MountainTrue’s Statement on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan

MountainTrue’s Statement on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan

MountainTrue’s Statement on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan

On March 20, after 10 years of public input and planning, the Forest Service will adopt its new management plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests — a disappointing document that is significantly worse than the current plan and contradicts an executive order issued by President Biden that would protect and expand our nation’s old growth forests. 

The new plan does have a few bright spots: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will have more influence over forest management, new recommendations for Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations are welcome, and the plan implements more prescribed fire and wildfire protection activities. On other key issues — like tackling our massive road maintenance backlog, developing a plan to maintain and expand our trail networks and recreation infrastructure to meet current user demand, and drafting a monitoring plan to evaluate their own management practices — the Forest Service has failed to deliver, instead putting these critical concerns on the back burner for at least the next three years. 

However, for MountainTrue, the most egregious shortcoming is that the Forest Service has placed significant old-growth forests, rare species habitat, and roadless backcountry into zones that are open to commercial logging. The Forest Service has also relaxed rules to allow ground-based logging on steep, hard-to-reach slopes — where many of our old-growth forests remain.

To be clear, MountainTrue is not against commercial logging, and we’re not concerned about the amount of logging permitted by the new forest plan. It’s essentially the same amount allowed by the old plan. Regardless of how much logging occurs — whether it’s the modest 800 acres annually of today or the eyebrow-raising 3,200-acre annual maximum, what matters most is where logging occurs. MountainTrue has provided detailed maps of existing old-growth communities and filed formal objections, and despite our best efforts, the Forest Service chose to expand the footprint of where logging can occur to 600,000 acres, more than half of the land of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. This includes 100,000 acres of natural heritage areas, roadless areas, and sensitive habitats where we will vigorously oppose any future logging projects. 

It doesn’t need to be this way. Logging is a critical part of Western North Carolina’s economy and can play an important role in establishing the kinds of wildlife habitat desired by local hunters. Half a million acres can provide more than enough timber harvests and early-successional habitat while still protecting our most treasured natural areas and recreational resources. A detailed blueprint for accomplishing this was provided to the Forest Service by the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership, a coalition that brought together recreation, conservation, civic, and business interests — including timber and paper industry representatives. 

Instead, the Forest Service devised a forest plan that seems designed to pit user-interest groups against each other by allowing logging in some of our most diverse forests and pristine backcountry areas. The agency also wants the right, as it is pushing through in the Southside Project, to cut existing old-growth forest, even though the Environmental Impact Statement for the planning process discloses that there is a minimum of a 300,000-acre deficit of old-growth on Forest Service Land alone, making it the most under-represented age class in the region compared to the average over the last few millennia. 

To paper over this egregious management strategy, the Forest Service has devised its own “designated old-growth network” which fails to include existing and well-documented old-growth areas and can change significantly from plan to plan. This scheme allows the Forest Service to place relatively young trees in the old-growth network until they are old enough to log profitably decades from now. It also flies in the face of President Biden’s executive order 14072 of April 22, 2022, which, in part, seeks to “conserve America’s mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands” and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to “define, identify, and complete an inventory of old-growth and mature forests on federal lands […]” That inventory is due this April, and, if done correctly, will include tens of thousands of acres that this Forest Plan leaves open to logging.

According to executive order 14072, it is the policy of the Biden Administration to “manage forests on Federal lands, which include many mature and old-growth forests, to promote their continued health and resilience; retain and enhance carbon storage; conserve biodiversity; mitigate the risk of wildfires; enhance climate resilience; enable subsistence and cultural uses; provide outdoor recreational opportunities; and promote sustainable local economic development.” That’s a vision of forest management that we wholeheartedly support and that this Forest Plan quite simply fails to accomplish. 

The Forest Service had the chance to unify the public behind a well-balanced Forest Plan. Instead, they sided with more narrowly aligned interests inside and outside the agency and, despite a 10-year planning process, kicked many difficult decisions down the road. But the fight for our forests is far from over. You can count on MountainTrue to continue working to protect the places we share.

For media inquiries, contact: Karim Olaechea, Deputy Director of Strategy & Communications 
Phone: 828-400-0768 | Email:

Helping A Member Save the Trees of the Asheville Muni Golf Course

Helping A Member Save the Trees of the Asheville Muni Golf Course

Helping A Member Save the Trees of the Asheville Muni Golf Course

On Saturday, December 3rd, 2022, I got an email from Nancy Casey, a MountainTrue member, about a proposal to cut 157 trees from the Asheville Municipal Golf Course. Nancy Casey is a resident of the Beverly Hills neighborhood and is active with the Blue Ridge Audubon. Nancy frequently walks and birds around the golf course. She can tell you what birds to expect at various times of the year at each hole and has documented some rare species, like brown-headed nuthatch and pine siskins, using the trees on the course, and knows where the local hawks nest there.

