Read Board Chair Katie Breckheimer’s Article on the Southeast Regional Recycling Council Forum for Hendersonville Times-News Here!

Read Board Chair Katie Breckheimer’s Article on the Southeast Regional Recycling Council Forum for Hendersonville Times-News Here!

Dec. 6 2017

MountainTrue Board Chair and Recycling Team member Katie Breckheimer recently wrote an article for the Hendersonville Times-News on the Southeast Regional Council’s fall recycling forum. Check out Katie’s full piece here, and find out more about MountainTrue’s Recycling Team efforts 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.

Member Spotlight: Meet Lee McCall!

Member Spotlight: Meet Lee McCall!

Nov. 8 2017

MountainTrue is excited to introduce you to our new Spotlight Series: a place to highlight the members, volunteers, and communities of faith that inspire us with their dedication to the environment we all call home in Western North Carolina. Our first post is by Regina Goldkuhl, our Water Quality Administrator through AmeriCorps Project Conserve. 

Hellgrammites, some of the tiny aquatic insects Lee and Regina found during stream monitoring. 

Lee using the kick net in Clear Creek. 

Lee sorting through the leaf pack. 

Lee McCall has been a champion for clean water in Henderson County for more than twelve years, when he first moved to Western North Carolina. In the short time that I’ve known Lee in my role as MountainTrue’s Water Quality Administrator I’ve been continually impressed with his work ethic and loyalty to our program.

Just yesterday, I had a volunteer cancel the day before we were supposed to monitor Clear Creek. Bio-monitoring for our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program typically requires at least three people to complete all the sampling protocols, and with one person down it meant it was just Lee and me. I decided to meet him at our scheduled spot and break the news – I really didn’t think we’d be able to go out that day. However Lee suggested that we at least visit one of the sites and see where it went from there. We ended up completing both sites by ourselves that day, a full seven hours of work! With three or more people it would have taken half that time, but I didn’t hear a single complaint from Lee the entire day. Instead he’d comment on how nice the weather was, even when it began to drizzle periodically.

On top of getting muddy with us on a regular basis, Lee is part of our Headwaters Giving Circle – an invaluable group of members who donate to us every month, providing reliable support to fund the future of our programs. Even though our fall bio-monitoring season has come to a close, I’m sure I’ll run into Lee again soon – he tends to show up for other MountainTrue volunteer opportunities too!

Regina Goldkuhl: What drew you to MountainTrue, and what has kept you coming back all these years?

Lee McCall: One of the main things that drew me to the area for retirement was the beauty of the mountains and the many streams, rivers and lakes here. As a retiree, I felt this was a good time in my life to give something back to the community. What could be more appropriate than helping to preserve that which drew me here? Soon after I moved here, an ad in the paper called for volunteers to help with [ECO’s] stream monitoring, which was only one day, twice a year, at the time. What better way to get started? Once I began, the people and programs of ECO (later to become Mountain True) were fun, interesting, and worthwhile, so I became involved in many aspects of the water quality program. Volunteering brings me into contact with such a wide range of people who share similar values and definitely contributes to my continuing involvement.

RG: In what ways have you seen your efforts have an impact on our environment and community?

LC: Participating in MountainTrue’s educational programs is particularly rewarding, as the students show a genuine interest in understanding what we’re doing. Plus, it feels good to see their energy and enthusiasm – just maybe some of that will be directed towards [creating a healthier environment] in the future. The more exposure they see what others are doing to help our environment, the more likely they will recognize that they too can play a part.
It’s also reassuring to see that the section of Mud Creek our team has cleaned during the annual Big Sweep cleanup, has had less trash to be hauled out over the last few years. Hopefully this trend will continue.

RG: Do you have any one memory or experience from volunteering with us that you’d like to share?

I think the cumulative experiences have had more of an impact on me than any specific one. MountainTrue covers such a diverse range of programs just within the water quality area that there is always something interesting and rewarding and fun to do.

MountainTrue has been fortunate to participate in the AmeriCorps Project Conserve program. The talent and energy that these young people bring to our programs is contagious, and spills over into the volunteers that work with them.
Though many members of our bio-monitoring team (who identify and quantify bugs in the streams) have volunteered together for years, it’s still amazing how excited we get when uncommon critters end up in our kick nets or leaf packs. Helping on worthwhile projects with great people is a reward in itself.

