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Making a Difference in the Blue Ridge Mountains: MountainTrue and Sugar Hollow Solar Join Forces

Making a Difference in the Blue Ridge Mountains: MountainTrue and Sugar Hollow Solar Join Forces

Making a Difference in the Blue Ridge Mountains: MountainTrue and Sugar Hollow Solar Join Forces

Photos: MountainTrue Executive Director Bob Wagner (left) and Sugar Hollow Solar CEO and co-founder Doug Ager (right). 

Something exciting is brewing in the heart of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains — a new collaboration between MountainTrue, an organization deeply rooted in environmental activism, and Sugar Hollow Solar, a forward-thinking solar power company. This partnership isn’t just about harnessing the sun’s energy; it’s about fostering a community committed to a greener, more sustainable future.

 

Solar Power and Community Empowerment: A Winning Combination

From now until September 30, 2024, Sugar Hollow Solar is running an inspiring referral program. For every new customer who signs a solar contract based on your referral, Sugar Hollow Solar will generously donate $50 to MountainTrue. And that’s not all – as a token of appreciation, you, the referrer, will receive $250. But if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can opt to have the full $300 benefit go to MountainTrue, further boosting their vital environmental efforts.

 

More Than Just a Business

Doug Ager, the CEO and co-founder of Sugar Hollow Solar, puts it best: “We’re more than a business. We’re part of the community, committed to our planet.” This ethos is why Sugar Hollow Solar’s partnership with MountainTrue is such a perfect match. Together, we are working towards a clean energy future, a mission that MountainTrue has championed since its early days.

 

A Legacy of Environmental Protection

MountainTrue’s journey began in 1982 with the Western North Carolina Alliance’s (renamed MountainTrue after a merger in 2015) fight against oil and gas exploration in the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests. The organization has achieved significant victories in the years since, including stopping clear-cutting in Pisgah-Nantahala National Forests, preventing a nuclear waste dump near Leicester, and playing a key role in passing essential environmental legislation.

 

A Heartfelt Thanks

Bob Wagner, MountainTrue’s executive director, expresses profound gratitude to the team at Sugar Hollow Solar. He highlights Doug Ager’s commitment to public service, green job creation, and tackling climate change – core components of MountainTrue’s mission.

 

Join the Solar Movement

Since 2010, Sugar Hollow Solar has been instrumental in helping many Southern Blue Ridge mountain households switch to solar power, reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Their expertise in solar panel systems has made a significant impact across several counties — as of February 22, 2024, 977 home and business systems have been installed since 2010!

 

How to Get Involved

To be a part of this impactful program, visit Sugar Hollow Solar’s Referral Page, send an email to hello@sugarhollowsolar.com, or give them a call at (828) 776-9161. Together, we can make a difference in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond.

Press Release: MountainTrue Partners with Sugar Hollow Solar to Make a Positive Impact on the Environment

Press Release: MountainTrue Partners with Sugar Hollow Solar to Make a Positive Impact on the Environment

For immediate release: February 22, 2024

Solar Referral Program provides donations to MountainTrue — a local grassroots environmental organization.

Western North Carolina — MountainTrue, a local environmental nonprofit, is partnering with Sugar Hollow Solar to promote solar power and raise program funding to champion and protect resilient forests, clean waters, and healthy communities throughout the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. 

From now through September 30, 2024, for every new customer referral that signs a solar contract with Sugar Hollow Solar, the company will donate $50 to MountainTrue to help fund their work protecting our environment and provide the referrer with $250. Exceptionally generous referrers can have Sugar Hollow Solar contribute the full $300 referral benefit to MountainTrue. 

“At Sugar Hollow Solar, we’re more than a business,” says Doug Ager, Sugar Hollow Solar’s CEO and co-founder. “We pride ourselves on our unwavering commitment to our community and planet. That’s why Sugar Hollow Solar is thrilled to partner with MountainTrue — a grassroots organization that has been instrumental in moving our region beyond coal and toward a clean energy future. Through our referral program, we hope to raise awareness of and funding for them to continue doing their good work.”

MountainTrue was formed through a merger of three nonprofits in 2015 but has been working to protect our regions since the founding of the Western North Carolina Alliance in 1982 to fight oil and gas exploration in the Nantahala – Pisgah National Forests. Since that time, the organization has racked up an impressive list of successes, including stopping the practice of clear-cutting in the Asheville watershed and Pisgah-Nantahala National Forests, preventing the siting of a nuclear waste dump outside Leicester, NC, and helping to pass the Clean Smokestacks Act and the Coal Ash Management Act — which mandated that Duke Energy clean up its coal ash in Asheville and 13 other powerplants throughout North Carolina.    

“I want to thank the team at Sugar Hollow Solar,” says Bob Wagner, executive director at MountainTrue. “Doug Ager has a long family history of public service. With Sugar Hollow Solar, that mission has expanded to creating green jobs and tackling climate change — a central focus of our work.”   

Sugar Hollow Solar was founded in 2010 and has helped offset 21 million pounds of coal used by homes, businesses, and nonprofits, and has generated 27.95 gigawatts of clean energy — the equivalent of planting 330,000 trees. Sugar Hollow Solar serves the communities of Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. 

