MT Raleigh: Delegation Committee Assignments + Cooper Names New DEQ Sec.

MT Raleigh: Delegation Committee Assignments + Cooper Names New DEQ Sec.

MT Raleigh: Delegation Committee Assignments + Cooper Names New DEQ Sec.

In the North Carolina General Assembly, every legislator’s vote counts the same.

But not all legislators are equal.

You don’t need to be a political scientist, for example, to know that in a Republican-controlled legislature, most GOP members are going to have more influence than their Democratic colleagues. But beyond party affiliation, seniority and committee assignments can tell you a lot about who can get what done in Raleigh.

So to help you keep track of WNC’s delegation, here’s a quick rundown on some of our region’s most senior members and the gavels they wield among the legislature’s several dozen legislative committees.

Dionne Delli-Gatti

But first – some good news. Last week Governor Roy Cooper announced that Dionne Delli-Gatti will replace Michael Regan as Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Regan is now awaiting Senate approval of his appointment as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Delli-Gatti’s selection is welcome news for those of us concerned about clean air and water. A seasoned environmental professional, she most recently served at the Environmental Defense Fund as the Director of Southeast Climate and Energy following six years at the Atlanta EPA Regional office as Congressional and Governmental Liaison. Her environmental experience includes government service at the Ohio EPA and the City of Dallas. Kudos to Gov. Cooper for selecting Delli-Gatti, whose appointment must be confirmed by the North Carolina Senate.

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The MountainTrue Raleigh Report covers environmental politics and policy, with a focus on the issues that affect Western North Carolina.

Now let’s take a look at who is doing what on the environment and other issues among WNC’s legislative delegation.

On the environment, the conversation about WNC’s delegation has to start with Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County. Now in his third term, Edwards is the senior chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees all natural resources spending. He also co-chairs the committee that oversees most agriculture and environmental policy in North Carolina. Edwards is a proven leader and champion of several causes benefitting WNC’s environment, including being the force behind creating a new state park in Buncombe County and helping MountainTrue with several key clean water initiatives.

For depth and breadth of influence in the legislature, it would be hard to match Sen. Ralph Hise (Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford and Yancey counties). After five terms in office, Hise is one of three co-chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee, giving him a say in virtually every part of the state’s $24 billion budget. Hise’s familiarity with health policy and spending also makes him a key voice on health and human services issues.  As chair of the Senate’s Redistricting Committee, he will play a central role in redrawing both legislative and Congressional districts this year.

If you have an interest in Western North Carolina public schools and universities, then get to know Senator Deanna Ballard (Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Watauga and Wilkes counties). While just in her third term, Ballard is now the Senate’s key policymaker and appropriator on education – which easily accounts for well over half of the state’s annual spending.

With the departure of former Representative Chuck McGrady to retirement and former Rep. Josh Dobson – now North Carolina’s Labor Commissioner – WNC’s delegation in the state House lost a great deal of influence. The rest of the delegation’s lack of commensurate seniority means it will take a few years for the West to beef up its political muscle in the House. In the meantime, Rep. Tim Moffitt (Henderson County) helps lead the House ABC Committee – which oversees alcohol laws. Rep. Mike Clampitt (Haywood, Jackson and Swayne counties) chairs the House Federal Relations and American Indian Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jake Johnson (Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties) is the co-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Information Technology.

Among Western North Carolina’s other legislators, members with assignments on important environmental committees include Wildlife Vice-Chair, Rep. Brian Turner (Buncombe County), and committee members Reps. Mike Clampitt, Karl Gillespie (Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties), John Ager (Buncombe County), Mark Pless (Haywood, Madison and Yancey counties) and Jake Johnson; Brian Turner and John Ager both also sit on important environmental and agriculture appropriations and policy committees; Rep. Clampitt is a member of the House Environmental and Agriculture Appropriations Committee; Sen. Julie Mayfield (Buncombe County) is a member of the Senate’s Environmental and Agriculture Appropriations Committee. Rep. Pickett is the vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee and Representatives Moffitt and Pless are members of the House Transportation Committee; Senator Julie Mayfield a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.


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.

February 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

February 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

February 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

WNC Loses an Environmental Champion: Remembering Norma Ivey


By Bob Gale, Ecologist & Public Lands Director of MountainTrue

MountainTrue and Western North Carolina lost a wonderful person and forest protection advocate on January 29. Norma Ivey served on the staff of MountainTrue (known then as the Western North Carolina Alliance) from 1996 to 2009, and upon retiring, she received the organization’s highest honor: the Esther Cunningham Award.

Norma was a champion of old-growth trees, having assisted with a 7-year study that located 78,000 acres of previously unknown old-growth forest in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. Later research increased this to about 100,000 acres.