To sign up for volunteer opportunities with MountainTrue, go to www.mountaintrue.org/eventscalendar.

To join our Headwaters Giving Circle, visit www.mountaintrue.org/join.


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.

Riverkeepers Respond to Duke’s Coal Ash Dishonesty

Riverkeepers Respond to Duke’s Coal Ash Dishonesty

Nov. 8 2017

Over the weekend, Duke Energy Spokesperson Danielle Peoples responded to MountainTrue’s paddle protest on the Broad River with multiple untrue statements about the dangers of coal ash and the extent of Duke’s pollution at their power plant in Cliffside, NC [“Battle over coal ash continues in Cliffside” (11/5/17)]. In a Letter-to-the-Editor for the Shelby Star, Western North Carolina’s Riverkeepers stand up for the truth on coal ash and our rivers and set the record straight.

 

It’s time for Duke Energy to come clean on coal ash pollution. In a recent article that ran in the Shelby Star  [“Battle over coal ash continues in Cliffside” (11/5/17)], Duke Energy spokesperson Danielle Peoples made numerous misleading statements about the dangers of coal ash and the ongoing pollution that is happening at Cliffside.

First, Peoples tells the Star that Duke has “finished excavating the basin earlier this year.” Problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. There are three ash basins at Cliffside, and Duke Energy has only excavated its smallest one. The truth is that 90% of coal ash stored in ponds at that site remain in its two unlined pits, which continue to pollute area groundwater and the Broad River.

Inexplicably, People’s claim about Cliffside is compounded by a glaring error in the Star’s reporting —   that Duke Energy has closed all of its coal ash ponds around the state. This isn’t true at the Allen and Marshall plants near Charlotte, the Belews Creek plant near Winston-Salem, and it isn’t true at Cliffside where Duke Energy continues to operate a very active pond that they sluice wet ash into and discharge wastewater out of every day. We know this because this is how they operate under their current wastewater permit, and that doesn’t count all the additional illegal discharges that we’ve found.

What does the future have in store for Cliffside? Duke says that capping these unlined pits will solve the problem, but if the company has its way the remaining coal ash will be left sitting in up to 50 feet* of groundwater, continuing to pollute our groundwater and the river for centuries.

The most dangerous of Peoples’ assertions is that coal ash is nonhazardous. Here she hides behind a regulatory and legal technicality. While it is true that the Environmental Protection Agency declined to regulate coal ash as “hazardous waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the EPA was equally clear that “there is significant potential for [coal ash ponds] to leach hazardous constituents into groundwater, impair drinking water supplies and cause adverse impacts on human health and the environment.” The EPA has set health limits on the toxic heavy metals and other constituents found in the coal ash at Cliffside because they are dangerous to people.

Here in North Carolina, when a small business owner or company makes a mess, we expect them to clean it up. Duke Energy is the largest utility company in the country – they can handle it.

David Caldwell, Broad River Alliance

Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper

Gray Jernigan, Green Riverkeeper

Andy Hill, Watauga Riverkeeper

*The original version of this post said “60 feet” instead of “50 feet” of groundwater. The error has been corrected. 

Want to get involved? Support our petition to make Duke Energy clean up their coal ash pollution of the Broad River and sign up for clean water action opportunities 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.

MountainTrue and Asheville Design Center to Merge

MountainTrue and Asheville Design Center to Merge

MountainTrue and Asheville Design Center to Merge

MountainTrue is excited to welcome Chris Joyell and the Asheville Design Center to the MountainTrue team. Asheville Design Center (ADC) and MountainTrue have announced their intent to merge in the Fall of 2017.

Chris Joyell, executive director of Asheville Design Center.

There is a long history of collaboration and a strong alignment between MountainTrue’s land use and transportation work & ADC’s community planning work. Merging will strengthen both organizations and help communities across all of Western North Carolina better address their needs through a combination of grassroots organizing, community-driven planning and strategic advocacy.

MountainTrue members will vote on whether to approve the merger at our 2017 Annual Gathering on October 25 at New Belgium Brewing in Asheville. If the merger is approved, Asheville Design Center will retain its name and operate as a program of MountainTrue.

