Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

Why MountainTrue Must Fight Racism

When MountainTrue was formed through the merger of the Western North Carolina Alliance, the Environmental Conservation Organization and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance in 2015, the organization inherited a broad scope of programs focused on protecting our rivers and public forests, reducing our region’s dependence on fossil fuels and encouraging smart growth to improve the health of our communities and reduce the impacts of development on our natural environment.

In the five years since the merger, the organization has been working on addressing issues of racism and equity: all MountainTrue staff members enroll in the Racial Equity Institute, the Building Bridges program or both; we’ve taken strides to diversify our board and staff; and we’re working to build partnerships with communities that are fighting for equitable access to resources and power.

That process has been coalescing and transformational. If you had asked us five years ago, two years ago or even just a few weeks back about our priorities and responsibilities on race and equity, you would have gotten different answers than today. We’ve been evolving toward a wider focus. Yes to protecting forests and rivers and advocating for better public transit, more greenways, clean energy, and dense development for the environmental benefits, but we are also thinking more broadly about how we can help foster communities where people are truly healthy. And this means communities that are free from racism, and where there is equity in the social determinants of health — housing, transportation, education and jobs.

Racial segregation and poverty are outcomes of bad policy.

Poverty and racial disparities have been sustained through bad policies that have disproportionately impacted people of color. This is clearly evident in the histories of Redlining and Urban Renewal. Redlining was the systemic denial of services, especially home loans, to people in Black communities established by the Federal Housing Administration in 1934 and replicated by private lenders and local governments that established racially-restrictive local zoning ordinances. Through a combination of redlining, deed restrictions, exclusionary zoning and leasing practices, and racism on the part of local governments, Black people were relegated to the poorest neighborhoods with the least public services. And because Black people could not get loans to improve or fix their homes, the quality of housing and other structures in these neighborhoods deteriorated and property values fell such that homeownership for Black families did not allow for the accumulation of generational wealth.

Despite these restrictions, Black communities in Asheville like Hill Street and Stumptown, the East End and the South Side were vibrant, thriving centers of Black life. City planners, however, saw only pockets of urban decay ripe for redevelopment under the guise of “Urban Renewal.” In the years after World War II, the federal government funded a massive building boom through the passage of the Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954, and the construction of a vast network of highways through the Federal Highway Act of 1944. With federal dollars flowing to municipal coffers, cities like Asheville were free to redevelop their urban cores, and it was poorer Black neighborhoods that were targeted. Much of the East End was razed to make way for South Charlotte Street and MLK Drive. In the Southside neighborhood more than 1,000 homes, 50 businesses and seven churches were demolished to make way for more upscale housing. In the Hill Street neighborhood, entire street grids were erased from the map to make way for Asheville’s Cross-Town Expressway.

In towns and cities across the country, vibrant communities of color were destroyed and their residents displaced. Some were forced to live in public housing communities that became pockets of concentrated poverty. Many others had to find cheap housing in the least desirable areas near highways, factories, refineries and landfills.

Pollution disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.

These neighborhoods where the air is thicker with automobile exhaust, smog and fumes, and the soil and water are more likely to be poisoned with lead, heavy metals and other industrial pollutants have been dubbed “sacrifice zones.” The higher concentrations of pollution in these areas have an enormous effect on human health and childhood development and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. For instance, generations of poor kids who grew up near highways breathed air thick with the exhaust of leaded gasoline, and, even now, children in these neighborhoods are more likely to have high blood lead levels because the soil near these roads is still contaminated. Lead has been linked to reduced IQs, attention problems and aggressive behavior, and has been identified as a possible cause of the crimewave that besieged the nation from the mid-sixties through the early nineties.

It would be a mistake to reduce this oppression to simply matters of historical mistakes, market demand and geography. Redlining was explicitly racist, as was the targeting for destruction of poor and communities of color by mid-twentieth century urban planners. Similarly, proximity does not fully explain why Black and Brown communities suffer higher levels of air pollution. The National Center for Environmental Assessment finds that Black and Latino people are exposed to about 1.5 times and 1.3 times more particulate matter, respectively, than White people and that emissions are generally higher from factories located in communities of color than those located in wealthier White neighborhoods. Decisions are being made to site more polluting factories in poor neighborhoods than rich neighborhoods, and then to run the factories in Black and Brown neighborhoods dirtier. This is more than economic oppression. It’s environmental racism and it’s a dynamic that has been repeated time and again — famously in the financial decisions that lead to the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the state’s negligent response. Poor people are exploited for profit, and Black and Brown people most of all.