Nancy Casey

The Asheville Golf Course is a local treasure. It was constructed in 1927 and was the first golf course in the southeast to integrate in 1954. It remains an affordable and accessible course today. The old trees that line the golf course add historical significance. Trees over 100 years are common on the course, and some are over 200 years old. 

In addition to golf, the Municipal Course is a wonderful place to take a walk along shaded streets in the Beverly Hills neighborhood and is used by walkers, runners, and birders. I know the Asheville Golf Course as a nice place to forage for mushrooms amid the mature oak trees that line the course, so I was concerned when I looked into the details of the proposal. There were some very large trees on the list, and from what I know of the Municipal Golf Course, I suspected that some of them probably didn’t need to be removed. 

With a comment deadline looming on Dec 5th, I wrote a letter to the City Council and the Urban Forestry Commission asking for them to reconsider the plan. I also watched a recording of the December 5th Urban Forestry Commission meeting to learn more about the specifics. I then emailed Mark Foster, the Arborist for the City, and Chris Corl, general manager of special facilities for the City, and requested a site tour. Chris and Mark obliged, and Nancy, Bob Gale, and I met them for a tour on December 13. 

On the tour, we learned that the previous concessionaire for the Municipal Golf Course had been negligent with the grounds. The paved paths were in bad condition, and many of the greens and fairways were eroded with compacted soil and lacked grass. The city had received a large grant to spruce up the course, and part of that was to do needed tree work. Where reasonable minds differed on the proposal was that some of the trees were to be cut to allow more light for grass to grow. It seemed to me that most of the grass issues were due to poor soil conditions and trampling.

Josh Kelly takes a tree core sample to determine the age of a 120-year-old white oak that was saved from removal.

We also learned that the City Arborist did not nominate each tree for removal. As we visited each green and checked on the trees, Mark was disappointed to find that some of the trees had been misidentified and the reasons given for removal were not always accurate. There were some trees that needed to be removed for safety reasons that were not marked, and others marked for removal that were in good condition. At the end of the tour, Mark and Chris let us know that the list would be updated. 

In early January, a new list of tree work at the Municipal Golf Course was released, and 46 trees — mostly large, old oak trees — would no longer be cut down. While I still don’t agree with some of the trees that were removed, I think the final outcome was acceptable and a big improvement. Overall, the interactions with the City Staff were positive, and I was very impressed with their professionalism. Nancy’s activism and leadership were key for raising awareness in the community and turning out more than 100 concerned letters and emails. I would have been unaware of the controversy if not for her efforts. I think MountainTrue brought more expertise to the conversation.

While Nancy is the hero of this story, I’m glad I was able to help. Nancy said, “your work really helped turn the tide!” MountainTrue’s history is filled with normal people who banded together to make a difference. Even now, when MountainTrue’s paid staff is larger than ever, a big part of our job remains helping normal people protect the shared resources of their communities.

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Susan Bean on MountainTrue’s support of the missing middle housing study proposed by the City of Asheville: 


As an environmental advocacy group, MountainTrue recognizes the undeniable connection between the built environment and the natural environment. How we build in our cities and where people are able to live has a tremendous impact on our region’s farms and forests. The more choices people have about how close they can live to schools, jobs, and grocery stores, the more they can access the lifestyle that suits their needs best. 

By creating more housing options that are within walking distance of restaurants and bus routes and commercial centers, people will be better able to age in place or decrease their commute times. This kind of lifestyle is both attractive to a growing population and also benefits the environment through increased energy efficiency and decreased carbon emissions. The development of modest-sized, compactly built, energy-efficient housing within walking distance of jobs and services is one of the best things we can do to fight climate change. 

I hope this study will take into consideration concerns existing residents like me have about the prospects of gentrification and displacement, preservation of urban tree canopy, and local neighborhood character. However, I am also hopeful that considering such concerns from the start as we pursue the creation of more climate friendly housing options for people who want to find a home for themselves in our community, will allow for all of us to welcome new neighbors in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition.

I look forward to continuing to support the City of Asheville as it works to remove barriers to missing middle housing and seeks to provide more housing choice within our community for our neighbors who need places to live. Thank you for your consideration and for this opportunity to speak with you tonight.

Make your voice heard: Duke Energy’s rate hikes are unfair!

Make your voice heard: Duke Energy’s rate hikes are unfair!

Make your voice heard: Duke Energy’s rate hikes are unfair!

The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) recently approved the disappointing Carbon Plan, which gives Duke Energy the green light to pursue a combination of energy sources, including gas and nuclear, to achieve North Carolina’s carbon reduction goals. Now, before any concrete plan of action is presented, Duke Energy Progress is asking NCUC to approve rate hikes that will be imposed on customers for the next three consecutive years. This three-year rate structure was authorized as part of the legislation that also mandated the creation of the Carbon Plan.

