July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

July 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County won the 2021 Bioblitz, beating Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations, and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species. Check out our blog post to read more about our Bioblitz results and see photos of the winning observations.

Sarah Ogletree Joins MountainTrue as the Director of the Creation Care Alliance

The Creation Care Alliance is pleased to announce that Sarah Ogletree will be our next director. Sarah comes to us from our close partner, NC Interfaith Power and Light, where she has been for the last three years. Her dedication to seeking justice for both people and planet shines through in all aspects of her life, and she has consistently been recognized with awards for her leadership, dedication and excellence. Join us in welcoming Sarah! Read more.

We’re Hiring! MountainTrue Seeks a Great Environmental Communicator

MountainTrue seeks a bright, organized, and outgoing individual with strong communications skills, experience in online advocacy, and development writing. The Communications Associate will report to the Director of Communications and work closely with our Community Engagement Director, program directors and regional directors to (1) promote our programs through member outreach and correspondence, public relations, social media, and marketing; (2) support our advocacy goals through online organizing/advocacy; (3) provide writing and communications support for our fundraising activities. The deadline to apply is Sunday, August 15, 2021. Read more and apply.

August 29: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River

MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River.

Sunday, August 29, 2021
Doors: 5:00 p.m., Starts: 7:00 p.m.
All Ages are Welcome
Tickets: $35 in advance; $39 general admission

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson says, “Michael Franti is the perfect artist to bring us back down to the banks of the French Broad to celebrate our beautiful river. Come to enjoy a night of inspiring music and support our ongoing work to make our river cleaner and healthier.” Read more and buy tickets.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Sparking a Love for Clean Water and Healthy Ecosystems at High Country Forest Wild

Our Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, visited High Country Forest Wild, an outdoor experiential learning school. She gave an instream lesson on aquatic insects and water quality to about 45 students. It was an excellent way to get young minds thinking about freshwater ecosystems and water quality.

MountainTrue Reports Water Quality Violation for Development Along Watauga Lake

While conducting routine sampling of Watauga Lake for our Harmful Algal Bloom Study, we spotted a new development lacking erosion control. We promptly contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, which issued a notice of violation. We hope to see improvements on the construction site and continue monitoring this development to help keep our waterways free of sediment pollution.

Bottomley Farms Clearcut Causes Severe Erosion, Ecosystem Collapse

Our Watauga Riverkeeper teamed up with Southwings to get a bird’s eye view of a massive clear-cut timber operation in Alleghany County being conducted by Bottomley Farms — a Sparta-based agribusiness company. The developers are removing all the trees, shrubs and vegetation, and grubbed it down to hundreds of acres of bare earth. The result has been severe erosion, sediment pollution of area waterways, and a total collapse of the ecosystem in Ramey Creek — once a thriving spawning ground for native brook trout. North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission staff could only save 13 individual trout out of the hundreds previously documented in that stream. Commission staff relocated the survivors to an adjacent watershed. Tragically, a species that thrived in that watershed since the glaciers retreated tens of thousands of years ago was erased by one egregiously bad timber project. Our report resulted in the NC Department of Environmental Quality issuing a notice of violation. We will continue to monitor this project and push for a lasting riparian buffer and a complete restoration of the stream.

Trash Trout Update: There’s Too Much Plastic in Our Waterways

Our Trash Trout on Winklers Creek continues to collect so much litter. We have removed and cataloged thousands of pieces of trash in the few weeks that the trash-collection device has been in place. The majority of the garbage found has been single-use plastics and styrofoam, underscoring the need to address the prevalence of plastics and microplastics in our environment.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Volunteer for Rhythm & Brews! Hear Good Music and Get Cool Stuff!

Join MountainTrue’s Recycling Team on Main St. during the Rhythm & Brews Concert Series in downtown Hendersonville this summer and fall to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Volunteers will be rewarded with an R&B volunteer t-shirt, a voucher for a free beverage, a koozie and a water bottle! Help educate attendees and monitor the waste stations.

Upcoming Concerts:
July 15: Abby Bryant & The Echoes with opener Andrew Thelston Band
August 19: Jamie McLean Band with opener Hustle Souls.
September 16: Mike and the Moonpies with opener Kenny George Band.
October 21: The Broadcast with opener TBD.