No zone should be sacrificed.

The society that we now inhabit is one where Black and Brown people have fewer opportunities, are more likely to live in areas that are polluted and dangerous, and are more likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty. To make matters worse: layered on top of this structural racism is a brutal criminal justice system, a broken healthcare system, an anemic educational system, crumbling infrastructure and growing food insecurity. In each and every regard, the consequences of these systemic failures fall heaviest on poor Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Set to topple all these fragile civic institutions is the leviathan threat of Climate Change, which, if left unchecked, will flood our lowlands and mountain valleys in wet years and burn our mountaintops in drought years. Already, the outlines of this dystopia are clear: people and communities with resources will be better positioned to adapt, fortify and recover from disasters. Poorer communities will be sacrificed, largely abandoned by our federal government like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the American citizens of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the Black neighborhoods of Houston that were flooded by industrial pollution during Hurricane Harvey, or the towns in Eastern North Carolina where homes were flooded with water tainted by millions of gallons of animal waste during Hurricane Florence.

But acting on climate change is not simply altruism, because the security of wealth will be fleeting. Climate Change is proceeding at a pace that has taken scientists by surprise and contributes to a wide spectrum of related maladies such as water shortages, crop destruction and the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. The climate challenges laid out in the October 2018 IPCC report will be insurmountable for a nation that is depleted and divided. Time is running out: to avoid climate catastrophe, we must stop sacrificing our most vulnerable populations, unite and act now.

Our conscience demands action and unity.

The wider movement needed to repair our country, protect our environment and take on climate change must be multicultural and firmly committed to dismantling racism and all systems of structural oppression. This was the strategic rationale of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign — which he described as “the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity” — and later of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Both civil rights leaders understood that an anti-racist movement in which White participation is based only on notions of altruism of charity will exhaust itself and fail to create the mass politics needed to win lasting systemic change.

It’s been two years since the 2018 IPCC report was published warning of dire circumstances of not taking bold, swift action to curtail climate catastrophe. It has been nearly 40 years since Professor and NASA scientist James Hansen gave Congressional testimony about the threat of global warming. In that time our elected leaders have failed to meet the challenge head on. Worse, they’ve scoffed at proposals of the magnitude needed to address the climate crisis head on.

We have our work cut out for us. MountainTrue and its members must commit to the work of dismantling structural racism and uniting our communities in the fight for justice and survival in the face of climate change. Neither cause can succeed on its own; all are interconnected. We know that we don’t have all the answers, but we’re ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with communities fighting for justice.

As an organization, MountainTrue is committed to fighting racism and economic inequity, because meeting our core mission of protecting communities and the environment requires it. This means we must be ready to take on fights that are beyond the scope of traditional environmentalism. We will live our values and use our influence and institutional power to win a more equitable future, and we invite you, as a MountainTrue supporter, to join us.


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.

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

Join us online – we still want to see you, even if it’s only your head, neck and shoulders!

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a gathering of our members to recognize and honor outstanding volunteers, vote on new board members, and reflect on a year of hard work and – hopefully – some big wins! This October 21st, while we cannot gather in person, we hope you’ll join us online to celebrate another year of protecting the places we share.

With Each Other Even If We Can’t Hug Each Other:
MountainTrue’s 2020 Virtual Annual Gathering
October 21, 6-7 pm 
RSVP through the form below to get the link to join.

If you are having any trouble accessing the meeting, please contact Adam Bowers at 828-680-0738 or at adam@mountaintrue.org

Check here to confirm that your membership is current, and if you are not a member you can join or renew when you RSVP using the form below! 


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.

DEQ: It’s Time to Modernize NC’s Pollution Spill Notification System

DEQ: It’s Time to Modernize NC’s Pollution Spill Notification System

Join North Carolina’s Riverkeepers in calling on state regulators to modernize its public notification system.

Millions of people across North Carolina take to our beaches, rivers and lakes to cool off, swim, paddle, and fish, but most are unaware that nearly 16 million gallons of untreated sewage has spilled into our waterways during a two and a half month period (May 17 to July 30) according to data collected by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

North Carolina desperately needs to update its public spill notification system. Current state law requires operators of wastewater collection and treatment systems to notify DEQ of spills of over 1,000 gallons into surface waters and to send a press release to local media within 24 hours. For spills of over 15,000 gallons, operators are required to place a notice in the newspapers of counties impacted by the spill within 10 days (NCGS 143-215.1C). Spills of other pollutants have similar reporting requirements to DEQ.