You have a chance to make your voice heard! NCUC is hosting a series of public hearings across the state, and they kick off in the mountains on March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Haywood County Courthouse:

What: Duke Energy Progress Rate Hike Public Hearing

When: Monday, March 6, 2023, at 7:00 p.m.

Where: Haywood County Courthouse, 285 N. Main St, Courtroom 2-A, Waynesville, NC

Energy is getting more expensive, burdening everyone, especially low-income households. Last summer, customers experienced an average monthly energy bill increase of $10.58 due to rising gas prices. The following monthly increases are expected on the average residential electric bill if Duke Energy Progress gets its way: 

  • $14.72 per month starting fall 2023, followed by 
  • $5.62 per month in 2024, followed by
  • $5.21 per month in 2025 

By 2026, the average annual residential electric bill will be $306.06 higher than it is today. To put this in perspective, workers making minimum wage will have to work an extra two and a half weeks per year to pay their energy bills if this rate hike is approved. Duke Energy Progress customers already spend an average of 19% more on their electric bills than Duke Energy Carolinas customers. Why should Progress customers’ rates go up even more? Check this map to find out if you’re a Duke Progress or Duke Carolinas customer. 

Duke’s justification for the rate hikes is largely for new distribution and transmission grid upgrades. Making our grid more reliable is important, and we need to build out the power distribution grid to better accommodate new renewable energy development like wind and solar. But, in addition to building out a robust transmission grid, Duke needs to maximize investment in energy efficiency measures to help low-income customers offset rising energy costs. Duke now has the ability to use “performance-based ratemaking” mechanisms that incentivize clean energy investments to benefit both the utility and the public. Duke underutilized this opportunity in its rate hike application. NCUC should aggressively require that Duke’s profits be tied to achieving public policy goals such as low-income energy affordability, decarbonization, and investments in energy efficiency and distributed renewable energy resources.

We need to tell NCUC to minimize rate increases on customers, advance aggressive goals around energy efficiency, affordability, and renewable sources through performance-based ratemaking, and pursue other strategies to protect and support low-income customers from rising costs. Be there on March 6 to make your voice heard!

For more detailed talking points and pointers for how to engage in the hearing, click here. Thanks to our good partners at NC Sierra Club for pulling these together!

Swim Guide Sponsor Spotlight: Blue Ridge Tourist Court

Swim Guide Sponsor Spotlight: Blue Ridge Tourist Court

Swim Guide Sponsor Spotlight: Blue Ridge Tourist Court

Mira and Brian Williams made Boone, NC, their home 14 years ago after falling in love with the area over frequent trips during and after college. As Mira puts it, “We love the area, the community, and the mountains.” They are now the owners of Blue Ridge Tourist Court, a passion project they pursued after seeing the demise of many historic buildings in Boone. When they aren’t busy running the restored motel or raising their kids, Mira works as a CPA, and her husband, Brian, works as a contractor.

Supporters of MountainTrue since 2019, Mira and Brian sponsor the Brookshire Park Swim Guide site through Blue Ridge Tourist Court. “We thought it would be fun to sponsor a site near the motel. We feel that the work MountainTrue does to protect our waterways is crucial, and sponsoring a Swim Guide site ensures the safety of the waterway’s ecosystem. We watch how MountainTrue engages with our community and the wild space we want to protect, and the way they give back to the community and protect this area is really inspiring.”  

Mira and Brian, we’re so grateful for Blue Ridge Tourist Court’s sponsorship and all of your support. We couldn’t do the work we do without you! 

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, MountainTrue volunteers collect weekly water samples from popular recreational areas. The results are posted online before the weekend, so you know where it’s safe to swim. Swim Guide sponsors allow this important work to happen! Click here to learn more about our Swim Guide Program. 

If you’re interested in sponsoring a Swim Guide sampling site (sites can be sponsored by businesses OR individuals), contact If you want to become a MountainTrue member or make a general donation to support our work, please visit:


Septic System Facts & Tips

Septic System Facts & Tips

Septic System Facts & Tips

Here at MountainTrue, we’re all about taking practical steps to improve water quality and lower your environmental footprint at home. If you don’t live in close proximity to a city or town, chances are high that you have a septic system. Onsite septic systems treat wastewater on residential lots and usually include a concrete tank and a drain field. 

When used correctly, septic systems have many benefits. Proper use reduces the risk of diseases and exposure to harmful pathogens by treating wastewater before it reaches surface drinking water sources or waters used for recreation. Decentralized waste systems also lower the infrastructure and energy costs communities would otherwise put towards collecting and treating wastewater. 


