MT Raleigh: Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

MT Raleigh: Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

MT Raleigh: Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

Approval of a new state budget is near the top of the North Carolina General Assembly’s To-Do list every year.

And ensuring that the budget includes investments for Western North Carolina’s natural resources is a big part of MountainTrue’s legislative agenda.

We got an early read on how our budget priorities may fare this year recently when the North Carolina Senate approved its version of the state’s new spending plan a few weeks ago. The news – so far anyway – is pretty good.

The Senate budget includes some of our top priorities, including recurring funding to maintain the state’s landslide hazard mapping efforts in our region; funding to identify and address failing septic systems that are polluting rivers and streams; and a constellation of conservation investments to restore regional waters and make them more accessible to the public.

Take Action for the Environment

We need your help to win support for much-needed funding to clean up WNC rivers and protect our environment.

Some of the more recognizable investments include $12 million for the new Pisgah View State Park in Buncombe County and $7.5 million for removal of the Big Hungry Dam on the Green River in Henderson County — one of the most expensive and long-sought dam removal projects in the state.

Our team began meeting with legislators about our budget priorities months ago, so it’s great to see some of that work pay off with funding for a number of those projects included. But we would be remiss if we did not thank the legislators who helped with this success — particularly Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County.

Edwards is one of the chairs of a key Senate appropriations committee with responsibility for natural resources investments. He’s been a strong ally of MountainTrue’s efforts to address water quality problems — including E. Coli — in our region and to find the funding for a variety of other investments.

More good news: an important open space conservation fund also gets a big boost under the Senate budget. Last year the state’s Land and Water Conservation Fund provided $21 million in grants. Under the Senate plan, the Fund would receive $73.2 million in this fiscal year and $53.2 million next year. Trust funds for farmland preservation and our state parks system also got big boosts.

While the Senate budget is a good first step, we hope that House budget writers will build on this success and fund two big-ticket items that the Senate did not. WNC urgently needs funding to help farmers pay for fencing and other “best management practices” that will keep cows and stormwater runoff out of rivers and our waters free of E. Coli. Statewide demand for these programs far outstrips the availability of these funds. Likewise, funding to help property owners and local governments upgrade septic and wastewater systems to reduce water pollution in our region are also in great demand.

These two programs need millions of dollars of new investment.

For more information about MountainTrue’s budget priorities, give this document a look (pdf).

With the budget process in Raleigh in full swing, you can help us advocate for these investments. Use the form below to thank Sen. Edwards for his help and encourage House members to build on the Senate’s investments.

Finally — on a different note — many of you have likely heard about the big energy bill now moving at the legislature. At MountainTrue, we have serious concerns about the bill in its current form and are working with many other groups to fashion a much better solution. Look for updates about this issue in an upcoming newsletter.

Thanks for being part of MountainTrue’s advocacy efforts – together, we are helping bring millions of dollars to WNC to improve water quality and expand public access to our rivers and streams.


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.

Sarah Ogletree Hired as the Next Director of the Creation Care Alliance

Sarah Ogletree Hired as the Next Director of the Creation Care Alliance

Sarah Ogletree Hired as the Next Director of the Creation Care Alliance

The Creation Care Alliance is pleased to announce that Sarah Ogletree will be our next director.

Sarah comes to us from our close partner, NC Interfaith Power and Light, where she has been working for the last three years, serving most recently as a program coordinator gaining experience in the kind of work that she will be doing to expand the work and reach of the Creation Care Alliance – building relationships with faith communities, organizing webinars and events, conducting fundraising, managing communications, recruiting volunteers, and involving youth. 

Sarah holds a Masters of Divinity from Wake Forest University School of Divinity, where she focused her studies on faith and ecology. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University. Since then, Sarah has worked at the intersection of faith, ecology, and Creation Care at United Methodist Churches in Cullowhee and Winston-Salem, Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, First Baptist Church in Sylva, and here with the Creation Care Alliance back in 2017. Her dedication to seeking justice for both people and planet shines through in all aspects of her life, and she has consistently been recognized with awards for her leadership, dedication and excellence. Notably, she was the recipient of the national 2018 Emerging Earth Care Leader Award from Presbyterians for Earth Care and was named a 2019 Re:Generate Fellow.