“The merger creates one organization that is better able to pursue a holistic approach to our built and natural environments,” explains Chris Joyell, executive director of the Asheville Design Center.

Asheville Design Center is inviting its members and supporters to celebrate the merger with a toast at MountainTrue’s upcoming Annual Gathering at New Belgium on October 25 from 6-8 pm. The Annual Gathering is open to all members. Contributing supporters of ADC will receive a complimentary one-year membership to MountainTrue. Click here to RSVP.

“This is a merger that benefits both organizations,” explains Carrie Turner, ADC board chair. “ADC will benefit from MountainTrue’s larger infrastructure and will be able to expand and develop more impactful programs. “MountainTrue, for its part, will gain ADC’s know-how when it comes to helping residents plan for the health of their own communities.”

“MountainTrue has the experience and capacity to organize the public in support of the kind of community-driven design planning that ADC is expert at conducting,” explains Bob Wagner, co-director of MountainTrue. “By aligning our work, we’ll be able to better meet the needs of people throughout WNC.”

Collaboration between the Asheville Design Center and MountainTrue goes back to 2009 when the two organizations created Blue Ridge Blueprints — a grassroots planning program to help communities plan for and design their futures while preserving local character and protecting the natural environment. Through Blue Ridge Blueprints, ADC and MountainTrue partnered with residents to develop the Burton Street Community Plan when that neighborhood was threatened by the proposed I-26 Connector.

The Burton Street community had recently overcome issues of crime, poor infrastructure and shifting demographics, and, in 2010, a plan to expand I-26 threatened to impede this progress and displace many long-time residents. At the invitation of the community, ADC and MountainTrue worked with local residents to develop a vision, goals and strategies to achieve those goals. ADC design volunteers conducted numerous surveys and workshops to inform a community plan, while MountainTrue organized the community and helped participants prioritize goals for implementation.

The Burton Street Community Plan helped spur the adoption of the Smith Mill Creek Greenway into the City’s greenway master plan and prompted ADC’s DesignBuild Studio to construct an outdoor classroom for the Burton St. Community Peace Garden.

This work helped us establish our trajectory when MountainTrue and the ADC worked side-by-side on the I-26 Connector Project to push for a design that minimized the highway’s footprint and its impacts on Asheville’s neighborhoods, including Burton Street. ADC worked directly with affected communities through a participatory planning process and then offered detailed improvements to the North Carolina Department of Transportation that were supported by the people. MountainTrue subsequently worked with specifically impacted neighborhoods to generate and maintain support for the principles underpinning ADC’s proposed highway design.

“We had both strong, consistent public support and good design principles. That gave us credibility and power,” says Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue. “In 2016, we made history when NCDOT selected a variation of ADC’s design, Alternative 4B, as the first community-authored highway design ever to be adopted by a state DOT.”

These real-world examples of collaboration light the path forward: one organization better able to support more communities across the region in building a better, healthier and cleaner WNC for all.

Media Coverage:


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.

Thursday, July 13: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues

Thursday, July 13: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues

Thursday, July 13: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues

Hendersonville, N.C. — On Thursday, July 13, Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes Tristan Winkler, Senior Transportation Planner for the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). He will present on recent bicycle and pedestrian issues in the area, and ways that the public can get involved!

What: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues
Who: Tristan Winkler, Senior Transportation Planner with the French Broad River MPO
Where: Black Bear Coffee Co. 318 N. Main St. Hendersonville, NC
When: Thursday, July 13, networking at 5:30 p.m., presentation at 6:00 p.m.

Tristan Winkler is a Senior Transportation Planner with the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and has worked on various transportation projects in Western North Carolina since 2013 as a private consultant and, later, at the MPO. Tristan is a board member of the Association of Bicycle and Pedestrian Professionals of North Carolina, and director-at-large for the Western North Carolina Chapter of Women in Transportation.

About Hendersonville Green Drinks
Hendersonville Green Drinks is presented by MountainTrue and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Come to Green Drinks to learn more about current environmental issues, have relevant discussions, and meet with like-minded people. This is a monthly event and everyone is welcome. You don’t have to drink at Green Drinks, just come and listen. Black Bear Coffee offers beer, wine, coffee drinks and sodas. A limited food menu will be available.