To learn more about how to participate in Sugar Hollow Solar’s referral program, visit sugarhollowsolar.com/introduce-a-friend, email hello@sugarhollowsolar.com, or reach out by phone at (828) 776-9161.

# # #

High Country Outreach Manager Position

High Country Outreach Manager Position

High Country Outreach Manager
Boone, NC
Apply Now

Position Description

MountainTrue is seeking an individual to fill an Outreach Manager position in our High Country Regional Office based in Boone, NC. This is a full-time position (40hrs/week). This person will be primarily responsible for community organizing, environmental outreach, and volunteer management for nonnative invasive plant (NNIP) control and other projects in the High Country region. The ideal candidate will be passionate about STEM education, community engagement, and habitat restoration. The NNIP work requires working alone and periodically coordinating/supervising volunteers to perform various control treatments on NNIP populations on public lands where MountainTrue works. The ideal candidate will have strong communication skills to train volunteers on NNIP identification, control methods, inventories, and safety. This position will report to the High Country Regional Director but will work closely with the High Country Watershed Coordinator on day-to-day activities. 

Responsibilities

  • Collaborate with community partners to conduct public education events 
  • Plan and schedule educational lessons with local school groups 
  • Support broader event planning in the High Country (livestaking, river clean-ups, river snorkeling, etc.)
  • Table at local community events 
  • Expand partnerships with local community groups across sustainability sectors 
  • Organize and plan annual volunteer appreciation event and assist with MountainTrue’s annual gathering 
  • Assist with occasional coordination needs of citizen science water quality programs 
  • Plan and host NNIP removal workdays within the New and Watauga Watersheds 
  • Foster partnerships with community leaders, organizations, and residents to build a strong network 
  • Work with other environmental organizations, NGOs, and stakeholders to form coalitions 
  • Mobilize community members for actions such as petitions and public hearings 
  • Utilize social media, newsletters, and community meetings to keep stakeholders informed and engaged 

Preferred qualifications/skills

  • Excellent written, oral, and interpersonal skills 
  • Ability to work across political, social, and economic lines
  • Experience working with communities of color is a plus 
  • Ability to make decisions in a changing environment and anticipate future needs
  • Comfortable speaking in front of small and large groups of diverse ages
  • Ability to meet physical demands of paddling, hiking and outdoor work (must be able to swim, or willing to learn) 
  • GIS skills for priority community mapping and project management (or willing to obtain) 
  • Wilderness First Aid and CPR Certification (or willing to obtain) 
  • NC Pesticide Applicator License (or willing to obtain) 
  • Organizing experience and training (or willing to obtain through Midwest Academy or other) 
  • Ability to learn quickly, thoroughly comprehend, and disseminate new STEM-related programmatic content 
  • Understanding of regional water quality/land use issues and connection to native biota 
  • Ability to work outdoors in a variety of conditions 
  • Fundraising experience, including grant writing and individual/business solicitations

Compensation & benefits

  • $44,720 annual salary 
  • Medical/Dental Benefits 
  • 4 weeks paid vacation 
  • Paid sabbatical after five years
  • Continuing Education 

How to Apply

Email resume, cover letter, and three references to High Country Regional Director Andy Hill at andy@mountaintrue.org

 

Application deadline: Friday, March 15, 2024

 

MountainTrue is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate among its employees or job applicants on the basis of race, ethnicity, creed, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, national origin, handicap, marital status, pregnancy or parental status, military/veteran status, or any other class protected by applicable state or federal law.

Tell Madison County to Oppose Dangerous Industrial Biomass Facilities

Tell Madison County to Oppose Dangerous Industrial Biomass Facilities

Tell Madison County to Oppose Dangerous Industrial Biomass Facilities

The Madison County Planning Board is expected to vote on whether to recommend changes to the county’s land-use code that would allow dangerous, industrial biomass facilities in Madison County. The proposed amendments to the county’s land-use ordinance open the door to industrial-sized biomass facilities that would emit more climate-changing carbon into the atmosphere, cause significant air pollution, and pose serious fire risks to nearby residents. 

Take Action: Email the Planning Board and County Commissioners and let them know you want a clean and safe Madison County.

BACKGROUND: 

MountainTrue has serious concerns about the current draft amendments regarding biomass facilities. As it stands, the definition is too broad and has the potential to create a giant loophole allowing anyone making any sort of value-added product out of any organic materials, including wood, for either commercial or private use, to be classified at a biomass facility. 

Here is the latest proposed definition that we have seen:  

A facility that converts biomass sources into value-added products for public or private use. Biomass includes but is not limited to, wood and wood processing waste, wood pellets, agricultural crops and waste materials, biogenic materials in municipal solid waste, animal manure, and human sewage.

Large Biomass Facility:

  1. Annual Biomass Throughput: A large biomass facility processes over 10,000 metric tons of biomass per year.
  2. Energy Production: A large biomass facility generates over 25,000 MWh or more energy annually.
  3. Number of Employees: A large biomass facility has over 100 employees
  4. Capital Investment Threshold: A large biomass facility requires an investment of over $10 million. 