In her free time, Sarah enjoys planting flowers, singing, and playing the fiddle with her husband, William. She is a fan of snuggling up on the couch to read southern Appalachian novels and also loves exploring with her small but mighty dog, Bo. Sarah added “I am so thrilled to be joining the Creation Care Alliance team. The opportunity to do the work of faith-based ecological justice in the region that has made me who I am is an immense blessing. I look forward to getting to know each of the wonderful community members who, through the prayers of their hearts and hands, have made CCA what it is today.”

MountainTrue Co-Director Bob Wagner shared that “Sarah brings wisdom of growing up in Western North Carolina, training and experience that includes a divinity degree and work with partner agencies, a passion for creation care, and charisma that draws people into caring about our environment. This work is her life’s calling and we are thrilled to welcome her to our staff.”


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.

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County has won the 2021 Bioblitz over Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species.

There were several notable performers in the Bioblitz, with 14 people making over 50 observations! The top three participants were Max Ramey (643 observations, 455 species; Watauga and Transylvania), Tim Lewis (408 observations, 323 species; Jackson), and Janaye Houghton (289 observations, 276 species; Jackson).

MountainTrue staff selected several people for recognition for their outstanding participation in the Bioblitz. Winners will receive gift certificates for local conservation-friendly businesses.

Max Ramey, as previously noted, was stellar and took home awards for Most Observations, Most Observations in Watauga County, and Best Observation for a stunning image of a Hellbender (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82943347).

Tim Lewis was recognized for Most Observations in Jackson County and Sherry Downing won Most Observations for Transylvania County. Scott Persons got the award for Best Bird Observation for a crisp image of an Indigo Bunting. (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82101741)

Erin Martin won Best Fungal Observation for a marvelously textured photo of the Common Toadskin Lichen (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82589987)

Janaye Houghton won Best Arthropod Observation for an otherworldly image of a Spittlebug (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82367166). 

The participation in the 2021 MountainTrue Bioblitz was phenomenal! It’s inspiring to see so many people learning about and appreciating the incredible diversity of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoyed this year’s MountainTrue Bioblitz, stay tuned for next year. We plan to have many more group and in-person opportunities at the next Bioblitz. 


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.

Celebrate Juneteenth with Black Media and Stories About the Struggle for Freedom

Celebrate Juneteenth with Black Media and Stories About the Struggle for Freedom

Celebrate Juneteenth with Black Media and Stories About the Struggle for Freedom

Image credit: The late Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Disney

This Saturday is Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery. The story of Juneteenth goes back to when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom on June 19, 1895 — two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.

Since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, MountainTrue will be observing the day on Friday, and our offices will be closed for a long weekend. To help celebrate the end of American slavery, MountainTrue staff offer up some of our favorite movies, books and podcasts that tackle the issues of race, empowerment and equity.

Susan Bean, our Director of Engagement, recommends the 2016 documentary film “I Am Not Your Negro” by Raoul Peck. The film is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House and explores the history of racism in the United States.

For a fist-pumping blockbuster that still offers a lot to think about, Susan also recommends “Black Panther.” The Marvel superhero flick features an almost entirely Black cast, grapples with challenging issues facing people of African descent, both in America and in Africa, and is highly entertaining. Western Regional Director Callie Moore chimed into our email thread to second this recommendation.

Susan also suggests “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a 2014 article in The Atlantic magazine that lays out a thoughtful and compelling case for why America needs to reckon with the question of what we owe to the descendants of enslaved people in this country.

AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator Grace Fuchs recommends the book Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage by William Loren Katz. This accessible nonfiction work dives into the often-overlooked history of mixed Blacks and Natives and brings to light the challenges of blood quantum laws, marriage laws and slavery. Parts of the book focus on South Eastern Tribes, so it’s locally relevant too.

Forest Keeper Coordinator Tamia Dame recommends the Netflix film 13th, a thought-provoking documentary that analyzes the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S prison boom; Judas and the Black Messiah, the Oscar-winning biopic of Black Panther Fred Hampton; and the podcasts Code Switch and Louder Than A Riot on NPR and Resistance by Gimlet media. Tamia extolls, “The three podcasts are phenomenal, but Louder Than a Riot might be my favorite. For both Resistance and Louder, I’d recommend listening to them in their entireties.”