North Carolina should not be depending on ads in print newspapers to get the word out about dangerous spills. Newspapers are not mandated to run the press releases, and many local newspapers are only published in print on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, which is not frequent enough to warn river users of water quality problems in a timely manner.

The public has the right to know about major pollution spills that impact our waterways as soon as possible, and through the technology the public uses today. Join North Carolina’s Riverkeepers in calling for a better, more modern system that would:

  • Publish spill data to an online database and interactive map and on agency social media channels
  • Send email and text alerts to interested parties.
  • Allow the public to sign up to receive these alerts for the watersheds that they are interested in.

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.

June 2020 E-News All Regions

June 2020 E-News All Regions

June 2020 E-News All Regions

6/29/20

The Deadline for Forest Plan Comments is Today!

This is the LAST day to make your voice heard about a plan that will determine how Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest is managed for the next 15-20 years. Make your public comment on the Draft Management Plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest here.

Together we can win better protections for old-growth forests and biodiversity hotspots, more responsible timbering practices and better maintained trails and recreation infrastructure in the National Forest. You can check out MountainTrue’s full expert analysis and plan recommendations here, and can also submit your comments through the Forest Service’s online portal or mail them (postmarked by 6/29/2020) to: Plan Revision Team, National Forests in North Carolina, 160 Zillicoa St, Asheville, NC 28801.

 

The Great American Outdoors Act Passes The Senate, Reinvests In America’s Public Lands


Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Kirk Thornton on Unsplash.

In a big victory for our public lands, The Great American Outdoors Act (SB 3422) was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 17 with bipartisan support and a vote of 73 yeas to 25 nays. The bill will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year and allocate $9.5 billion over the next five years to address the maintenance backlogs in America’s National Parks, National Forests, and other public lands.

Though the LWCF has been authorized at $900 million per year, Congress has regularly diverted these funds for other purposes. With this bill, Congress will finally put an end to that practice and fulfill the original promise of the LWCF. Read the rest of our blog post on the bill here.

 

Asheville Design Center Helps Businesses Face Pandemic With Design Solutions


Asheville Design Center volunteers paint traffic barriers for Asheville’s first Shared Streets installation on Eagle and Market Streets, also known as “The Block.”

As more and more Asheville businesses reopen, the COVID-19 pandemic has required them to need more breathing room – literally. To help businesses adapt to indoor capacity limits and social distancing guidelines, the City of Asheville has contracted with MountainTrue’s Asheville Design Center (ADC) to create design solutions that allow businesses to use more public outdoor space.

The heart of the design process is to identify a problem, come up with a solution, design it, prototype it and get feedback,” says Chris Joyell, Director of the Asheville Design Center. “And by creating these concepts in conversation with the broader community, we can make sure they meet the needs of our local businesses and are a sustainable design concept for Asheville’s future.” Read more about this work here.

 

Check Out The Results From Our Recordbreaking BioBlitz In Madison County


MountainTrue’s Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly observes a plant alongside Pete Dixon of Madison County Natural Heritage, a digital museum that archives Madison County’s natural history. 

Every year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz to document all the species we can find in a given area. This year, we partnered with Madison Natural Heritage, a new program of the Madison County Library, to catalog discoveries in Madison County virtually as part of their digital natural history archive.

It blew us away that a total of 97 observers documented 2,618 organisms and 1,186 unique species, including at least one – a rare fen orchid – that has never been documented in the county! Among these finds were several threatened and rare species (don’t worry, the locations are hidden for those observations). We more than doubled our record species count for past BioBlitzes, had record youth engagement, and couldn’t have done it without our terrific members! Read more about this year’s BioBlitz here.

 

Beating the Heat at Swimming Holes? Stay Safe With Our Swim Guide Results


MountainTrue’s AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator, Grace Fuchs, hits the river to take water samples for our Swim Guide monitoring program. 

During the summer months when water recreation is in full swing, our Riverkeepers are committed to monitoring bacteria levels in local waterways so people can decide how, when and where to get in the water safely. As we still face restrictions on how and where we can interact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are turning to rivers and lakes for a place to unwind, cool down, and socially distance, making this work more important than ever.

