The Emerald Ash Borer – A Novel Threat

The Emerald Ash Borer – A Novel Threat

The emerald ash borer (EAB) – a voracious metallic-green beetle – is quickly eating its way across North America, killing our ash forests along the way.

The pest came across the ocean from Asia, transported in wooden packing materials.While many species in our forests were foreign to EAB, our ash trees provided a taste of home. The adults quickly began to feed on the leaves of these trees and lay their eggs between layers of bark to protect them. Back in Asia, parasitic wasps would occasionally prey on their larvae, but there are no wasps that hunt them here in North America. Given the abundant food source and lack of predators, the insect thrived.

The emerald ash borer is now eating its way through Pisgah National Forest, so MountainTrue and The Pisgah Conservancy have teamed up on a project to treat and save 100 ash trees this spring, 2019 … before it’s too late. Find out more and how you can lend a hand.

Help Save an Ash Tree in Pisgah

These beetles are a half-inch long and have a metallic green color. They were first discovered in the United States in 2002, and since then, they have killed millions of ash trees and threaten millions more. The damage they can cause in just a few years has alarmed scientists and land managers.

When the larvae hatch under the bark of an ash tree, they feed on important vascular tissue, creating swirling tunnels called galleries. Eventually, the tree becomes unable to transport nutrients and water from roots to branches, and it dies. Once the trees in one area have been killed, the insect moves on to new territory.

Ash borers can only fly a few miles each year, but they often hitch rides on firewood or other products. This has allowed them to spread more quickly despite the various quarantines and restrictions that are in place around moving wood products across state and county borders. The Emerald Ash Borer was first found on the Tennessee side of Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 and is now found throughout North Carolina, it’s spread having been assisted by people moving firewood.

When the Ash Borer has attacked a tree, you may find D-shaped holes in the bark made when the matured larvae exit the tree. Unfortunately, by the time these holes are visible, the tree is usually too damaged to be saved. Instead, we look for signs of early damage, such as dying branches, trees that are losing leaves early in the year, and other signs of poor health that are indicators of an infestation.

By treating them early, we can protect them throughout the infestation period, approximately 5-7 years. Once the beetle has exhausted its supply of untreated food, it moves on. Our plan is to then use the seeds of the trees that we have treated to reestablish our native ash tree stands for the enjoyment of future generations.

Learn more and help MountainTrue and The Pisgah Conservancy defend our ash trees against the Emerald Ash Borer, at mountaintrue.org/savepisgahsashes.

If you have observed signs of the emerald ash borer, please send a location and description of the tree(s) to newpest@ncagr.gov or your local county ranger for verification. For more information, visit the NC Forest Service FAQ.


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.

MT Raleigh Report: What’s on Deck for the Environment?

MT Raleigh Report: What’s on Deck for the Environment?

This week in Raleigh, lawmakers are beginning what is likely to be a long, drawn-out political tug-of-war between newly empowered Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and a GOP legislature that has been reduced in size and influence.

And a good deal of the push and pull will be over the environment.

Cooper, of course, is feeling his oats after the November election reduced the number of GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate to numbers too modest to override his vetoes. For the first time since the election of 2016, both sides will be forced to negotiate and compromise in order to get anything done.

Republican leaders are talking a good game of cooperation and bipartisanship. Whether both sides can come together to come up with bipartisan solutions remains to be seen.

When and if lawmakers do get down to negotiating, they are likely to have a number of major environmental issues to wrestle with, including:

Open Space Trust Funds – Two of the state’s most important conservation funds, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Parks and Recreational Trust Fund, are caught up in a nasty political battle over executive power and gubernatorial appointments. The question of who appoints the members of these and other state boards and commissions has put them at risk of extinction by GOP lawmakers looking for ways to force Cooper to make concessions on his appointment authority. Look for this fight to continue well into the 2019 session.

Water Protection – Last year, the General Assembly was roiled by the issue of what to do about the presence of “emerging contaminants” like GenX in the state’s drinking water. The issue dominated two separate special sessions, the regular summer session, and spilled over to the November elections – when a number of lawmakers in the Cape Fear region got pounded by their opponents and voters for being too slow to act on water quality protection. Look for Cooper to renew his call for substantial new investments in the Department of Environmental Quality to protect drinking water supplies. This is likely to remain a budget priority this year.