This broad definition raises three key concerns:

  1. Inconsistencies in Regulation: The definition of “large biomass facility” appears to include activities already separately defined and regulated within the ordinance, such as sawmills and certain manufacturing facilities. This inconsistency in regulation creates confusion for residents, business owners, and the County in determining which set of rules applies to specific activities. 
  2. Potential for Unintended Consequences: An overly broad definition could inadvertently allow certain activities, such as a sawmill evolving into a wood pellet production facility, to escape more stringent permitting requirements. This could occur because nonconforming land uses (i.e., land uses that pre-date an ordinance amendment that makes them newly “nonconforming”) are typically allowed to continue as long as they do not change their primary use or expand significantly. Therefore, a clearer definition is needed to prevent such loopholes.
  3. Unfair Scope: The proposal’s distinction between “large” and “small” biomass facilities does not serve the public or the ordinance’s purposes. It would both allow industrial-scale facilities in residential areas while punishing truly “small” biomass land uses—especially under the currently overbroad definition of “biomass”—by requiring regular folks to go through an expensive and time-consuming set of rezoning and permitting processes. The ordinance should focus on making sure industrial biomass facilities are properly located without sweeping up landowners looking to make occasional, harmless use of collected waste materials. Failing to make this distinction may lead to unnecessary hostility towards environmental advocacy and regulation.

A More Refined Definition

To address these concerns and create a more precise and effective regulatory framework, we propose a more tailored definition of “large biomass facility.” Our suggested definition would:

  • Apply only to facilities that produce biomass products for specific off-site uses, such as electricity generation, heating, or transportation fuel.
  • Tailor the amendment so that if the facility combusts biomass on site, the definition applies only if any electricity generated is transmitted for off-site use.
  • Include wood pellet biomass facilities explicitly within the definition to ensure they are adequately regulated.
  • Maintain the broad definition of “biomass” while narrowing the scope of facilities that fall under this definition.

Additional Considerations

In addition to refining the definition of “large biomass facility” to help distinguish between different types of biomass-related activities, we support:

  • Requiring special use permits for biomass facilities,
  • Correcting what may have been a mistake in section 8.11.12 (“Noise”) that regulates facilities that generate noise pollution “up to 70 decibels.” We believe the county meant “more than 70 decibels. 

MountainTrue’s February 2024 E-Newsletter

MountainTrue’s February 2024 E-Newsletter

MountainTrue’s

February 2024 E-Newsletter

February news from MountainTrue’s four regional offices:  

Central Region News

Click here to read

High Country News

Click here to read

Southern Region News

Click here to read

Western Region News

Click here to read

Central Region News

A message from Executive Director Bob Wagner: 

Although still in the throes of winter, January has roared into February, and we can see spring on the not-too-distant horizon. The MountainTrue team is busy planning, preparing, and organizing this winter. Even when the nights are long, our staff and volunteers are addressing critical issues — like adding more housing while minimizing environmental impact; relaunching an improved French Broad Paddle Trail website; eliminating the prevalence of single-use plastics that are clogging our waterways and threatening human health; addressing a flawed Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan so that our children can experience old growth forests and rich ecosystems; and removing dams to restore river health. These campaigns often take years to plan and accomplish, but ultimately, they’re worth it to protect our amazing forests, rivers, and mountains. We couldn’t do this work without continued support from our volunteers, donors, and advocates — thank you for joining us on this journey in 2024!

Photo: Part of the Nantahala National Forest within the scope of the Southside Timber Project. Photo credit: Will Harlan, Center for Biological Diversity, via Michaela Gregory of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

MountainTrue & coalition partners file lawsuit to protect sensitive habitat in Nantahala National Forest

MountainTrue is part of a coalition of conservation groups that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to prevent the agency from logging a sensitive area of the Nantahala National Forest in violation of federal law. The lawsuit was filed on the morning of January 31 in the federal district court for the Western District of North Carolina by the Southern Environmental Law Center and addresses the Southside Timber Project, which aims to log areas near the Whitewater River in the Nantahala National Forest. The landscape boasts stunning waterfalls, towering oak trees, and critical habitat for rare species. Read more in this letter by Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly.

Photo: MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward (left) and Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly (right) with a 304-year-old white oak tree at risk of logging at the Crossover Project in Cherokee County.

Protecting old-growth forests

One of the major disappointments of the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan was the lack of any formal protection for existing old-growth forests, so it was great news that the Biden Administration announced on December 19, 2023, a proposal to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on federal lands nationwide. This largely means making those forests more resilient to wildfire in the arid West. Here in the East, that work is also important, but logging by the Forest Service itself is more commonly a threat than fire. The proposal is to amend all 128 Forest Plans to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on National Forest land. In the meantime, all actions that could negatively impact old-growth forests would need the review and approval of the Deputy Chief of the Forest Service. The comment period for the Executive Order closed on February 2, and MountainTrue submitted a petition signed by more than 600 supporters in favor of greater protections for old growth and technical comments in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

We’re excited to announce our 1st Native Plant & Shrub Sale in Asheville!