2 Shifts: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. & 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Volunteers needed: 4 per shift, 8 total
To sign up: https://signup.com/go/eRCebTq

Working to be Plastic Free Program Endorsed by Hendersonville City Council

L to R: Beth Stang, chair of Hendersonville’s ESB. Lyndsey Simpson, H’ville City Councilwoman, and Christine Wittmeier, chair of MountainTrue’s Recycling Team, hold a July 1st proclamation endorsing the Working to Be Plastic Free program.

On July 1, Hendersonville City Council approved a proclamation supporting Working to be Plastic Free — a plastic reduction program created by MountainTrue and the Hendersonville Environmental Sustainability Board. Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk signed the pledge and has encouraged staff to reduce the city’s use of plastic.

Many of the local merchants and restaurants participated in a plastics-use survey earlier in the year. Now, we’re encouraging them to sign the pledge and begin working to eliminate single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, and take-out containers. Most of these plastics are not recyclable and end up in landfills or littering our rivers and streams.

MountainTrue is ready to help businesses find sustainable packaging alternatives, and participants will be recognized in press releases, newsletters, social media, and a webpage promoting the program. To get more information and sign the pledge, visit our webpage or contact MountainTrue’s Interim Southern Regional Director, Katie Breckheimer, at srogray@mountaintrue.org.

Congratulations to Our Broad River Race Winners: Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe

Broad River Race winners Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe accept the trophy from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper.

Our Third Annual Broad River Race was postponed when a thunderstorm moved across the area last Saturday, July 12. A day later, the race flag dropped, and the paddlers sped down the river. Four and a half miles and an hour later, Jordan Jackson and Marc Stowe were the first to cross the finish line in a tandem canoe to take home our race trophy, Betsy the Turtle. Annie Keith and her son David Caldwell, our Broad Riverkeeper, were hot on their trail. It was great to see so many people enjoying the cool waters of the Broad River, and we look forward to seeing who wins next year.

App State Eco-Tox Team Collects Fish Tissue Samples From the Broad River

The Appalachian State Eco-toxicology Team returned to the Broad River to collect more water, sediment and fish tissue samples for an ongoing study of the bio-accumulation of heavy metals in fish. The team sampled upstream and downstream of two industrial sites with permits to discharge pollutants into the river. MountainTrue will use the results to determine if we need fish consumption advisories for the affected sections of the waterway. Special thanks to our High Country Water Quality Administrator, Hannah Woodburn, and Appalachian State’s Dr. Shea Tuberty for leading this fantastic project.

ICYMI: Broad River Spring Sweep Collects Over 100 lbs of Litter

We had a small crew for this year’s Annual Broad River Spring Sweep on May 29, but we made a big impact by collecting over 100 lbs of litter (including a football) from the Broad River. It was also inspiring to see so many folks cooling off in the water and enjoying the river at the Greenway canoe access.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Crossover Timber Project Update: Your Advocacy Is Making a Difference

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly documents the age of a 200-year-old tree in the Nantahala National Forest.

We asked, and you responded! MountainTrue’s members submitted 334 public comments (36% of which were customized) and 24 letters to the editors of relevant local newspapers during the comment period for the US Forest Service’s Crossover Project. As currently proposed, the project would log more than 300 acres of old-growth forest, rare species habitat, and remote backcountry in the Snowbird Mountains of Nantahala National Forest.

The Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership — a broad coalition of forest users representing recreation, conservation and timber interests of which MountainTrue is a member— has joined the fight and requested that the Forest Service remove these acres from the project. For its part, the Forest Service has indicated a willingness to collaborate with the partnership to develop a better alternative during the Environmental Assessment phase of the project. Thank you for speaking up for our forests!

We’re Hiring a Nonnative Invasive Plant Control Intern

MountainTrue seeks a dedicated individual to fill a part-time, 12-week paid internship for its western region in Fall 2021. The position includes a combination of on-the-ground stewardship of public and conserved lands, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and public outreach. It will require travel to various locations within a 60-mile radius of Murphy (including north Georgia) and substantial work outdoors. The application deadline is August 4, and the start date is August 30. Visit our website to learn more.

Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants Webinar Coming in August

Due to popular demand, MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward and Public Lands Director Bob Gale will host a webinar on how to eradicate non-native invasive plants (NNIP) on Tuesday, August 24 at noon. Tony and Bob will discuss the best tools to control common NNIP species and the best seasons for treatment. The webinar will include an in-depth discussion about herbicides, the active ingredients of commonly used products, and how to apply them correctly and with minimal impact on the environment. Register for the free webinar today!

Become A Georgia Green Landscape Steward

The Georgia Green Landscape Stewards certification program provides educational resources that teach landowners about increasing plant and animal biodiversity, conserving soil and water, providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improving public and environmental health. Participants can measure their activities with the program’s metric scorecard and earn certification status for their landscape. Along with the satisfaction of contributing to natural resource protection, Georgia Green Landscape certification includes an option for Georgians to purchase an attractive yard sign to designate their property as a sustainably managed landscape.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

July 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Headwaters Fun Float on the First Broad River
Join MountainTrue as we head up to the South Mountains for a fun paddle on the cool shady waters of the First Broad River! Read more.

August 24, 12-1 p.m.: MountainTrue University: Managing Nonnative Invasive Plants
Join us for an educational program about managing common nonnative invasive plants, including techniques for control, best seasons for treatment, and more. Read more.

August 29, 7 p.m.: Michael Franti and Spearhead Concert to Cleanup and Protect the French Broad River
MountainTrue, French Broad Riverkeeper and 98.1 River are proud to present Michael Franti and Spearhead for a benefit concert to support MountainTrue’s work to clean up and protect the French Broad River. Read more.


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.

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

Photo credit: Alan Cressler, USGS. Public domain.

Asheville, NC —  More than one million gallons of sewage overflowed from inadequate wastewater infrastructure into the French Broad River and other area waterways in Western North Carolina according to state data acquired and analyzed by MountainTrue. The data was collected from August 3, 2020 until March 4, 2021 by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Asheville Regional office and is the best available estimate of the amount of sewage that overflows from wastewater infrastructures such as pipes and manhole covers into area rivers and streams across 19 counties of western North Carolina.

TAKE ACTION TO FIGHT E. COLI POLLUTION IN OUR RIVERS

We know the sources of E. coli pollution. Now we have the solutions to clean up our rivers. Advocated for major investments in wastewater infrastructure, and stand up for science-based policies to help farmers fence cattle out of streams and property owners fix their septic systems.

MountainTrue, a local conservation organization, monitors water quality throughout Western North Carolina and in Union and Towns counties in North Georgia for pollution, including levels of E. coli — an indicator of the presence of bacteria and other pathogens that are harmful to human health. The organization has documented a dramatic increase in bacteria pollution of the French Broad River Watershed over the past two years and concerning trends in other area watersheds.

“What we have seen over the past few years has me worried about the future of river recreation on the French Broad River,” explains Hartwell Carson, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper. “Take Pearson Bridge in Asheville’s River Arts District: That site passed the EPA’s safe threshold for swimming 81% of the time in 2016. Then in 2020, that site failed 81% of the time. Or Mud Creek in Henderson County, that site used to be safe at least 50% of the time and now it fails 93% of our tests.”

In April, MountainTrue released results from DNA testing that showed leaks from sewer and wastewater infrastructure were significant sources of bacteria pollution in the French Broad Watershed. The six-month sewer system overflow data from DEQ underscores those findings and supports part of MountainTrue’s policy agenda: reducing human-derived bacteria contamination by fixing our broken sewer and wastewater systems.

“The French Broad River is a significant public resource and a linchpin for our local economy” explains Hartwell Carson. “Protecting it will require action on the part of elected officials and agency personnel at all levels of government. Through our iloverivers.org advocacy campaign, we succeeded in getting the City of Asheville to participate in a Storm Water Taskforce. In the General Assembly, we’re advocating for targeted clean water investments to be included in this years budget, such as $3 million for septic system and wastewater upgrades through the Community Conservation Assistance Program, and $26 million to help farmers keep cattle and stormwater runoff out of our rivers through the Agricultural Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program. In Congress, we’re calling on our delegation to support the $111 billion in the American Jobs Plan that is allocated for water infrastructure.”

