generated through our online commenting portals and cards that we handed out at trailheads. This moment marked a major milestone in a six-year public campaign to win a better Forest Management Plan. 

In that time, MountainTrue members and supporters have generated thousands of comments throughout the different phases of the plan, and MountainTrue staff have spent tens of thousands of hours in the field, reviewing planning drafts and documents, working with stakeholders and drafting formal comments. We organized four panel events across Western North Carolina and six more on-line virtual info sessions since the COVID-19 lockdown.

MountainTrue was also a key collaborator and signer of the 107-page comment letter from the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. Through our participation in the Partnership, we’re proud to have helped foster a collaborative spirit among a broad set of forest user groups that we hope will last well into the future. We also helped draft 326 pages of legal and technical comments in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife to guide the Forest Service in their drafting of a final plan.  

Let us take this moment to celebrate each other for our collective hard work. Great job! And let’s hope that it all pays off with a great Management Plan that protects our forest ecosystems, helps sustain our region’s economy and provides our community with wonderful places to work, play and rejuvenate.


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.

2020 BioBlitz Documents over 1,100 Species

2020 BioBlitz Documents over 1,100 Species

2020 BioBlitz Documents over 1,100 Species

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz to record all the species we can find in a given area. Typically, we gather around 50 naturalists and novices together and document 300-500 species in a day. This year, we were unable to gather in person, so we used iNaturalist, an online app for identifying and cataloguing organisms. 

We were also grateful not to take this on alone. We teamed up with Madison Natural Heritage, a new digital archive featuring the rich diversity of Madison County, and decided to focus within the county to help populate their data set.

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 the county. Also among these finds were several threatened and rare species (don’t worry- the locations are hidden for those observations). We have more than doubled our record species count for past BioBlitzes, and couldn’t have done it without you! We also had record youth engagement, and were able to provide prizes for every student who participated.

Some species to note include the small spreading pogonia, a showy native orchid that is rare in NC. The golden banded skipper is a lovely butterfly that is rare enough to be considered mythical by some enthusiasts who have yet to see one. Moss phlox, also called Mountain Pink, is a critically imperiled species in the state that was willing to let one participants snap a photo of its fuschia flower. Fen orchid is an endangered flower in the state, which had never before been found in Madison county. The hunt also turned up many vulnerable and near threatened species, including the Carolina Mountain Dusky salamander and the Stygian Shadowdragon dragonfly. All of these observations are research grade, and can contribute vital information on population levels for some of these very special species. To check out all the observations, check out our iNaturalist Project

What’s next for this data? Madison Natural Heritage is a new project of the Madison County Library, aiming to engage kids, students, scholars, citizens and visitors in discovering the natural wonder of the county. The data we’ve collected will help to populate their archive of scientific data. To learn more, visit madisonnaturalheritage.org.

A huge, shout-it-from-the-rooftops THANK YOU to everyone who participated and made this BioBlitz so successful. We hope next year we can get together and celebrate in person, but for now, y’all rock!


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.

Introducing Madison County Natural Heritage

Introducing Madison County Natural Heritage

Written by Pete Dixon of Madison Natural Heritage

Madison Natural Heritage is excited to partner with MountainTrue for the 2020 Madison County BioBlitz aimed at creating a biological inventory of all of Madison County. Madison Natural Heritage is a new educational project, recently started by the Madison County Public Library system. This interactive digital project will serve as a natural history museum to engage students, scholars and citizens and to collect and archive data about the rich and cherished natural world in Madison County.

The library system’s interim director, Peggy Goforth, is excited to share her love for the county with the children who utilize the libraries. “Because Madison County is so special and unique” Goforth says, “it is critical that we instill in our children the knowledge to preserve and maintain this beautiful place that we love and call home.” Her fierce love of Madison County is shared by residents across the county and is reinforced by biologists throughout the state who believe it to be extremely unique. When asked about Madison County, retired state naturalist Harry LeGrande said, “[it] may be the single most important county in the NC mountains for the state’s biological diversity.”

Pete Dixon, of Madison Natural Heritage, and Josh Kelly, Public Lands Biologist at MountainTrue, work to identify plants species for the Madison County BioBlitz.

Madison Natural Heritage will use available database technology, such as iNaturalist, eBird, and the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, to capture natural science data. These tools will allow Madison County students to learn how to digitally log data using citizen science techniques while exploring the extraordinary environment surrounding them. Madison Natural Heritage is carefully coordinating with schools to make sure it supports their goals and doesn’t replicate existing programs.

The Madison County Library System is primed to take on such an innovative project, which could pave the way for similar initiatives in other counties and states. Having been awarded “The Best Small Library in America” title by Library Journal in 2018, Madison County residents know what community commitment and a strong library staff can achieve. By taking on the Madison Natural Heritage project on the tailwinds of its recent national recognition, the Madison County Library System has the opportunity to put Madison County on the national map again by creating countywide programming that involves young people in the growing field of citizen science and curating an exhibition of the county’s rich natural heritage. 

To kick off this exciting new initiative, Madison Natural Heritage and MountainTrue are sponsoring a county-wide BioBlitz from June 6th through June 20. A Bioblitz is an organized effort to document as much biology in one place during a set time as is possible. In other words, it’s like a scavenger hunt for the whole community focused on finding any and all living things: birds, plants, insects, fish, mammals, etc. Anyone can join by signing up here. Kids are especially welcome.

For more information about Madison Natural Heritage, email Pete Dixon at pete@madnatural.org or visit https://madisonnaturalheritage.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.