The sale will open online on February 15 and will run through March 31, 2024, featuring native plants and shrubs grown by Carolina Native Nursery (think azaleas and more!). Proceeds from the sale will benefit MountainTrue. Orders will be available for pickup on Thursday, April 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. ONLY, unless prior arrangements have been made. We hope you’re as excited about this as we are! What better way to get a head start on Earth Day than by showing your yard and resident pollinators a little local love?!

 

Save the date: cheers to trivia & good brews for MountainTrue

Beat the winter blues and join us for trivia and the River Arts District Brewing Company’s MountainTrue Beer Launch: Dream of Conscience at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Come drink some good brews and enjoy fresh pizza from Smokees Pizza.

 

Recording available: Why should environmentalists support building more housing?

MountainTrue’s Neighbors for More Neighbors WNC program recently hosted a free webinar to educate folks about the regional and environmental benefits of building small homes and multi-family buildings close to our town centers. If you missed the webinar or want to rewatch, check out the recording on our YouTube.

New French Broad Paddle Trail website

The French Broad Paddle Trail has a new website! Created and maintained by MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper program, the new website covers access, camping, and general recreation information for the French Broad River between Rosman, NC, and Newport, TN. Check it out at www.frenchbroadpaddle.com and contact Jack Henderson at jack@mountaintrue.org with questions. 

Hike with Get Outside WNC to support MountainTrue!

MountainTrue is honored to be the Winter 2024 Beneficiary of Get Outside WNC, a local organization created by West Henderson High School senior Jenna Watson. Jenna is raising money for MountainTrue this winter by leading group hikes on scenic trails. Jenna’s hikes cost $10 per person and run through March 3, so join her outside! Jenna started Get Outside WNC to expose hikers to the physical and mental benefits of hiking. She says, “By sharing the beauty of our local environment with both new and seasoned hikers, I hope to spread my passion for nature, build community, and raise awareness of the fragility of the WNC environment.” So far, Jenna has led hikes to raise money for MountainTrue at Bearwallow Mountain, Moore Cove, and Triple and High Falls. Get Outside WNC’s upcoming hikes include:

  •  Raven Cliff Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 18, near the North and South Carolina border in Caesars Head State Park
  • Twin Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, in Pisgah National Forest

Sign up and learn more about upcoming hikes here. And be sure to follow Jenna and Get Outside WNC on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube!

 

 

 

Green Sage x MountainTrue

MountainTrue is excited to be the 2024 recipient of Green Sage’s annual donation program. Bring your reusable Green Sage glass juice bottles and coffee mugs to any Green Sage location they’ll donate 10 cents to MountainTrue each time! Learn more about this program here.

 

Summer ‘24 internship opportunities

  1. French Broad Water Quality Internships: MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper and Clean Water team are hiring two French Broad Water Quality Interns for summer 2024. Both French Broad Water Quality Interns will assist our team with a variety of tasks needed to help improve ecosystem health within the French Broad River Basin. Both positions are based out of our Asheville office, with travel throughout the French Broad Watershed. Click here to learn more and apply by March 30!
  2. Western Region Water Quality Intern: MountainTrue’s Western Regional Office is hiring one Water Quality Intern for summer 2024. The intern’s primary responsibilities will be to assist with collection and analysis of weekly E. coli samples for our Swim Guide monitoring program; to manage the microplastics sampling program in the Hiwassee River basin; planning a summertime social event for all MountainTrue water program volunteers; and helping with educational events related to water quality in rivers, lakes, and streams. The intern must live within 50 miles of Murphy, NC, as the majority of their work will be within that 50-mile radius. Click here to learn more and apply by March 30!

 

Buncombe County Parks & Recreation wants your input

Buncombe County Parks and Recreation’s first systemwide plan is on the horizon. Community members can help guide the future of Buncombe County parks, recreational opportunities, greenways, trails, and open spaces.

Public community meeting: March 21 at Enka High School in Candler, NC (475 Enka Lake Road) from 5-7 p.m.

This community meeting will be interactive, so participants should come prepared to participate in various community parks and recreation, greenways, trails, and open space planning exercises. Language services will be available to Spanish-speaking community members.

 

 

Septic system repair grants available for qualifying property owners

MountainTrue has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and local health departments to provide septic system repair grants to qualifying property owners in Buncombe, Cherokee, Haywood, Henderson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Transylvania, and Yancey counties, as well as several other counties across WNC. Residents of rural areas outside of town are highly likely to have onsite septic systems. Problems with septic systems usually arise as systems age or when maintenance is neglected. Property owners: review eligibility requirements and apply for the repair program here.

High Country News

A message from High Country Regional Director & Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill: 

Winter is the perfect time to set the groundwork for the warmer months, and we’re so excited to have more events and outings than ever before in 2024. If you can’t wait until then, we understand, so join us on some of our upcoming volunteer workdays! We appreciate your support, whether it’s your time, money, or advocacy; you help us keep this good work going.