Communications Director Karim Olaechea recommends the four-part HBO series “Exterminate All the Brutes,” in which filmmaker and activist Raoul Peck mixes documentary, personal stories, and historical reenactment to tell the history of white supremacy, slavery, and colonialism. Karim also recommends “King In The Wilderness,” a documentary by Peter W. Kunhardt that explores how Martin Luther King Jr. followed his heart and put his life on the line to expand the fight for civil rights into a Poor People’s Campaign against racism, war, and poverty.

Finally, Healthy Communities Director Chris Joyell chimes in with a simple but very appropriate recommendation: “I realized that I have never read the actual text of the Emancipation Proclamation. I find it really interesting that Lincoln framed it as a wartime measure necessary to suppress the rebellion. I’m embarrassed to say that I thought the proclamation was the catalyst for the Civil War, and the attack on Ft. Sumter was a response to that proclamation. Instead, Lincoln delivers this almost two years into the war.”

We hope this list offers plenty of inspiration for your Juneteenth weekend. Have yourself a happy Emancipation Day!


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.

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Volunteers have worked hard for six months to hold off The Bluffs. Now we need your help!

Help fight a planned mega-development that would be built on 80 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River.

Here’s How You Can Take Action:

UPDATE: The Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments hearing of the Bluffs Issue that was scheduled for Thursday, June 24 meeting has been POSTPONED for 60 days. Once a new hearing is scheduled, we will send an email to let you know. 
1. Attend the Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments meeting on Thursday, June 24 and wear green! It’s important that we have a large turnout of people that oppose the Bluffs at this meeting.

What: Woodfin Town Board of Adjustments In-Person Meeting
When: Thursday, June 24 at 6:30 pm
Where: Woodfin Community Center
20 Community Center
Woodfin, NC 28804

2. Donate to the Richmond Hill & River Rescue GoFundMe page. All financial contributions will help with the costs of hiring a stormwater engineer to analyze the full extent of the development’s potential impact to the French Broad River. To donate directly through MountainTrue, list your donation as restricted for Richmond Hill & River Rescue.

What else should you know?

The proposal: Strategic Real Investment Partners LLC, a Tampa, Florida-based developer has submitted plans to construct 1,545 luxury residential condo units in Woodfin adjacent to Richmond Hill Park and on the banks of the French Broad River.

The proposed development would be built on extremely steep slopes, and the developer has not agreed to the higher level of stormwater management at this site that we know is necessary to protect the health of the river.

MountainTrue opposes this project in its current form because of the potential impacts to places we all share like the French Broad River, Richmond Hill Park and roads unsuited for the additional increased traffic.

  • A massive luxury housing project like this will only make our region even less affordable. Studies show that building new luxury housing pushes up rents in surrounding neighborhoods and increases burdens on lower-income households.
  • Traffic will increase dramatically, affecting safety and planned multimodal improvements. The developer’s own traffic engineers estimate this development will generate well over 10,000 trips a day. These cars would use narrow, winding residential streets and Riverside Drive unless a proposed new bridge over the French Broad River is built.
  • The project could endanger rare salamander species. Neighboring Richmond Hill Park is home to two species designated by North Carolina as of “Special Concern” — the Mole Salamander and the Southern Zigzag Salamander. This property contains similar habitat so these salamanders could be present there as well.  We are unaware of any studies or wildlife inventories done in the project area.
  • The development will pollute the French Broad River. Removing trees and ground cover, grading steep slopes, and paving roads and parking lots will lead to polluted stormwater runoff into the French Broad River.  
  • Increased storm water runoff would endanger river recreation and public health. The project would be just upstream from a proposed $18 million whitewater wave and recreation park — a significant public investment.

Send in your comments to ask the Woodfin Town Commission to ensure the following:

  1. For this project to move forward in a responsible manner, approval and permits for the construction of a new bridge over the French Broad River must be in hand before the developer breaks ground to reduce neighborhood traffic safety concerns and potential environmental impacts.
  2. The Developer agrees to additional stormwater measures that will protect water quality in the French Broad River.
  3. The Developer agrees to a forested buffer between the new development and the Richmond Hill Neighborhood.
  4. Woodfin’s development ordinances should be updated to ensure that future projects reflect the type of growth that residents want, not just what is easiest and most profitable for developers.