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.

Attend USFS Open Houses And Speak Up for Protecting the Pisgah-Nantahala

Attend USFS Open Houses And Speak Up for Protecting the Pisgah-Nantahala

Attend USFS Open Houses And Speak Up for Protecting the Pisgah-Nantahala

The forests belong to all of us and we’re responsible for making sure they are protected for future generations.

As part of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests management plan revision process, the U.S. Forest Service will hold six open house events across the region from late June to early August to provide the public with opportunities to talk with Forest Service staff about local issues, district projects, and the forest plan revision.

If you care about Western North Carolina’s national forests, enjoy our beautiful mountain vistas and hiking trails, or playing in the many streams and swimming holes within Pisgah and Nantahala, this is your opportunity to talk directly with Forest Service staff one-on-one about how the forest will be managed for the years to come.

Each District Open House will highlight the areas within that district. District rangers and members of the Forest Plan revision team will be available to discuss the materials each of the following days and locations:

  • June 29, 6-8 p.m.: Grandfather Ranger District at Foothills Conference Center, 2128 S. Sterling St., Morganton.
  • July 11, 6-8 p.m.: Nantahala Ranger District at Tartan Hall, 26 Church St., Franklin.
  • July 13, 6-8 p.m.: Pisgah Ranger District Office, 1600 Pisgah Hwy, Brevard.
  • July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Appalachian Ranger District at Appalachian District Office, 632 Manor Road, Mars Hill.
  • July 25, 3-6 p.m.: Cheoah Ranger District at Cheoah District Office, 1070 Massey Branch Road, Robbinsville.
  • August 8, 3-6 p.m., Tusquitee Ranger District, Brasstown Community Center, 255 Settawig Rd, Brasstown

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests have been revising their Forest Plan, a required document that provides a general framework to guide management of the Forests. As part of the process, 30 public meetings have been held in communities throughout western North Carolina.

Over the past year, the Forest Service has been releasing pre-draft plan materials on the National Forests in North Carolina website – www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. Additional materials are posted to the site’s Plan Revision Under Construction page as they become available.

Here are MountainTrue’s assessments based on the current pre-draft plan materials: 

  • Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in general:
    There are many special places that are in the wrong management area and lack the amount of protection they require. In particular, Daniel Ridge, Cedar Rock Mountain, Upper Santeetlah Creek, Ash Cove, Tellico Bald, Snowball Mountain, Lickstone Ridge, and dozens of smaller natural areas are not protected by the forest plan. The Bartram Trail, Benton McKay Trail, Art Loeb Trail, and Mountains-To-Sea Trail lack a management area that would preserve the special character of these long-distance hiking trails. They should be designated as special corridors, similar to the Appalachian Trail and the Trail of Tears which have such protection.We are pleased by the creation of a new Special Interest Area in Big Ivy, though it should cover all of Big Ivy, and not just a portion of it.By Ranger Districts:
  • Grandfather Ranger District: Linville Mountain should be placed in backcountry management. The Upper Creek Gorge/Sugar Knob Backcountry area should be expanded. The Upper Wilson Creek Backcountry area should be expanded.
  • Appalachian Ranger District: Snowball Mountain, Coxcombe Mountain, and Shope Creek should be included in the Craggy Mountains/Big Ivy Special Interest Area.
  • Pisgah Ranger District: Upper Courthouse Creek, Daniel Ridge, Cedar Rock Mountain, and upper Lickstone Ridge should be placed in backcountry Management to protect their remote character and the species that depend on them.
  • Nantahala Ranger District: All of Panthertown Valley and Flat Creek should be in backcountry management. Tellico Bald, Siler Bald, and Fish Hawk Mountain should be placed in backcountry management. The backcountry area around Terrapin Mountain should be expanded to 4,000 acres.  Corbin Knob, Hench Knob, and Chunky Gal Mountain should be Special Interest Areas.
  • Cheoah Ranger District: Upper Santeetlah Creek should be a Special Interest Area or backcountry area.
  • Tusquitee District: Gipp Creek should be placed in backcountry management. The Unicoi Mountain backcountry area should be expanded.

We encourage you to turn out and speak up for protecting these natural areas of our forests. We will have staff at each of these open house events and we look forward to meeting you there.


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.