Photo: Part of the Nantahala National Forest within the scope of the Southside Timber Project. Photo credit: Will Harlan, Center for Biological Diversity, via Michaela Gregory of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

MountainTrue & coalition partners file lawsuit to protect sensitive habitat in Nantahala National Forest

MountainTrue is part of a coalition of conservation groups that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to prevent the agency from logging a sensitive area of the Nantahala National Forest in violation of federal law. The lawsuit was filed on the morning of January 31 in the federal district court for the Western District of North Carolina by the Southern Environmental Law Center and addresses the Southside Timber Project, which aims to log areas near the Whitewater River in the Nantahala National Forest. The landscape boasts stunning waterfalls, towering oak trees, and critical habitat for rare species. Read more in this letter by Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly.

Photo: MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward (left) and Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly (right) with a 304-year-old white oak tree at risk of logging at the Crossover Project in Cherokee County.

Protecting old-growth forests

One of the major disappointments of the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan was the lack of any formal protection for existing old-growth forests, so it was great news that the Biden Administration announced on December 19, 2023, a proposal to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on federal lands nationwide. This largely means making those forests more resilient to wildfire in the arid West. Here in the East, that work is also important, but logging by the Forest Service itself is more commonly a threat than fire. The proposal is to amend all 128 Forest Plans to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on National Forest land. In the meantime, all actions that could negatively impact old-growth forests would need the review and approval of the Deputy Chief of the Forest Service. The comment period for the Executive Order closed on February 2, and MountainTrue submitted a petition signed by more than 600 supporters in favor of greater protections for old growth and technical comments in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

Photo: Legendary High Country Intern Emma Crider stoked on planting live stakes at a recent volunteer workday.

Livestaking season is officially back and better than ever!

This season, we’re focusing our efforts on the old Ward’s Mill Dam site for continued post-removal restoration work. The dam has been removed for over three years now, and we’re thankful to be able to continue repairing the vegetative buffer thanks to support from TVA’s Shade Your Stream program and the Tennessee River Basin Network. Bring the family out to enjoy some much-needed outside time and meet our High Country team! Upcoming live staking workdays include: 

  • Friday, February (11AM-2PM)
  • Saturday, February 17 (10AM-2PM)
  • Saturday, March 23 (10 AM-2PM) 
  • Friday, April 5 (11-2PM)

 

Save the bats!

Check out this article in the Watauga Democrat: NCWRC accepting public comments on plan for endangered species found in Watauga, Avery. Learn more about how the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan negatively affects several endangered bat species in this press release published by MountainTrue and our conservation coalition partners last July. Stay tuned for more news about this and other public lands issues in upcoming MountainTrue e-newsletters and on our social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter).

Photo: Middle Fork Trash Trout (left) and Winklers Creek Trash Trout (right) after recent heavy storms.

Trash Trout updates

After some wicked January storms came through the High Country, our team bundled up and got out in the water to tend to our Trash Trouts. While they all remained stable and in place, some intense log jams prevented easy passage and efficient litter collection. We cleared out both the Winklers Creek and Middle Fork Trash Trouts just in time for another storm system to move in. Thank you to all of the partners, volunteers, and community members who allow us to continue monitoring these wonderful litter collection devices!

 

VWIN sampling in the High Country

While the High Country team was ringing in the new year, we were also organizing and welcoming our new group of VWIN (Volunteer Water Information Network) volunteers into the volunteer family! We know 2024 will be the best VWIN year yet, and we thank all of our volunteers who make community science programs like this possible! With new sites added and some new friends taking over, we have a fun and busy year ahead of us! 

VWIN Volunteers directly support widespread, frequent, and long-term surface water monitoring, allowing us to keep tabs on our overall water chemistry. If you would like to donate or become a backup volunteer to support the continued monitoring of our watershed, please contact hannah@mountaintrue.org.

 

Recording available: Why should environmentalists support building more housing?

MountainTrue’s Neighbors for More Neighbors WNC program recently hosted a free webinar to educate folks about the regional and environmental benefits of building small homes and multi-family buildings close to our town centers. If you missed the webinar or want to rewatch, check out the recording on our YouTube.

Southern Region News

Update: Clear Creek action alert

The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is currently accepting public comments on Draft NPDES Permit No. NC0090247 — which would violate the Clean Water Act by allowing Henderson County to construct a new wastewater treatment plant in Edneyville that could discharge up to 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day into a stream that is already listed as impaired and significantly impacted by pollution. Take action to protect water quality by:

💧Attending the public hearing in Hendersonville, NC, from 6-8 p.m. TODAY (February 5) and asking DEQ to deny Draft NPDES Permit No. NC0090247.

💧Sending a letter to DEQ to let them know you oppose the draft permit and a separate letter to the Henderson County Commission urging them to clean up Clear Creek and connect Edneyville to Hendersonville’s existing sewer system.