The public can read more about the issues affecting water quality, and advocate for the policies and reforms needed to fix them at iloverivers.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.

March 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

March 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

March 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Rethinking Smart Growth. Reclaiming Community Design’s Radical Roots


A few months before the pandemic set in, Asheville Design Center Director Chris Joyell had a meeting with a community group in the Emma neighborhood in Buncombe County that challenged many of the assumptions he held regarding Smart Growth development and the role of Design Centers. Over the past year Chris has given this issue much thought, and one result is this article, “Rethinking Smart Growth.” In this piece, Chris explores the historic role Design Centers have played in the US and examines how, despite good intentions, Smart Growth initiatives can threaten many of the communities that Design Centers were created to serve. Read more.

Massive Public Comment Sign Ups Lead To Several New Hearings on Duke’s Energy Plan

You signed up, and the NC Utilities Commission noticed! So many people signed up to make virtual public comment on Duke’s proposed new energy plan that the NC Utilities Commission canceled yesterday’s original hearing to schedule several more opportunities for public comment. Final tallies show that over 200 people signed up for the original hearing date. This is a huge victory, and shows that the NC Utilities Commission is aware of how much public pushback there is against Duke’s proposed plan.

To recap: Duke is required to submit a long-term plan to the NC Utilities Commission detailing how the company plans to source energy over the next fifteen years. Duke released a proposal toward the end of 2020 that is bad news for the climate: proposing the construction of up to 13 new gas plants, overinflating the costs of renewable energy and battery storage, and proposing less renewable energy 14 years from now than what is already the national average. Thank you to everyone who showed power in numbers by signing up, and we hope you’ll join us in building momentum for the NCUC to require big changes to Duke’s plan.

If you registered to speak at the public hearing that was originally scheduled for March 16, make sure to respond to the email from the NCUC to confirm your attendance for a future hearing. Thank you!

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

MountainTrue University About Sustainability in the High Country | April 7 at 12pm

Join us for a High Country sustainability discussion with George Santucci. You may know George as the long-time Director of the New River Conservancy. George has brought his decades of environmental experience to his new role as Sustainability and Special Projects Director for the Town of Boone.

Join us for an informative discussion about how MountainTrue and the Town of Boone have partnered to address energy use, climate change, stormwater and microplastics pollution. Learn more.


Avery County Clean Sweep on Beech Creek (March 20, 27 and April 7)


Litter is on the rise, with personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, single-use plastics and tires showing up far and wide in our watershed. In response, Avery County Clean Sweep is a collaborative grassroots effort to clean up the roadways and public spaces across our community, with a focus on the Beech Creek Area in Avery County. We’re joining the Grandfather Stewardship Foundation, Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Avery County Emergency Management and countless other organizations to help take back the beauty of this area.

We love to see the hard work of our volunteers, and we hope you’ll share your cleanup photos on social media with @mtntrue and @wataugariverkeeper. We can also provide bags and gloves so that you or a small group can participate safely. There will be prizes for the most trash collected! Sign up here.


Last Live Staking Day: March 20

Photo By Moss Brennan

Missed our other live staking workdays? No worries, we still have one more! Sign up and come join us this Saturday to plant native tree cuttings at Valle Crucis Community Park. Thank you to our wonderful volunteers who have helped us plant thousands of trees this season. Sign up here.


Looking For Other Opportunities To Volunteer?

Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) Sampling at the Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River.

We also have year-round opportunities to get involved with MountainTrue’s High Country Office. Our Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) is a monthly water chemistry sampling program that relies on volunteers, and our microplastics program needs volunteers to take monthly water samples and do small trash inventories at various locations throughout the Watauga Watershed. If you are interested in becoming a regular volunteer for either of these programs or would like more information, please contact our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn at hcwqa@mountaintrue.org.

Now is also an excellent time to join our Headwaters Giving Program. You can make a tremendous impact with a small, recurring monthly donation. Invest in our future, pay your river bill and help support our ongoing programs today. Make your river gift here.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Round Two: Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock Reapplies for Rezoning


SE Asphalt has submitted a new rezoning application in Henderson County to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25. This location is across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single-family homes, small farms and the Green River Game Lands. The site also drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

Last year, MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents organized with Friends of East Flat Rock to successfully oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant. Now we’re asking the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to protect communities and the environment by standing by its existing zoning rules and denying the application.