Storm Preparedness – After Hurricane Florence, Cooper released a disaster recovery plan that included substantial new investment in wetland protection, coastal resilience, hog farm buyouts and other measures to get North Carolina ready for “the next big one.” To date, lawmakers have funded traditional recovery efforts – with relief for farmers topping all expenditures – but have not invested much in the way of preparedness. With the six-month anniversary of Florence in March during the budget process, our hope is that the legislature will better address preparedness and adaptation.

Here at MountainTrue, we are refining our legislative priorities for lawmakers and will share them in our next update. Until then, thanks for supporting our advocacy efforts in Raleigh!


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.

Public Input Session on Cliffside Coal Ash Closure Options

On January 22, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) will host an information session and receive public input about coal ash pond closure options for Duke’s Cliffside plant. The input they receive at this meeting and through public comments will help decide whether NCDEQ enforces a full cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash or allows them to leave it “capped in place” at the site.

What’s Happening With Coal Ash at Cliffside?

Duke Energy’s coal ash pits at its James E. Rogers Energy Complex  more commonly known as the Cliffside Steam Station  store millions of tons of coal ash waste in a pit that extends approximately 80 feet deep into the groundwater table in violation of federal rules. Located in Cliffside, N.C. on the border of Cleveland and Rutherford counties, this waste is seeping into the Broad River, and polluting the groundwater with toxic heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead.

In December 2018, Duke acknowledged another violation of federal rules intended to protect people from coal ash contamination  surpassing the federal groundwater standards for arsenic and cobalt. This is one of many legal violations at Cliffside related to coal ash storage, and Duke’s noncompliance means seepages around the impoundment are getting into wetlands and streams, and ultimately the Broad River.

What’s “Cap In Place”?

Duke Energy wants to leave its coal ash right where it is – in massive unlined pits seeping into the groundwater and the Broad River, and polluting the groundwater with toxic heavy metals. “Cap in place” simply means that the coal ash would be covered up but would remain in the groundwater table, causing permanent pollution of groundwater and migration of pollutants to surface water and the Broad River. To comply with the law and protect water quality, Duke must excavate the coal ash now.

Duke Energy is already required to remove its coal ash at eight other sites in North Carolina and all of its sites in South Carolina –Cliffside’s families and community deserve the same protections. NCDEQ needs to hear us loud and clear: We need cleanup, not cover-up!

What Can I Do?

1. Come to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s public information session on Jan. 22 in Forest City to call for cleanup, not cover-up, of Cliffside’s coal ash. Find the details for the event here.

2. Take action here to tell NCDEQ that Duke’s coal ash should be moved out of the groundwater, away from the Broad River, and into the lined landfill on their property.


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.

MT Raleigh Report: The 2019 General Assembly Begins, Sort Of

MT Raleigh Report: The 2019 General Assembly Begins, Sort Of

Legislators were in Raleigh for a day last week to open the 2019 session of the North Carolina General Assembly. Surrounded by their families, lawmakers took their oaths of office, elected their officers – and then promptly recessed. They will reconvene Jan. 30 and meet weekly until they complete their work some time later this year.

Quick reminder: in odd-numbered years, North Carolina lawmakers begin their work in January and, historically, complete it some time in the summer. In even-numbered years, session begins in May. Because North Carolina does not limit the length of the session, there is no hard deadline for completing their work.

As expected, GOP Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County relied on his party’s majority in the House to become speaker for a third, two-year term. In the Senate, GOP Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham was elected to lead the Senate for the fifth consecutive session.

Moore also announced a few key committee appointments, two of which have important implications for Western North Carolina conservation and environmental advocates. Complete House committee assignments are not expected until late January.

Henderson County GOP Rep. Chuck McGrady was re-appointed as co-chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which oversees the development of the state’s $24 billion state budget. First elected in 2010, McGrady – former national president of the Sierra Club – has promoted a pro-environment policy agenda while also becoming a trusted member of the House GOP caucus and Moore’s leadership team. While some environmental advocates would like McGrady to be a stronger critic of the GOP legislature’s environmental record, there is no question that he has sponsored a number of key environmental bills, stopped or improved many harmful environmental bills, and boosted funding for open space conservation and other environmental investments. McGrady’s return to the appropriations leadership will be his last, as he is widely expected to retire after the 2019-20 legislative term.