We test bacteria levels at public access points each week, so make sure to check out the latest results for your local swimming hole at www.theswimguide.org or by downloading the ultra-portable Swim Guide app. Now get out there and have some fun!

 

NCDOT Chooses To Improve Existing Highway Through Stecoah Community Instead Of Building New Sections


The Stecoah Gap near Robbinsville, NC. Photo By Don McGowan.

After decades of environmental analysis, public meetings and comment periods on the “Corridor K” project in Graham County, N.C. Department of Transportation officials have decided to improve the existing highways instead of building new road sections. The other five alternative courses of action for the project would have built new sections of highway through existing residential communities, fragmented large sections of National Forest, or both.

The purpose of the Corridor K project is to improve travel between Highway U.S.129 in Robbinsville and the existing four-lane section of N.C. 28 at Stecoah. MountainTrue has worked for years for this outcome in order to limit the impacts of the highway on residential communities and the National Forest. We are thrilled that NCDOT has selected the least damaging path forward!

An Environmental Assessment for the highway improvements is expected this summer. We will advocate for the project to include plans for a wildlife crossing to connect sections of public land across the wider highway corridor. We’ll also let you know when the opportunity to make public comment begins in the fall.

 

Final Forest Service Decision on Buck Project in Clay County Ignores Public Input, Potential Compromise


Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly coring a 231-years-old tree in the Buck Project area. Watch a video where he talks about the project and counts the rings of the core sample here. 

In a decision announced on May 22, the Forest Service committed to charging ahead with plans to log in steep backcountry areas in Buck Creek and the headwaters of the Nantahala River, as well as the headwaters of Shooting Creek draining to Lake Chatuge. The decision would allow timber harvest on nearly 800 acres—the biggest logging project in the Nantahala National Forest in a generation. Hundreds of acres of logging would occur in old, biologically rich and unique ecosystems under-represented in Southern Appalachian forests.

The decision follows a formal objection submitted by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on behalf of MountainTrue, The Wilderness Society, and other partners. It also comes after SELC offered a compromise that would have ultimately met everyone’s goals: move ahead with the 465 acres of harvest proposed in Alternative D and launch a collaborative effort to find more acres that don’t encroach on sensitive areas. None of the other objectors voiced opposition to this plan, and one even voiced support. The Forest Service ignored this suggestion and the overwhelming public opposition to this plan.

 

Permit Issued for Cashiers Lake Dredging Project

The NC Division of Water Resources (DWR) issued a 401 Water Quality Certification to Cashiers Canoe Club in April for a lake dredging project that will impact a little over seven acres of wetlands and five acres of open water in Cashiers Lake, part of the headwaters of the Chattooga River. MountainTrue’s initial concerns about the project were largely addressed by DWR and the applicant, including the following: a large reduction in the amount of acres impacted by dredging; separating the dredging and development aspects of the project; and requiring the very low “trout standard” for downstream turbidity (a measure of water clarity that reflects the amount of excess sediment in the water). Also included in the permit requirements is payment for wetland mitigation, water quality monitoring for the duration of the project, and maintaining a healthy amount of flow in the Chattooga River downstream. MountainTrue is not contesting the project.

 

New Rockhouse Creek Self-Guided Hike Available


Philip Moore stands next to one of several large buckeye trees beside the trail on Rockhouse Creek.

While MountainTrue has not planned any group hikes due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, you can still go hiking with us! I joined MountainTrue’s Outings Coordinator Catie Morris and Forest Keeper Rhys Burns to construct a self-guided hike on the Rockhouse Creek trail in the beautiful Fires Creek Watershed. The final product includes a trail description, points of interest, a little history and photos along the way. Access the hike here.

 

MountainTrue Members Push Back on Beech Mountain Water Grab

Thanks to an amazing response by MountainTrue’s supporters in the High Country, we’ve made a great start in opposing the Town of Beech Mountain’s latest attempt to push through a proposal for a water intake in the Watauga River. This proposal would construct a 7.2 mile pipeline and pump house to withdraw up to 500,000 gallons of water per day from the Watauga during times of drought, and right upstream from the ecologically sensitive Watauga Gorge.