Henderson County will host a Community Compatibility Meeting on Tuesday, March 30 at 4pm in the East Henderson High School Auditorium. Then on April 15, the Henderson County Planning Board will hear the application and make a recommendation to the County Commissioners at its meeting in the same location. Mark your calendars and show up to make your voices heard! Learn more here.


Green River and Lake Adger Spring Cleanings are On for April 10!


Join MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and Liquidlogic Co-founder Shane Benedict for the 11th Annual Green River Spring Cleaning!

For obvious reasons, we’ll need to take additional precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy this year, including wearing masks in parking lots and anytime you can’t maintain six feet of distance, avoiding large groups and shuttling with household groups. We’re asking folks to provide their own boats or to clean up from the land, and to manage their own day-of logistics in terms of location, time, and shuttle if necessary.

Post your photos to social media and we’ll send prizes to the best, biggest, weirdest, and most trash finds! Pre-register for the Green River cleanup here and the Lake Adger cleanup here to stay connected and get updates about available supplies and trash disposal.

Sign up for the Green River cleanup. 
Sign up for the Lake Adger cleanup.


Partner Organization Spotlight: SouthWings

MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, was introduced to SouthWings in 2017 during the effort to make Duke Energy excavate its unlined coal ash pits in Cliffside. The views from above were telling, showing the huge volume of coal ash and its proximity to the Broad River. Images gathered during flights with SouthWings informed our advocacy efforts, which ultimately helped secure a state order requiring Duke to excavate and move all of the company’s coal ash in North Carolina to lined landfills safely away from water.

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell (left) with SouthWings pilot Peter Stauble (right) discussing their flight plan before takeoff.

Later flights with SouthWings pilot Peter Stauble revealed some beautiful views of the watershed, from the headwaters near Chimney Rock down to South Carolina’s Big Bay. But other less beautiful views from the plane included runoff and sedimentation from development sites, huge piles of uncovered poultry waste from factory farms and numerous industrial facilities. These flights give us the information and images to better protect our watershed by investigating pollution sources and implementing strategies to fix them. Thanks for your great work, Peter and SouthWings!

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Virtual Watershed Gala Honors David Liden, MountainTrue History

David Liden (center) received the 2021 Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award from MountainTrue Western Regional Director Callie Moore (left) and Hiwassee Watershed Advisory Council Chairperson Jason Chambers (right) at the John C. Campbell Folk School gardens before the online event.

Although we missed the human interaction of the traditional in-person event, the 2021 virtual Watershed Gala was fun and familiar in its own way. We celebrated our accomplishments over the past year and honored the Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner just like we always do. We also had conversations in small virtual groups and smiled and laughed – without masks – like we’ve done at past Galas. Yes, it was different being on Zoom, but the 42 participants learned a lot about the founding and early history of the movement that continues today as MountainTrue from David Liden, this year’s award winner and a person who was in the center of it all.

Thank you to all who contributed and participated to help make the virtual Gala successful! We plan to be back in a ballroom in 2022, but our silent auction may be a little different in future years as we strive to continue to involve all of MountainTrue in the event.

If you missed the Gala this year, you can still watch the video highlighting our western region 2020 accomplishments here!


MountainTrue Trains 17 New Volunteers for the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Program

Union County, GA resident Clare Johnston demonstrates how she collects a bacterial sample during a recent AAS volunteer recertification workshop.

Seventeen new water quality monitoring volunteers are being added to the ranks of the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream (AAS) program this month in the Hiwassee Watershed! For more than a decade, volunteers have been sampling water chemistry and E.coli at more than 40 locations across Towns and Union counties in North Georgia and Cherokee and Clay counties in WNC as part of Georgia AAS. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, MountainTrue provides supplies and monitoring equipment free of charge at five locations across the watershed so that volunteers can help us keep tabs on water quality regardless of their financial situation.


Reminder: Blue Ridge Paper Permit Hearing & Comment Period Coming Up in April


Blue Ridge Paper Products has a long history on the Pigeon River in Canton. It has provided good jobs for decades, but historically it has also caused massive negative impacts to water quality and aquatic life in the Pigeon River. Because of pressure from the public, environmental groups, states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there have been significant improvements in the quality of the plant’s discharge and a reduction of the amount in the river.