Commission members are: Adrienne Isenhower, planning director; Michael Saunders, planning staff; Mayor Jerry Vehaun; Woodfin Commissioners Debbie Glazentanner, Jackie J. Bryson, Donald Honeycutt, Donald Hensley, Ronnie Lunsford, and Jim Angel. Letters for public comment should be sent to clerk@woodfin-nc.gov. Public comment can also be made by calling 828-253-4887.


The backbone of MountainTrue is member participation. Your membership connects you with vital information, strengthens the MountainTrue voice to policy makers, and financially supports our work.

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

The US Forest Service is proposing a 1,500-acre timber sale in the Snowbird Mountains in Nantahala National Forest that would log documented old-growth stands, steep headwaters of pristine streams, and areas recognized by the state of North Carolina for their outstanding biodiversity and healthy forests.

Act now and tell the forest service to fix their proposal and protect our natural heritage.

This is the latest in a series of bad faith projects on the Nantahala National Forest that propose road building and timber harvest in some of the wildest and healthiest forests in our region. The Crossover Project would prejudice the new Forest Plan against the protection of old-growth forests, rare species, and backcountry areas and put water supply watersheds at risk. This is not what we consider a “collaborative” project that furthers ecological restoration for Nantahala National Forest.

Josh Kelly, MountainTrue’s field biologist explains: “The Forest Service worked with a broad group of stakeholders, throughout the forest management plan process. With one hand, they assure us that they take collaboration and our input seriously, then with the other hand they draw up these plans that plainly contradict the recommendations of hunters, hikers, anglers, equestrians, timber companies and other forest users. This is an old-school timber sale that targets the most sensitive and controversial areas for logging. If this project represents Nantahala National Forest’s priorities for the next 20 years, everyone should be very concerned, not just because of the damage it would do to the land, but because of the lack of relevancy, it would ensure for the agency. ”

The Crossover Timber Project would log 158 acres of the Ash Cove Backcountry Area which was proposed for Backcountry Management in Alternative C in the new forest plan and endorsed by the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. Commercial logging and building logging roads are incompatible with the Backcountry Management Area. The proposal for Crossover, following on the heels of a similar decision in the Buck Project, shows that Nantahala National Forest is biased against Backcountry Management.

The Crossover Timber Project would log 51 acres of Natural Heritage Areas. Within the project area, the slopes of Teyahalee Bald have been identified by the State of North Carolina as Natural Heritage Natural Areas for their outstanding biodiversity. These areas are home to some of the healthiest forests in North Carolina that include rare species like Mountain Catch Fly that would be harmed by commercial logging.

The Crossover Timber Project would log at least 98 acres of existing old-growth forests. The Forest Service’s own records show that all of these forests are over 130 years old, and fieldwork conducted by MountainTrue has documented trees over 200 years of age in these areas. MountainTrue alerted the Forest Service to the location and presence of these rare old-growth sites and they are still being targeted by this timber sale.

The Crossover Timber Project proposal would log more than 400 acres at the source of Robbinsville’s drinking water supply. Seventeen stands slated for analysis of commercial and non-commercial timber harvest treatments lie in the Long and Rock Creek watersheds. These streams flowing off the ridge of the Snowbird Mountains are all classified as High-Quality Waters and feed public drinking water supplies for the Town of Robbinsville.

The Crossover Timber Project would permanently decommission the western half of the Snowbird Mountain Trail. Recreation groups within the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership had asked that the trail be improved, not decommissioned within their recommendations for the forthcoming forest management plan.

If the Forest Service truly believes in collaboration, the solution is easy: Follow the recommendation of the partners you’ve been working with for the past 8+ years. The Forest Service can have a successful timber project while protecting Natural Heritage Natural Areas and existing old growth, and keeping Snowbird trail open.

ACT NOW: EMAIL THE FOREST SERVICE.

THREE WAYS YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

1. Email the Forest Service

The Forest Service is now soliciting input on the design of its Crossover Timber Project!

2. Send a Letter to the Editor

Send a letter to the editor of the Smoky Mountain News to raise public awareness.

3. Support Our Timber Monitoring Program

MountainTrue monitors and analyzes every project in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests to support vulnerable species, safeguard old-growth forests, and make sure you have wonderful outdoor spaces for biking, hiking, hunting, fishing and foraging.