Due to public pressure from MountainTrue members and other community members concerned about the proposal, Watauga County Commissioners stated during a recent budget meeting that they would not entertain any attempts to reclassify the Watauga River to allow for an intake. There was also progress at the most recent Beech Mountain Town Council budget hearing, with Town Council approving a capital project ordinance to fix or replace approximately 16,500 linear feet of existing water line in the Charter Hills Road area. We are grateful to see the Town of Beech Mountain prioritizing their infrastructure and addressing water loss after our repeated requests.

 

Ward’s Mill Dam Will Be Removed in Fall 2020

In a big victory for the Watauga, MountainTrue has helped secure the removal of the Ward’s Mill Dam – a dam in Sugar Grove that was named the highest priority for removal by a partnership of aquatic resource experts in the Southeast.

Removing the dam will reconnect 35 miles of aquatic habitat in the main stem of the Watauga River and 140 miles of streams across the watershed. This will improve cold water habitat for native aquatic species like brook trout, freshwater mussels and the threatened hellbender salamander, and will reconnect genetically distinct populations kept separate by the dam for 80 years.

The dam is scheduled for demolition in early Fall 2020. Its removal would not be possible without the leadership of American Rivers, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development, Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Events Calendar

June 11-30: No Man’s Land Film Festival: Diversify the Outdoors
No Man’s Land Film Festival is offering a “Diversify Our Outdoors” virtual film program featuring films that elevate Black athletes, filmmakers and advocates. All proceeds to this event will be donated to the non-profit organization Outdoor Afro.

July 1, 11:30am – 12pm: MountainTrue University – The State of the French Broad River
Join our French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson, for a talk about the history of the French Broad Watershed, his work to hunt down pollution sources and ways you can help keep our river clean.

July 9, 6-7pm: Virtual Green Drinks Featuring Andy Tait, EcoForestry Director at EcoForesters
In his talk, Andy will discuss how forests become degraded due to invasive pests, poor timber management, fire exclusion and climate change, and how “forest stand improvement work” can make degraded forests healthier.

July 10, 7-8:30pm: “Pandemics and Prejudice: How Can Democracy Survive in a Hotter Time?” with Dr. David Orr
The Creation Care Alliance is proud to co-sponsor this presentation by Dr. David Orr, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Studies & Politics at Oberlin College, about the moral imperative to restore our democracy as well as the urgency of environmental stewardship.

July 11: Virtual Riverkeeper Beer Series Cleanup with Catawba Brewing Co.
Join us for the first virtual Riverkeeper Beer Series Cleanup of the French Broad River by cleaning your local creek, roadway, or neighborhood.

July 26, 2-5pm: Apalachia Lake Paddle
Join us for a socially distant canoe outing on the peaceful Apalachia Lake, which has very little private shoreline development and no commercial recreation facilities. Fishing and swimming are both options along the way, so bring your line if you’d like.


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.

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Take Action Now.

Take action today and submit your comments to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners in opposition to rezoning that would allow the construction of a dangerous and unnecessary asphalt plant in East Flat Rock.

SE Asphalt wants to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, 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 drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

The developer has applied for conditional rezoning for 6.5 acres to a conditional district to construct the new asphalt plant. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant because:

The asphalt plant is too close to residential areas, homes and businesses.
The proposed site is across the Spartanburg Highway from a mobile home park and is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The parcel is currently zoned for Community Commercial. By seeking conditional rezoning to allow for the asphalt plant, the developer is effectively trying to rezone a site — that is bordered by residential areas — for industrial use.

A study by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) showed 45% of residents living within a half mile of a new asphalt plant reported a deterioration of their health, which began after the plant opened.

Asphalt plants are a source of harmful air pollution
Asphalt fumes are known toxins and contain pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics can cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.

The asphalt plant could harm our natural environment
The proposed site is dangerously close to the Green River Game Land and borders the headwaters of Laurel Creek. Air pollution and water runoff of pollutants from the site would impact the Game Lands and Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

The East Flat Rock asphalt plant is an environmental justice issue
The site is across the road to a low-income community that would bear the brunt of air and water pollution, dust, noise, truck traffic, and exposure to harmful toxins. Low income communities are disproportionately impacted by industrial facilities across the nation, and that’s not right.