How Septic Systems Work

Septic systems treat the wastewater going through your drains and slowly release wastewater into a drainage field to neutralize pathogens, pollutants, and other contaminants before the water transitions back into the natural water cycle. A typical system separates the solids and oils — the sludge — from the rest of the liquid waste — the effluent — which then exits the tank into the drain field through perforated pipes surrounded by gravel. The water percolates, filters, and purifies as it continues going down through the drainage field soil. Here’s a visual representation of a septic system in action.


Septic System Problems

Problems with septic systems usually arise as systems age or when maintenance is neglected. Septic tanks should be inspected and pumped every three to five years, depending on the household size. Because the sludge remains in the tank, it needs to be removed before it fills the tank and causes septic system failure. System failures can lead to costly repairs, hazardous waste overflows, and excess nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) infiltrating groundwater sources. If improperly treated sewage leaches into nearby drinking waters, it can cause severe illness to those who come in contact with the water.

Other potential issues can arise when improper waste products, such as harmful chemicals and grease/fats, are disposed of down the drain. Harmful chemicals can kill helpful bacteria and other organisms that break down the wastewater, and grease/fats can lead to clogged drains or pipes. Additionally, disposing of bulky food waste and slow decomposing materials down your drains can drastically increase the amount of waste buildup in your septic tank.

Microplastic dispersion into the environment is a little-known problem in which septic systems play a prominent role. Microplastics — pieces of plastic that continuously break down into smaller pieces over time — are usually too small to be filtered by gravel and sand. As a result, microplastics and their chemical additives often leach into surface water and groundwater. 

While plastic waste and litter contribute to microplastic pollution, many folks are unaware that personal care items and laundry can also be a source of microplastic pollution. Clothing items made of polyester, nylon, rayon, or spandex shed microfibers when washed. And even though microbeads were banned from rinse-off cosmetics in 2015, they are still allowed to be used in makeup, deodorants, and lotions. Individual consumers can mitigate household microplastic pollution by: 

  • Wearing clothes made from natural fibers and reducing consumption of clothing made from synthetic materials, when possible. 
  • Installing a microfiber filter on the household washing machine.
  • Washing clothing made from synthetic materials in laundry bags and/or throwing microplastic collection balls into laundry loads.
  • Doing laundry less often with fuller loads. 


How To Locate Your Septic Tank and Drain field

It’s important that you can identify the location of your septic tank on your property. The easiest way to find your septic tank is to obtain a copy of your septic system permit from the local health department. A septic system permit will indicate the approximate location of your tank, drain field, and potentially a secondary drainage area (only found if your home was built after the 1980s). 

You can also locate your tank by following the pipes that extend from your home into your yard. First, you’ll need to locate the main sewer outlet pipe, which is usually four inches in diameter and typically found in the basement or crawl space. Note where the pipe exits the house and go outside to the same location. Using a thin metal stake, probe every two feet or so, following the pipeline underground as closely as possible. Septic tanks are normally located 10-25 feet away from the house and are no closer than three feet. As soon as your probe strikes a flat concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene surface, you’ll know you’ve found your tank.

A septic tank’s lid may be visible above ground in most newer housing developments. If the septic tank lid is underground (common for older homes), you may be able to locate it by using a metal detector. Another alternative is to use a flushable transmitter — once flushed, it can be tracked to the inlet area of the septic tank.


Action Steps For a Safe and Effective Septic System

Here are nine important practices to consider when maintaining your own septic system: 

  1. Do not overload your system with water. Conserve water by avoiding excessive use and fixing leaky pipes and dripping faucets.
  2. Have solids pumped from your septic tank every three to five years. Maintenance schedules will depend on the tank size and the number of users.
  3. Keep the soil over the drain field covered with grass or other shallow-rooted plants to prevent erosion. Deep roots can clog systems. Maintain a healthy stand of grass to prevent erosion and excessive infiltration of water or ponding. 
  4. Do not drive on or otherwise compact the soil above the drain field.
  5. Flush only toilet tissue and human waste down the toilet. Septic systems are not designed to treat pet waste.
  6. Do not use toilet cleaners that hang in the tank, as they can corrode your toilet’s inner workings.
  7. When possible, refrain from using your garbage disposal. Do not dump coffee grounds, grease, oils, or fats down your drains.
  8. Do not use harsh household cleaners or put other toxic chemicals like bleach, paint, solvents, or pesticides down the drain.
  9. Learn the signs of a malfunctioning or failing system. Backed-up water in drains or toilets, abnormally green vegetation, soggy areas over the drain field, and a foul smell could all indicate system failure. 

Septic systems are excellent residential waste treatment options if they are properly maintained. Learn more by checking out the EPA’s SepticSmart program, and stay tuned for our upcoming MountainTrue University session! 


Is your septic system in need of some TLC? MountainTrue has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to provide septic repair funds to qualifying property owners in Buncombe, Cherokee, and Henderson counties! Click here to learn more and apply.