Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Local favorite Gnarly Fingers will play during the merger celebration event on August 17th. From left to right, band members are Brian Kruger, Tom Edwards, Pat List, Joann Holoman, and Keith Layton. 


For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:

Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director
C: 415-535-9004, E: karim@mountaintrue.org

Callie Moore, MountainTrue Western Regional Director
C: 828-837-5414, E: callie@mountaintrue.org


Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Brasstown, N.C. — MountainTrue invites everyone to a celebration of its recent merger with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC). The event will be held at the Staurolite Farm Barn in the Trout Cove community of Brasstown, NC on Saturday, August 17, 5:30-9:00 p.m.

Long-time members and supporters of HRWC will join with staff and local members of MountainTrue for food, games, music, dancing and fun. Program coordinator, Tony Ward, will offer a tour of one of the Coalition’s oldest stream restoration projects, Trout Cove Branch, and live music will be provided by local favorite Gnarly Fingers.

The merger represents a renewal of MountainTrue’s roots in far Western North Carolina, as well as a renewal of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition’s programs. This event is a great opportunity to learn more about MountainTrue and its current and future work. Admission is free, but please RSVP online at: https://mountaintrue.org/event/21549/ or call 828-837-5414.

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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.

Take Action: Protect the Public’s Role in Public Lands

Take Action: Protect the Public’s Role in Public Lands

 

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.

Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue Team Up Through Merger

Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue Team Up Through Merger

Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC) has merged with Western North Carolina conservation nonprofit MountainTrue as of July 1. Both organizations share a commitment to protecting our waters and forests. The merger is an important step toward building one organization that can effectively advance the interests of our mountain region through a combination of grassroots organizing, community-driven planning and strategic advocacy.

HRWC will maintain its Murphy, NC office, and its work in North Carolina and Georgia will continue under the name MountainTrue. However, HRWC Executive Director Callie Moore will take on the expanded role of MountainTrue’s Western Regional Director.

This merger is the result of focused discussions within and between both organizations’ boards and staffs since November. Prior to merging, each group reached out to their major funders, partner groups, and other stakeholders. The overwhelming conclusion from this exploration was positive, and both boards voted to support a formal merger in early June. Then, MountainTrue members were polled and voted to approve the merger in accordance to that organization’s bylaws.

Why Merge?

In Fall 2018, wanting to have an on-the-ground presence in the seven far western counties — Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain — MountainTrue posted a job listing for a regional director. When Callie Moore, the executive director of HRWC, saw MountainTrue advertising the position, she wondered if it would be possible to gain more capacity for HRWC’s mission by collaborating in some more formal way with MountainTrue.

After consulting with the HRWC board executive committee, Callie met with MountainTrue co-directors, Julie Mayfield and Bob Wagner. That discussion led to considering a merger. “When Callie suggested working together in the western region we immediately put our hiring process on hold in order to start exploring a merger,” explains Bob Wagner.

Much of the two organizations’ work, especially around water quality and watershed protection, is complementary. HRWC has built up a local grassroots constituency of volunteers and supporters to improve water quality in the Hiwassee watershed in Georgia and North Carolina through water quality monitoring and education, controlling sediment pollution by restoring stream banks and stream side native habitats, and reducing bacterial pollution from septic systems and agricultural operations. MountainTrue has a nearly identical set of programs through their Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga Riverkeeper programs.

“It makes a lot more sense to join forces with an organization that already has an impressive list of accomplishments and a strong base of support than to build all that from scratch.” explains MountainTrue’s other co-director, Julie Mayfield.

Both organizations approached their respective boards. Interest was high and formal discussions began to tackle the hard questions: What are the benefits of merging? And what are the challenges and concerns?

For the HRWC, it was clear that merging with MountainTrue would open new doors for growth. HRWC is financially stable but a small operation with an annual budget of only around $140,000. Many larger foundations and funders are hesitant to provide big grants if it means that they would make up a significant portion of an organization’s annual budget. With 37 years of experience and a $1.7 million budget, MountainTrue is a better fit for larger institutional funders.

Merging with MountainTrue would also allow HRWC to streamline their operations and direct more time towards projects and programs. MountainTrue has an experienced staff of 20 professionals who can provide HRWC volunteer/member engagement, communications, and management support — including back-of-the-house services such as bookkeeping and database management. MountainTrue has a communications and engagement team to help with event and program promotion, a development team for assistance with fundraising, and a public lands team ready to lend their expertise. “I am very excited about handing over many of my administrative responsibilities to someone else so that I can focus more on programs,” says Callie.

“Our organizations are stronger together,” explains Jason Chambers, chairperson of the HRWC board of directors. “The merger means that HRWC’s long-standing mission of sustaining good water quality will continue, but with better resources for our programs, services, and on-the-ground projects.”

“Both organizations recognize how important it is for HRWC’s supporters to feel their voices are heard and their concerns continue to be addressed,” Callie Moore notes. “There’s going to be a transition period where both organizations will maintain their websites, but the long-term goal is that HRWC’s volunteers and supporters will be just as proud to be members of MountainTrue.”

“The merger is an important step toward building one organization that can effectively advance the interests of the mountain region of Western North Carolina and North Georgia.” says Bob Wagner. “At MountainTrue, we know that the people of Western North Carolina and the people of Towns and Union counties have a shared love of our forests, rivers and natural environment that crosses county, state, and partisan lines. We want to harness those shared values for the benefit of all our communities. That’s what it means to be MountainTrue.”