WNC has another (rising) appropriations chair in GOP Rep. Josh Dobson, whose district includes Avery, McDowell and Mitchell counties. Dobson has quietly developed a reputation as a thoughtful, accessible, no-ego lawmaker with considerable policy expertise in health and human services. His promotion to full appropriations chair could give McGrady a natural ally in the appropriations give-and-take within the House GOP caucus, in negotiations with the Senate and with Governor Roy Cooper.

In the Senate, committee appointments were announced late last week. Notable for environmentalists is Henderson County GOP Sen. Chuck Edwards’ appointment as co-chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources, which develops the Senate’s spending plan for all state environmental conservation programs. Should McGrady and Edwards team up, they could direct considerable resources to WNC. Also notable: WNC GOP Sen. Ralph Hise will chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which reviews all tax and fee changes. And WNC GOP Sen. Jim Davis returns to his leadership spot as senior chair of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees transportation funding.

Here at MountainTrue, we are finalizing our legislative agenda for 2019 and scheduling visits to Raleigh throughout the year to speak up for Western North Carolina’s environment. Look for a detailed outline of our 2019 priorities in an upcoming MT Raleigh Report, and thank you for all your support for our policy work!


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.

Call For Volunteers For Our Live Staking Days This Winter

Call For Volunteers For Our Live Staking Days This Winter

Over the next few months, our Riverkeepers are teaming up with volunteers to plant “live stakes” along rivers in our region. We’re calling for potential volunteers like you to join us for a live staking day to help make this project a success.

What exactly is a live stake?

A live stake is a cutting from a tree species like silky dogwood, black willow, or elderberry that can be planted along riverbanks. The live stake then grows into a tree that reduces sediment erosion. Some of our supporters are surprised to learn that sediment is one of the worst polluters of our rivers, but it’s true sediment clogs aquatic habitats, increases water temperatures (which is bad news for trout and many other species) and transports toxic substances. Live staking also increases the density of the riparian buffer, which is the vegetated area surrounding a waterway that helps provide shade and filter out substances that normally enter the river from runoff. And since we’ve been planting trees along the rivers for the past few years, we can now take cuttings from those same trees that were live stakes only a few years ago. It’s a cost-effective, natural way to improve water quality and aquatic habitats.  

We have our live staking days, which we also call Paddle-n-Plant days, from January to March because live stakes can only be planted while the plants are still dormant. When the spring comes, the stakes’ nodes that were planted underground will sprout roots, helping to hold the riverbank in place.

Help Grow Our Impact

MountainTrue volunteers and our Riverkeepers have planted thousands of trees through our live staking days, and this year our Riverkeepers have set their sights on ways to increase their impact. Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook’s goal this year is to more accurately determine the survival rate of the live stakes on the French Broad River. By spray-painting the tips of the stakes, she’ll be able to see them more easily from the river during follow up. In the High Country, Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill hopes to plant 3,000 stakes by March.

We need your help to make our live staking days a success. It will make a huge difference for the rivers if you sign up for a live staking day here, or donate to MountainTrue to make these efforts possible here.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Help Keep Our Public Lands Clean During the Shutdown

Help Keep Our Public Lands Clean During the Shutdown

In response to the government shutdown, MountainTrue is encouraging volunteers to help monitor and maintain clean facilities and empty trash bins in our region’s parks and forests. Here is a list of places likely to need volunteer cleanup help:

Pisgah National Forest

  • Bent Creek
  • Davidson River Corridor
  • Sunburst
  • North Mills River
  • South Toe River Corridor
  • Roan Mountain at Carvers Gap
  • Murray Branch Rec Area
  • Max Patch
  • Wilson Creek Corridor
  • Kistler Hwy Corridor
  • Curtis Creek

Nantahala National Forest

  • Picnic Areas and Boat Launches on the Nantahala River
  • Standing Indian
  • Tsali Campground
  • Jackrabbit Campground
  • White Sides Mountain
  • White Water Falls
  • Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Smoky Mountains National Park
(no bathrooms are open in the park except at Newfound Gap and Cade Cove which are currently being maintained, though that could change at any tme)

  • All Major Access Points – esp. Hwy 441 on the Cherokee side and around the Oconaluftee Visitor Center
  • Deep Creek
  • Oconaluftee
  • Smokemont
  • Cataloochee
  • Big Creek
  • Cosby

Please note the weather forecast for the weekend. Roads may be closed by law enforcement due to icy conditions, but the road closure information system is not being updated during the shutdown.

Contact Susan Bean at 828-258-8737 x216 or at susan@mountaintrue.org with status updates or questions.


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.