Photo: Part of the Nantahala National Forest within the scope of the Southside Timber Project. Photo credit: Will Harlan, Center for Biological Diversity, via Michaela Gregory of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

MountainTrue & coalition partners file lawsuit to protect sensitive habitat in Nantahala National Forest

MountainTrue is part of a coalition of conservation groups that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to prevent the agency from logging a sensitive area of the Nantahala National Forest in violation of federal law. The lawsuit was filed on the morning of January 31 in the federal district court for the Western District of North Carolina by the Southern Environmental Law Center and addresses the Southside Timber Project, which aims to log areas near the Whitewater River in the Nantahala National Forest. The landscape boasts stunning waterfalls, towering oak trees, and critical habitat for rare species. Read more in this letter by Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly.

Photo: MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward (left) and Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly (right) with a 304-year-old white oak tree at risk of logging at the Crossover Project in Cherokee County.

Protecting old-growth forests

One of the major disappointments of the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan was the lack of any formal protection for existing old-growth forests, so it was great news that the Biden Administration announced on December 19, 2023, a proposal to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on federal lands nationwide. This largely means making those forests more resilient to wildfire in the arid West. Here in the East, that work is also important, but logging by the Forest Service itself is more commonly a threat than fire. The proposal is to amend all 128 Forest Plans to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on National Forest land. In the meantime, all actions that could negatively impact old-growth forests would need the review and approval of the Deputy Chief of the Forest Service. The comment period for the Executive Order closed on February 2, and MountainTrue submitted a petition signed by more than 600 supporters in favor of greater protections for old growth and technical comments in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

Photo: Fresh sand deposited on Lawndale swimming beach after flooding in early January. Photo by David Caldwell.

Mother Nature brings abundance to greenway construction site

“Several years ago, the Stagecoach Greenway was just a hope and a dream. Now, the Lawndale trail is well on its way to becoming a reality. The Lawndale park, the trail’s southern terminus, is currently under construction with a tentative grand opening date in May.” Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell visited the site during a storm on January 9 that delivered five inches of rain to the First Broad River basin. The river in Lawndale rose from 1.2 feet that morning to 16.6 feet that evening, inundating the site of Lawndale Park. The floodwaters did minor damage to some infrastructure but also brought a fresh new deep layer of white sand to the beach that will open for visitors this summer!

 

 

Welcoming our newest MountainTrue team member

Join us in giving a warm welcome to the newest addition to our Southern Regional Office team, Oliva Gray! Olivia is currently serving as our NC Climate Action Corps Community Stewardship Coordinator and will apply her knowledge of food systems to assist Green Riverkeeper Erica Shanks and the Southern Region team in accomplishing MountainTrue’s sustainable agriculture goals. Olivia graduated from the State University of New York at Binghamton with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Economics. Throughout college, she interned at a number of regenerative nonprofit farms and fell in love with the environmental nonprofit world. Upon graduating, she landed her first AmeriCorps position with the University of Hawai’i Maui College, where she focused on campus and county-wide food security efforts. Welcome, Olivia!

 

 

Hike with Get Outside WNC to support MountainTrue!

MountainTrue is honored to be the Winter 2024 Beneficiary of Get Outside WNC, a local organization created by West Henderson High School senior Jenna Watson. Jenna is raising money for MountainTrue this winter by leading group hikes on scenic trails. Jenna’s hikes cost $10 per person and run through March 3, so join her outside! Jenna started Get Outside WNC to expose hikers to the physical and mental benefits of hiking. She says, “By sharing the beauty of our local environment with both new and seasoned hikers, I hope to spread my passion for nature, build community, and raise awareness of the fragility of the WNC environment.” So far, Jenna has led hikes to raise money for MountainTrue at Bearwallow Mountain, Moore Cove, and Triple and High Falls. Get Outside WNC’s upcoming hikes include:

  •  Raven Cliff Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 18, near the North and South Carolina border in Caesars Head State Park
  • Twin Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, in Pisgah National Forest

Sign up and learn more about upcoming hikes here. And be sure to follow Jenna and Get Outside WNC on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube!

 

Summer ‘24 internships with our French Broad Riverkeeper team

MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper and Clean Water team are hiring two French Broad Water Quality Interns for summer 2024. Both French Broad Water Quality Interns will assist our team with a variety of tasks needed to help improve ecosystem health within the French Broad River Basin. Both positions are based out of our Asheville office, with travel throughout the French Broad Watershed. Click here to learn more and apply by March 30!

 

 

New French Broad Paddle Trail website

The French Broad Paddle Trail has a new website! Created and maintained by MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper program, the new website covers access, camping, and general recreation information for the French Broad River between Rosman, NC, and Newport, TN. Check it out at www.frenchbroadpaddle.com and contact Jack Henderson at jack@mountaintrue.org with questions.

 

Hendersonville Comprehensive Plan: Gen H Open House

The final Gen H Open House will be held next Tuesday, February 13, from 4-6 p.m. at the Henderson Public Library (301 N Washington Street). At the event, you can provide input on possible land use scenarios, see ideas for character areas that will describe how land uses translate into the character or the look and feel of places in the community, provide ideas for key focus areas within the city, and review the goals and vision for the Gen H plan. Learn more about the Gen H Plan here.