Now that river conditions are better – such that rafting and other water-based recreation is thriving – we want to ensure that strong protections stay in place and that the facility’s new permit will drive continued improvement, particularly with regard to water temperature. Visit our Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier page to learn more, submit comments, and/or sign up to attend the online public hearing set for April 14!


Winter Tree Identification Workshop with Tony Ward this Saturday

 A heart-shaped leaf scar on a young hickory tree. Leaf scars can help you identify native trees in winter.

Join Tony Ward, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, this Saturday at 10am for a relaxing 1.2-mile loop trail hike along the lake shoreline at the Lake Chatuge Recreation Area. This trail features a wide variety of native trees perfect for identification. During this hike, Tony will discuss how to identify trees in our area in a way that is accessible to all skill levels of tree identifiers.

The cost of the workshop/outing is $10 for MountainTrue members and $20 for non-members. The non-member ticket includes a year-long membership, so you’ll enjoy reduced rates on other events and outings for a full year afterward. Register today!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Note: All attendees at in-person events are required to follow our COVID-19 safety guidelines.

March 20, 10am-2pm: Live Staking Workday In Valle Crucis
Fight sediment pollution, erosion and climate change with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks. Sign up here.

March 20, 10am-12pm: Western Region Winter Tree ID Workshop
Join MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward, for our Winter Tree ID hike at Lake Chatuge. The 1.2-mile loop trail at the Lake Chatuge Recreation Area Trail offers a tour along the lake shoreline and has a wide variety of native trees perfect for identification! Sign up here.

April 7, 12-1pm: MountainTrue University: How Local Governments Are Responding To Climate Change
Join us for an informative discussion with George Santucci, the Sustainability and Special Projects Director for the Town of Boone, about how MountainTrue and Boone’s local government have partnered to address energy use, climate change, stormwater and microplastics pollution. Register here.

April 10: Spring Cleanings on the Green River and Lake Adger
Join MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and Liquidlogic Co-founder Shane Benedict for the 11th Annual Green River Spring Cleaning! We’ll send prizes to the best, biggest, weirdest, and most trash finds.

Register for the Green River cleanup (10am-4pm).
Register for the Lake Adger cleanup (9am-5pm).

April 11, 18, 23 & 25: Paddlers For Hemlocks Workday
Join the Paddlers Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT) as we work to protect hemlock trees along the Green River from the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid. PHHAT works in areas that are only accessible by boat in the Green River Game Lands.

Sign up for the April 11 workday here.

To sign up for the workdays on April 18, 23 or 25, email gray@mountaintrue.org.

April 22, 9am-12pm: Bearwallow CCA Spring Hike
This easy-to-moderate trail climbs one mile through the lovely mountain forest and opens up onto a large grassy field at the top. This spectacular summit will be the site for some guided reflection before looping back down the mountain. Sign up here.

May 7, 10am-3pm: High Country Wildflower Hike
Join MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly, as he leads us on a hike to explore the wildflowers found in Elk Knob State Park. The hike is on the Summit Trail, a moderate, four-mile out and back trail that offers spectacular views of Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and more! 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.

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

By Hannah Woodburn, High Country Water Quality Administrator of MountainTrue

While we see it everywhere, mass-produced plastic has only existed since the 1950’s. Not only does producing plastic create greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, but our air, food and water systems are becoming increasingly contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic – called microplastics – that are a concern for ecosystem and human health.

Microplastics are defined as being smaller than 5mm and enter our freshwater systems through runoff and industrial processes. They can be purposefully designed to be small (think microbeads), or they can be fragments of larger items like tires, fishing line, water bottles and synthetic clothing.

So How Did We Get Here?

The amount of plastic created worldwide has increased from 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Plastic materials are derived from ethane, a natural gas product, and are extracted using a method called fracking. Every stage of plastic production results in greenhouse gas emissions, releasing a variety of pollutants during the process. Further, the US is the top producer and exporter of ethane in the world, and our plastic production is currently projected to double by 2050.