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 Latest on Conservation Projects in the State Budget

MT Raleigh Report: The Latest on Conservation Projects in the State Budget

In our last report, we updated you about the status of several important Western North Carolina conservation projects included in the state budget negotiations in Raleigh.

Recently, lawmakers gave final approval to their version of the state’s $24 billion spending plan. Governor Cooper vetoed the legislature’s proposed budget last Friday, as was widely expected.

While we hope Governor Cooper and legislative leaders will come to a resolution on a final budget soon, we are grateful that the General Assembly included a number of important investments for WNC in their version. These include:

  • $200,000 to allow the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) to investigate and clean up hazardous spills from unknown sources. When an angler alerted our Watauga Riverkeeper to a fish kill and sheen on the Watauga River two summers ago, state regulators were unable to respond immediately because the origin of the spill was unclear. Responsibility for such spills falls largely to NC DEQ’s Underground Storage Tank cleanup program, whose funding is restricted to contamination that is clearly associated with an underground storage tank. This additional funding will allow the Department to respond more quickly and to protect North Carolina’s aquatic life and rivers, and the tourism and recreation industries that depend on them.

  • $150,000 to improve public access to a popular recreation area in the Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk Counties. Access to the Green River is of great importance to the paddling and angling communities, but the parking area for an iconic section of the river is under a temporary lease agreement that can be terminated at any time – putting recreational access to the river at risk. This appropriation will support and leverage further grant funding for permanent public access and trail improvement projects that protect the Green.
  • $100,000 to provide state funding to monitor popular WNC rivers and streams for E. coli and other pollutants that can make people sick. WNC river recreation areas in the French Broad and other watersheds routinely fail EPA standards for E. coli, especially after it rains. This funding will help inform the public of when it’s safe to swim.
  • $100,000 to expand fishing and camping tourism with improvements to the French Broad River Paddle Trail in Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe and Madison Counties. This investment will allow paddlers and others to more easily and safely access more than 150 miles of the French Broad, and will bring new economic development opportunities to communities in small towns along the river.
  • $100,000 to improve fish habitat and hunting and fishing access by providing matching funds to remove the Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River in Watauga County. Removing the dam will result in 140 more miles of connected stream and improve free-flowing aquatic habitat for species like the Eastern Hellbender and the Green Floater Mussel.
  • $100,000 to expand camping and fishing tourism with investments in the Watauga River Paddle Trail in Watauga County. The Watauga is one of WNC’s most beautiful rivers, and this funding will expand public access and recreation opportunities.

This funding represents months of legislative advocacy across our region and in Raleigh by a team of MountainTrue staff and volunteers – thanks to all of you who have supported these efforts with your time and donations. Thanks also to the WNC legislators who worked with us – including Senators Chuck Edwards and Deanna Ballard, as well as Representatives Chuck McGrady, Josh Dobson, Brian Turner and Kevin Corbin.

We also hope you’ll mark your calendars for a community discussion of MountainTrue’s legislative work, which will happen at the Wedge at Foundation on July 17 at 6:30 PM. Our lobbyist, Rob Lamme, will share his main takeaways from the legislative session and answer questions on how to impact environmental issues in Raleigh from our mountains. Until then, thank you again for your support!


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.

Ask The General Assembly To Support WNC Rivers in the Budget

Ask The General Assembly To Support WNC Rivers in the Budget


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: Update on Conservation Projects in the Budget

MT Raleigh Report: Update on Conservation Projects in the Budget

The legislature’s months-long debate of the new state budget is coming to an end, and there are some key Western North Carolina conservation investments at stake this year.

The budget process for the state’s biennial (AKA two-year) budget began in March, when Governor Roy Cooper delivered his proposed budget to the General Assembly. The House of Representatives followed with weeks of budget meetings that culminated in approval of its version of the state’s $24 billion spending plan. In recent weeks, the Senate has developed its own version of the budget.

Now comes “conference” – the process the House and Senate use to reconcile their budgets and send a final version to the Governor for signature or veto.

Over the past few months, MountainTrue has been working with lawmakers to support a number of conservation projects that are now being discussed in conference. Specifically we are asking lawmakers to support funding to:

  • Allow the NC Department of Environmental Quality to investigate and clean up hazardous spills from unknown sources – as occurred recently in the Watauga River (included in the Senate budget, $200,000 one-time funding)

  • Improve public access to a popular recreation area in the Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk counties (included in the Senate budget, $150,000)

  • Provide state funding to monitor popular WNC rivers and streams for E. coli and other pollutants that can make people sick (included in the Senate budget, $100,000)

  • Expand fishing and camping tourism with improvements to the French Broad River Paddle Trail in Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe and Madison counties (included in the Senate budget,  $100,000)

  • Improve fish habitat and hunting and fishing access by providing matching funds to remove the Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River in Watauga County (Included in the Senate budget, $100,000)

  • Expand camping and fishing tourism with investment in the Watauga River Paddle Trail in Watauga County (Included in the Senate budget, $100,000)

MountainTrue – and our region – is fortunate to have a number of lawmakers who have been willing to support these projects. Thank you to Representatives Chuck McGrady, Josh Dobson, Kevin Corbin and Brian Turner for your help. On the Senate side, Senators Chuck Edwards and Deanna Ballard have been immensely helpful.

MountainTrue staff will travel to Raleigh next week for the last of this year’s monthly lobbying trips to support these budget items. Look for an update in the coming weeks about our trip, the final budget and its investments in Western North Carolina.


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.