 

Septic system repair grants available for qualifying property owners

MountainTrue has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and local health departments to provide septic system repair grants to qualifying property owners in Buncombe, Cherokee, Haywood, Henderson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Transylvania, and Yancey counties, as well as several other counties across WNC. Residents of rural areas outside of town are highly likely to have onsite septic systems. Problems with septic systems usually arise as systems age or when maintenance is neglected. Property owners: review eligibility requirements and apply for the repair program here.

 

Recording available: Why should environmentalists support building more housing?

MountainTrue’s Neighbors for More Neighbors WNC program recently hosted a free webinar to educate folks about the regional and environmental benefits of building small homes and multi-family buildings close to our town centers. If you missed the webinar or want to rewatch, check out the recording on our YouTube.

New French Broad Paddle Trail website

The French Broad Paddle Trail has a new website! Created and maintained by MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper program, the new website covers access, camping, and general recreation information for the French Broad River between Rosman, NC, and Newport, TN. Check it out at www.frenchbroadpaddle.com and contact Jack Henderson at jack@mountaintrue.org with questions. 

Western Region News

A message from Western Regional Director Callie Moore: 

A member recently shared a weekly reflection by Rev. Susan Sparks called “The Hidden Secret of Winter Trees,” which really resonated with me. Some people don’t appreciate our majestic hardwood forests in winter, but I love being able to see every peak and valley with a clarity you just can’t get with spring and summer foliage. The trees spend the winter months building root systems and storing up energy. Rev. Sparks stated it beautifully when she said, “We always think of the season of spring as the beginning of life, but in fact, spring is not the beginning. It’s the manifestation of the transformation happening inside those great trees right now, in the winter.” 

This winter at MountainTrue, we’re busy clearing nonnative invasive plants, installing live stakes, and preparing for spring. We’re also taking time to celebrate at our annual Watershed Gala and getting some hikes in before the weather heats up again. I hope you’ll take some time in February to appreciate those bare winter trees and join us as we build our roots in preparation for spring. Thank you for being MountainTrue!

Hiwassee Watershed Gala set for February 29, online auction begins 10 days prior

The 16th Annual Hiwassee Watershed Gala will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 29, 2024, at the Charles Suber Banquet Hall at Young Harris College. The Gala is an upscale social gathering that celebrates good water quality still being measured in many rivers, lakes, and streams and recognizes those who work to sustain it, including the 2024 Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner, John Kay of Young Harris, GA. 

This year’s event will be shorter and slightly less formal, featuring a menu of heavy hors d’oeuvres instead of a plated meal. The online auction that begins at noon on February 19 will transition to an in-person silent auction during the event. Popular local musician Troy Underwood will provide his bluesy, soul, and folk sound for the evening. After the award presentation, a few select items will be auctioned live by local auctioneer and entertainer Tim Ryan. 

Wednesday, February 21, is the deadline for purchasing tickets. Buy yours today! There’s still time to sponsor or donate auction items for the event, and a few volunteers are still needed (half-price tickets!). Email Callie Moore to participate in any of these ways.

Photo: Part of the Nantahala National Forest within the scope of the Southside Timber Project. Photo credit: Will Harlan, Center for Biological Diversity, via Michaela Gregory of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

MountainTrue & coalition partners file lawsuit to protect sensitive habitat in Nantahala National Forest

MountainTrue is part of a coalition of conservation groups that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service to prevent the agency from logging a sensitive area of the Nantahala National Forest in violation of federal law. The lawsuit was filed on the morning of January 31 in the federal district court for the Western District of North Carolina by the Southern Environmental Law Center and addresses the Southside Timber Project, which aims to log areas near the Whitewater River in the Nantahala National Forest. The landscape boasts stunning waterfalls, towering oak trees, and critical habitat for rare species. Read more in this letter by Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly.

Photo: MountainTrue Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward (left) and Public Lands Field Biologist Josh Kelly (right) with a 304-year-old white oak tree at risk of logging at the Crossover Project in Cherokee County.

Protecting old-growth forests

One of the major disappointments of the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan was the lack of any formal protection for existing old-growth forests, so it was great news that the Biden Administration announced on December 19, 2023, a proposal to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on federal lands nationwide. This largely means making those forests more resilient to wildfire in the arid West. Here in the East, that work is also important, but logging by the Forest Service itself is more commonly a threat than fire. The proposal is to amend all 128 Forest Plans to increase the protection and conservation of old-growth forests on National Forest land. In the meantime, all actions that could negatively impact old-growth forests would need the review and approval of the Deputy Chief of the Forest Service. The comment period for the Executive Order closed on February 2, and MountainTrue submitted a petition signed by more than 600 supporters in favor of greater protections for old growth and technical comments in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

Fundraising for Lake Chatuge parrot feather treatment

MountainTrue is pleased to announce a cooperative project with SaveLakeChatuge.org to address the invasive aquatic weeds that have infested the south end of Lake Chatuge in Towns County, GA, for the past two summers. Parrot feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) is a nonnative aquatic plant that poses a significant threat to the native flora and fauna of Lake Chatuge. It can rapidly colonize water bodies, outcompeting native vegetation, disrupting the natural habitat, and impeding recreational activities. Recognizing that professional treatment of the infestation this year is of the utmost importance to controlling the spread and recognizing that government funding may not be available to start treatment at the recommended time, MountainTrue and project partners are working to collect private donations to fund the treatment plan. Click here to access MountainTrue’s secure project donation page to help! All donations are tax-deductible.