While plastics do represent a milestone in technological and chemical development, between 26-40% of all plastics are made with the intention to be single-use items – like food packaging, bottles, cups, plastic bags, housewares and cosmetic packaging. This poses a great environmental concern, especially when only 6.6% of all the plastic produced in 2018 was recycled and only a small portion of plastic can actually be recycled in the first place: items marked 1, 2, and sometimes 5.

Left: Sampling for microplastics at the MountainTrue lab. Right: This tiny red fiber that showed up in our microplastics sampling is smaller than .5mm, and likely from a piece of fishing line or synthetic clothing. 

How We Sample For Plastics

MountainTrue has started sampling for plastics on the French Broad, Green and Watauga Rivers, and will begin plastics sampling on the Hiwassee River this spring. For the macroplastics portion, we ask volunteers to collect trash and record how long they were there, what types of plastic they find, what brands are most prevalent, the number of pieces collected in total and how much time the volunteers sampled for.

To assess the presence of microplastics, which are often too small for the naked eye to see, volunteers take a water sample at each site in a one-quart glass jar and bring them back to our lab. We then process the water samples via vacuum filtration, look at the filter paper underneath a microscope and record the number of microplastics found in each sample.

What Can You Do?

Personal change is important, but our consumer choices alone are not enough to spark systemic change. We cannot “recycle” our way out of this issue.

We need to ask our legislators to help protect our communities and ecosystems from single-use plastics. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was introduced to Congress in 2020, but did not make it to a floor vote. However, this bill will be reintroduced this month, and it provides a comprehensive plan to eliminate single-use plastics at a federal level. We encourage you to take action and sign the petition asking President Biden to be a #PlasticFreePresident here.

#PlasticFreePresident Action Items That President Biden Can Take Without Congress:

1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single use plastic items and replace them with reusable items.
Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities

2. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions

3. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors

4. Update existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastic facilities by using best available science and technology

5. Stop subsidizing plastic producers

6. Join international efforts to address global plastic pollution

7. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear

 


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.

This Holiday Season, Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers

This Holiday Season, Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers

This Holiday Season, Buy Locally From Sustainable Farmers

As we approach the holiday season, it’s a good time to think about where that turkey, pork, or beef comes from that will round out our family meals. We are fortunate to live in a region where good soil, climate and plentiful water have allowed livestock farmers to thrive for hundreds of years. Farming is a tradition here, but it has continued to change along with our food systems and markets.

Currently in the US, over 95% of our meat comes from factory farms. It hasn’t always been this way. Small family farms of the past were much more diverse, often growing their own vegetables as well as raising cows, pigs and chickens for their own needs and to supply the local markets. The money earned by local farmers stays in the local economy. They are involved in and invest in local communities.

These farmers also know that taking care of the land and water will ensure the survival of their farms. They use best management practices like fencing livestock out of streams, maintaining vegetative buffers, rotational grazing and following a waste management plan to manage, recycle and utilize manure and nutrients effectively. These practices make for happier, healthier animals and protect our environment. As one local farmer, Colfax Creek Farm, puts it, “The goals of creating a better food system, regenerating the land and soils that we farm, and reviving rural communities around us all drive us to always become better farmers and stewards of our lands and animals.”

We are seeing a revival of small sustainable farms, and these farms deserve our support. Most local grocery stores do not carry local meat products, unfortunately. Luckily we have farmers markets, and often the farmers sell directly from their farms. Buying products directly from farmers is a great opportunity to visit a farm and get to know the people who feed us. Additionally, we can support local farmers by eating at local restaurants like Newgrass Brewing Company, which not only source local fruits, grains, and herbs for beer ingredients, but also buy meats from local producers. Roger Holland, owner at Newgrass, says, “It is important to us to support our local farmers as much as possible, and between our kitchen and our brewing operation we are in a unique position to do just that. The local products not only support our local farmers, but in most cases provide a superior product that is reflected in our food and beer quality. We are all in this together and it is critical that we show our support for one another through our actions and decisions.”

Below is a map that our Clean Water Teams have created to help you find environmentally-conscious farmers in your watershed.

Sustainable farming best practices

We’re proud to work with farmers who strive to keep our rivers clean. North Carolina’s Riverkeepers are interested in supporting your sustainability efforts and hearing how you’re making your farm more sustainable.