In her time with MountainTrue, Norma served as Community Organizer working in our Asheville and Franklin offices. She assisted with a variety of issues, including timber sales of concern, relicensing of Western NC dams by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, clean air issues, and community greenways. Norma was also an artist and crafter who created beautiful handmade pottery. Though she had advanced Alzheimer’s disease, it was Covid-19 that ultimately took her life.

Norma will be greatly missed by MountainTrue and by so many others in these mountains that got the chance to meet her. We will share a tribute with more details about her work and life in our upcoming spring print newsletter.

 

A Moment in Black History: The Memphis Strike as a Precursor to the Environmental Justice Movement

The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike is a little discussed moment in the final chapter of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, and a precursor to the development of the Environmental Justice movement. Almost a year after making his famous 1967 speech at Riverside Church where he proclaimed the need to declare “eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism,” and while he was in the midst of developing the Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King travelled to Memphis. He came to Memphis to march in solidarity with Black sanitation workers who, in addition to suffering from low and inequitable pay, were forced to do dirtier and more dangerous work with greater health and safety risks than their white co-workers. As Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance told Grist in 2019. “You don’t get more environmental justice than that. All the environment really is is where you live, work, play, or pray.”

Dr. King returned to Memphis and delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech on April 3 calling on a Black economic boycott of white power structures, and was assassinated one day later as he stood outside his balcony at the Lorraine Hotel on April 4.

 

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

While we see it everywhere, mass-produced plastic has only existed since the 1950’s. Since then, the amount of plastic created has increased from 1.5 million metric tons produced worldwide in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Not only does plastic production create greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, but it breaks down into tiny pieces called microplastics that harm wildlife, ecosystems and humans.

In our most recent blog post, our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn explains that while personal change is important, our consumer choices alone are not enough to spark systemic change. Check out Hannah’s post to learn more about the history of plastic pollution, ongoing legislation to combat the issue and our sampling program to identify microplastics in WNC’s waters. Read more. 

 

Take Action: We Have Power in Numbers To Fight Duke’s Energy Plan

Duke Energy’s latest Integrated Resource Plan – the plan Duke is required to submit to state regulators showing how it will create energy over the next fifteen years – takes the company way off track for meeting any serious climate goals. Duke’s IRP outlines plans to keep burning coal for decades, build up to 13 new gas plants, and make customers pay $900 each for fossil fuels we’ll never even use.

Here’s the good news: MountainTrue is working with a coalition of climate and clean energy advocates all across North Carolina to fight Duke’s plans, and we think there is a real chance we can send them back to the drawing board to adopt a new plan that will meet climate goals. It’s the same power in numbers strategy we used to get state regulators to order a full cleanup of every Duke coal ash site in North Carolina two years ago.

What’s more, cities all over the state are now intervening in Duke’s plans to make sure they don’t keep us from meeting our local climate commitments.

Tell the NC Utilities Commission: Don’t let Duke wreck North Carolina’s climate. Send this IRP back to the drawing board.

Clean Water Auction Fundraiser Online This Year

Due to the ongoing pandemic, MountainTrue’s western regional office was unable to hold our annual fundraising gala and auction in person this year. Both events are happening online instead.

The auction is now open and runs through February 25 at 9 pm. We invite you to check out the wide variety of items up for bid, including guided outdoor adventures, beautiful artwork, restaurant gift certificates and more. All proceeds benefit our clean water work!

Note: Anyone can view the items, but in order to place a bid, you’ll need to create a simple account with 32auctions by providing your name, email address and creating a password. Credit card information is not required to place bids. Check out all our auction items.

Photo: “The Mountains are Calling”, donated by Class Act Glass in Young Harris, GA, is only one of the more than 50 items up for bid in the Clean Water Auction Fundraiser.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Algal Bloom in the Watauga River


During the month of January, we saw new algae growth along the Watauga River – an unusual occurrence for this time of year. Thank you to all of the anglers, guides and concerned community members that brought their algae sightings to our attention.

You might recall that last summer, we began a nutrient and chlorophyll study on Watauga Lake to monitor algal blooms, which form due to an excess of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. While not all algal blooms are toxic, the harmful ones release toxins that are linked to human illnesses and have even been shown to lead to death in dogs.

We reported the recent bloom to the NC Wildlife Commission and the NC Department of Environmental Quality. The newly formed Algal Bloom Response Team from the Division of Water Resources quickly responded and collected additional samples, and we are now awaiting results. This year the Watauga River had high levels of E. coli and nutrients, which could have contributed to the algae growth. We will continue to source track and monitor pollution levels in the Watauga River.