What you can do:

1. Submit your comments to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners in opposition to the asphalt plant.

2. Attend this upcoming meeting:

  • Henderson County Board of Commissioners on October 1 at 6 PM: Technology Education and Development Center at Blue Ridge Community College, 49 E. Campus Drive, Flat Rock, NC

3. Stay informed and get involved with the local community organizing group Friends of East Flat Rock:

  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/251151092979467/about/
  • Website: https://friendsofeastflatrock.org/

Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and put a stop to this pollution factory before it even gets started! Join us in the fight!


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.

Protect the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest — Our Region’s Natural Carbon Sink

Protect the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest — Our Region’s Natural Carbon Sink

The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are a tremendous resource in the battle to slow climate change. A 2011 Forest Service assessment estimated that these forests store more than 72 million metric tonnes of carbon, and that number continues to rise as our forests grow.  

Help protect our publicly owned, 1.1 million acre carbon sink by taking action today!

June 29 is the deadline for public comments on the Draft Management Plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. Now is our last significant chance to make our voices heard on a plan that will determine how our forests are managed for the next 15-20 years.

The Forest Service takes climate adaptation and mitigation into consideration when drafting its plan, but with your help we can make the plan even more climate friendly by:

1. Protecting old-growth forests from timbering

As trees grow they capture carbon, and they slowly release it as they die and decompose. With old-growth forests, the equation favors carbon capture. More than other forests, old-growth forests store and accumulate more carbon than they release through decomposition. That’s why we support a forest management plan with the most inclusive definition of old-growth forests and the widest protections.

The Forest Service should place all of the established old-growth — plus areas identified by ecologists and conservation experts — in the Designated Old Growth Network and into protective management areas to prevent logging, as recommended under Alternative C. However, any restrictions to adding old growth stands that have yet to be identified to the Designated Network should be lifted.

2. Defining “old growth” for more consistent forest management

The term “old growth” was coined by foresters in the early days of logging, but the lack of consensus around a single definition creates room for interpretation at the project level. It also makes building consensus among forest user interest groups, such as timber companies, recreationists, and conservationists difficult if not impossible. The forest service must not allow the lack of a single definition to endanger old-growth stands and create a pathway for increased logging. The Forest Service should set a definition in the final management plan that best protects these crucial carbon stores.

3. Mandating sustainable timbering practices

Timbering can be done in a manner that is sustainable and beneficial to the overall health of the forest. Our moist and fertile forests are resilient to timber harvest and can quickly rebound.However, if they are being grown for future timbering, whether they continue to store carbon after they’ve been cut down is a crucial question. As such, we support:

  • Our mountain forests are not suitable for commercial biomass electricity production. Though byproducts of restoration activities could be used for firewood or artisanal uses, our public forests should not be cut down just to be burned. Though, biomass energy production is not currently a concern due to the lack of a biomass wood pellet factory in our region. Limits should be placed on what types of wood could be available for biomass harvest should that change during the term of this management plan.
  • Preference should be given to timber companies that provide quality timber for furniture making, construction and other durable goods so that the wood’s carbon continues to be stored.
  • The use of specialized equipment should be required on sustained steep slopes of over 40% to guard against increasing erosion and landslides due to the effects of climate change. The type of logging methods should be outlined in the project’s environmental review documents.
  • Unused forest roads in backcountry areas should be decommissioned or repurposed for trails. This would help prevent erosion and sediment pollution and extreme flooding in forest rivers and streams due to the heavier rains and storms brought on by climate change.

4. Protecting our forests and vulnerable species from the effects of climate change

To ensure the long-term health of our forests and the native species that call the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests their home, the Forest Service should strengthen their climate adaptation. This includes:

  • Increasing the number of streams occupied by native brook trout in the highest elevation, highest flow cold water streams to compensate for losses in other warmer streams.
  • Increased use of controlled burns to reduce forest density and prevent larger wildfires that would damage native habitats and reduce our carbon stores.
  • Because non-native invasive plant species (NNIPS) spread in part due to our warming climate and land disturbances such as timbering, the plan should include an objective that all new harvest units and associated roads (including a 100-foot buffer) should be monitored for new infestations of priority NNIS and treated, if found. Also, the Forest Service should include a desired condition that priority NNIS are not spreading.
  • Habitat connectivity should be maintained and increased for migratory species and species whose habitat may shift due to climate change

Do your part to fight climate change: help protect the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests and ensure that they remain healthy and effective carbon sinks for our region.

Comment below or check out our Forest Plan Resource page for our full analysis of the entire Draft Forest Management Plan.


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.