Vegetative buffers. Buffers with vegetation at least 3-4 inches tall along surface waters and wellheads of no less than 25 feet. Buffers should slow the movement of water over the soil or field surface and stop soil particle and nutrient movement.

Stream protection/fencing and stream restoration. Livestock should be fenced out of streams, ditches and ponds that drain to streams. Restore banks or edges of streams that have been degraded by grazing animals, and improve degraded stream crossings and watering points.

Runoff capture and recycling. Runoff from farm yards or fields should be captured and recycled on the farm.

Feed, forage, barnyard manure and agri-chemical storage and handling. Feeds, forages, fertilizers, and stored manures should be covered and protected from precipitation, runoff and flooding.

Minimize nutrient imports. Optimize nutrient cycling and limit feed imports to the farm. Calculate your farm’s nutrient budget.

Pasturing or loose-housed deep-bedded barns. Livestock, cattle, swine and/or poultry are on pastures with live/growing vegetation or are loose-housed at low density in a roofed structure or barn with bedding to absorb nutrients and facilitate composting.

Managed or “holistic” grazing. Pasture management should maintain 3-4 inches or taller of vegetative cover over more than 95 percent of the pasture area at any time. Avoid overgrazing.

Manure management plan. Farms should have, and follow, a waste management plan to manage, recycle and utilize manure and nutrients effectively, and should never exceed recommended NCDA agronomic rates for any nutrient.

Manure spreading/dispersal. Accumulated manure, as well as bedding or compound fertilizers, should be applied to growing vegetation without exceeding recommended soil levels for nitrogen and phosphorus. Waste should not be spread within 48 hours of precipitation.

Avoid erosion. Use no-till, minimal-till, or reduced or strip tillage to reduce erosion and build organic soil matter, water retention and drainage.


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.

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

We don’t know if the algal blooms are recurring, but there was a confirmed harmful algal bloom in Moss Lake earlier this summer.


Your Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, goes out each week to test recreational waters in the Broad River Watershed for bacterial pollution. While sampling at Moss Lake on June 3, David noticed that the water was very green and cloudy, so he also tested the water with a YSI meter that measures temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH and turbidity (a measure of cloudiness).  “I got really high dissolved oxygen and pH readings, so I did some research and found that this could be an indicator of an algal bloom.”

Pictured: Moss Lake during the algal bloom (left) compared to normal water conditions (right).


Algal blooms, which form due to an excess of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, can release toxins that are linked to human illnesses and have even been shown to cause death in livestock and dogs.

The following Monday, David received a call from a Moss Lake resident who had noticed many dead fish in the water. David notified the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and they sent a staff member out on June 10 to take water samples in and above the lake. The report came back confirming an algal bloom, and it was named a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) because of the presence of cyanobacteria that “may produce cyanotoxins.” A second report confirmed the presence of a cyanotoxin called microcystins, which can cause illness in humans and animals that come into contact with water affected by a bloom. The concentration of the toxin was only 0.4 micrograms per Liter (ug/L) – well under the EPA’s recommended safe level for microcystins of 8 ug/L. Keep in mind, however, that the samples were taken by DEQ seven days after the algae were first noticed, so much of the algae had died off by then. In talking to that same resident after these reports came out, David also learned that he had noticed similar conditions at least twice since then, and once with a very foul odor.  

As algal blooms become more and more common due to rising temperatures and an increase of nutrients in our waters, Riverkeepers across the state believe more study and analysis of algal blooms in Moss Lake and elsewhere must be done. We would like for the residents at Moss Lake to take more of a lead in identifying and reporting possible algal blooms. If the water turns really green, they should contact DEQ immediately. The “life cycle” of algal blooms can be really quick –as short as a couple of days – so quick reporting is important.

Some of the residents around the lake do not want the bad publicity that would come with raising awareness to this potentially dangerous problem. However, if we don’t first acknowledge that there may be a problem, then there will be little effort towards determining the root causes of the issue and improving the water quality in Moss Lake and other water bodies. “I would ask the Moss Lake area residents this,” David says. “What do you want your lake to look like in 10 to 20 years?  What will you do to help realize that vision?”

 

To learn more about algal blooms, visit the NCDEQ page here or the FAQ page from the NC Division of Water Resources 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.