Photo: Volunteers work to clear nonnative invasive plants along the Jackson Co. Greenway in Cullowhee, NC.

Volunteer opportunities continue in Jackson County

Volunteer workdays to control nonnative invasive plants and restore native habitat at the Jackson County Greenway continue every second Friday, and on Saturday, March 16, from 1-4 p.m. Our partners for these events include Mainspring Conservation Trust, Jackson County Parks & Recreation, and the WCU Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. No prior experience is necessary; we’ll provide tools and training. Please register in advance so that we’ll have enough tools, gloves, etc. 

We’re also in need of volunteers to collect water samples from area streams for microplastic analysis on a quarterly basis. Email AmeriCorps service member Eve Davis to volunteer.

Photo: Volunteers pause for a photo before installing live stakes at the Union Co. Farmers Market on Jan 26, 2024. Also pictured are Market Manager, Dustin Rogers, and MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward, who led the workday.

Successful live staking workday at Union County Farmers Market

Volunteers, including several members of Sharp Memorial UMC in Young Harris, GA, installed approximately 1,000 live stakes of silky dogwood along a small tributary to Butternut Creek at the Union County Farmers Market in Blairsville, GA, on January 26. Live staking involves taking dormant cuttings of a living tree and planting them along the edge of a waterway. Around 80% or more of these stakes will sprout into living shrubs this spring, providing shade and erosion control for the stream. The next Western Region planting workday is set for Wednesday, February 14, at Island Park in Bryson City, NC. Click here to learn more and register.

 

Summer ‘24 internship opportunity

MountainTrue’s Western Regional Office is hiring a Western Region Water Quality Intern for summer 2024. The intern’s primary responsibilities will be to assist with collection and analysis of weekly E. coli samples for our Swim Guide monitoring program; to manage the microplastics sampling program in the Hiwassee River basin; planning a summertime social event for all MountainTrue water program volunteers; and helping with educational events related to water quality in rivers, lakes, and streams. The intern must live within 50 miles of Murphy, NC, as the majority of their work will be within that 50-mile radius. Click here to learn more and apply by March 30!

 

Septic system repair grants available for qualifying property owners

MountainTrue has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and local health departments to provide septic system repair grants to qualifying property owners in Cherokee County and others across WNC. Residents of rural areas outside of town are highly likely to have onsite septic systems. Problems with septic systems usually arise as systems age or when maintenance is neglected. Cherokee County is being prioritized because a long stretch of the Valley River is not safe for swimming due to bacterial contamination and leaking septic systems in older neighborhoods has been identified as one part of the problem. Macon County is also being prioritized based on new Swim Guide data in the Little Tennessee River in Franklin. Property owners: review eligibility requirements and apply for the repair program here.

 

Recording available: Why should environmentalists support building more housing?

MountainTrue’s Neighbors for More Neighbors WNC program recently hosted a free webinar to educate folks about the regional and environmental benefits of building small homes and multi-family buildings close to our town centers. If you missed the webinar or want to rewatch, check out the recording on our YouTube.

Hike With Get Outside WNC to Support MountainTrue This Winter!

Hike With Get Outside WNC to Support MountainTrue This Winter!

Hike With Get Outside WNC to Support MountainTrue This Winter!

 

 

MountainTrue is honored to be the Winter 2024 Beneficiary of Get Outside WNC, a local organization created by West Henderson High School senior Jenna Watson. Jenna is raising money for MountainTrue this winter by leading group hikes on scenic trails. Jenna’s hikes cost $10 per person and run through March 3, so join her outside!

     

Jenna started Get Outside WNC to expose hikers to the physical and mental benefits of hiking. She says, “By sharing the beauty of our local environment with both new and seasoned hikers, I hope to spread my passion for nature, build community, and raise awareness of the fragility of the WNC environment.” 

When asked why she chose MountainTrue as Get Outside WNC’s 2024 Winter Beneficiary, Jenna said, “MountainTrue has left an immeasurable impact on WNC. First learning about the group at a recent showing of The River Runs On, I discovered how much they’ve contributed to the conservation efforts of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. From their involvement in the lawsuit against the problematic U.S. Forest Service management plan for the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests to their leadership of the Asheville Beyond Coal Campaign, MountainTrue has protected our local environment for over 40 years. With a passionate group of employees truly striving for change, I loved the idea of working with and raising money for this awesome group of people.” 

 

So far, Jenna has led hikes to raise money for MountainTrue at Bearwallow Mountain and Moore Cove. Get Outside WNC’s upcoming hikes include:

  • Triple and High Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 4, in Hendersonville, NC
  • Raven Cliff Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 18, near the North and South Carolina border in Caesars Head State Park
  • Twin Falls at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, in Pisgah National Forest

 

Sign up and learn more about upcoming hikes here. And be sure to follow Jenna and Get Outside WNC on InstagramTikTok, and YouTube