 

Macroplastics and Microplastics Roundup


Thank you to all our new volunteers who braved the cold to collect the first round of micro and macro plastic samples! Our volunteers collected a total of 318 pieces of trash in the last week of January. Our water samples are now being filtered in the lab, and microplastics have been identified in the Watauga River.

Want to learn more? The virtual training is on the MountainTrue University page of our website here.

 

Sign Up For Our Next Live Staking Opportunities!


Are you looking for a socially-distanced way to create immediate change in our community? Come plant live stakes with the Watatuga Riverkeeper!

Live staking workdays help to combat sediment erosion in our local waterways. Sediment is a major polluter in our river basin, clogging fish and aquatic habitats, increasing water temperatures, and transporting toxic substances. As these stakes grow into trees, they stabilize the banks of the Watauga river and reduce the amount of sediment entering the river, while also helping to fight climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. Come plant with us! Sign up here.

To see the recent coverage of our live staking work days in the Watauga Democrat, click here.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Cleanups


To celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MountainTrue staff joined the City of Hendersonville’s Environmental Sustainability Board to clean up Dr. MLK, Jr. Park on the grounds of the Henderson County Courthouse. There were also several member-led cleanups across the region, and we particularly enjoyed supporting the cleanup of an illegal dump site near the Green River where we pulled out a large chest freezer, gas grill, computer monitor, TV, tires and more!

 

Meetings with State Elected Officials Kick Off Legislative Advocacy

MountainTrue staff have been gearing up for the 2021 session of the NC General Assembly by refining our legislative priorities and meeting with state elected leaders across WNC. Locally, we’d like to thank Sen. Chuck Edwards, Rep. Tim Moffitt and Rep. Jake Johnson for taking the time to meet with us as the session began, as well as former Rep. Chuck McGrady (and Esther Cunningham Award recipient) for his ongoing advice and years of service. As the legislative session progresses we look forward to continuing those conversations, meeting with other elected leaders and building common ground for ways to protect and enhance our natural resources in WNC. For more details about MountainTrue’s legislative priorities and to sign up to receive the MT Raleigh Report, click here.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

Black History Month: Racial Equity and the Environment

George Washington Carver was an African American scientist and educator. Carver is famous for many inventions including a number of uses for the peanut.

During Black History Month in February, we are encouraged to learn more about the achievements of African-Americans and to recognize their central role in US history. It is also a time for celebrating the diversity of our communities, and examining the systems that perpetuate racial inequality in ways that may be difficult to see or understand on the surface. This past year has been a time of reckoning and challenge for many of us as some of those systems have been exposed.

As you may have read in an earlier e-newsletter, MountainTrue has been evolving toward a wider focus. Yes to protecting forests and rivers, advocating for more sustainable development and clean energy, but we are also thinking more broadly about how we can help foster communities where people are truly healthy. This means communities that are free from racism, and where there is equity in the social determinants of health: housing, transportation, education and jobs.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings is “all this is simply to say that all life is interrelated.” His words serve as a reminder that we cannot isolate our work in silos or boxes. Racial justice is central to environmental justice, and the two cannot be separated. As we continue to strive for equity in our work, we remember the words of another great Black civil rights leader, the late US Congressman John Lewis: “It is our responsibility to leave this planet cleaner and greener. That must be our legacy.”

Read more about MountainTrue’s commitment to racial equity here.

 

Don’t Miss the Watershed Gala – One Week From Tomorrow!


Watch a video of our 2020 accomplishments, help honor this year’s Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner David Liden, hear and share stories of adventures (indoors and out!) in our region and celebrate clean water with us on Thursday, February 25 at 6 pm.

Using Zoom is very easy. You can even participate using a Smartphone. Register today!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Note: All attendees at in-person events are required to follow our COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Feb. 20, Mar. 6 & Mar. 20: Live Staking Workdays In The High Country
Fight sediment pollution, erosion and climate change with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks.
Feb. 20 Workday in Sugar Grove.
Mar. 6 Workday in Sugar Grove.
Mar. 20 Workday in Boone.

Feb. 25, 6-7:30pm: Virtual Watershed Gala
The 13th Annual Watershed Gala will be held virtually via Zoom meeting this year. We hope you will join us for a delightful evening of laughter, fun and camaraderie … and to help honor this year’s Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner! Register here.

March 3, 11am-2pm: Island Park Non-Native Invasive Plant Volunteer Work Session
MountainTrue has joined forces with the Tuckasegee River Alliance to help eradicate non-native invasive plants at Island Park in Bryson City. Learn how to identify and control non-native invasive plants with MountainTrue staff while you help bring the native plants back to Island Park! Sign up here.

March 6, 12-4pm: Winter Tree ID Workshop Hike
Join MountainTrue’s very own Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly for our Winter Tree ID Workshop Hike at Big Laurel Creek Trail. This hike is open to all skill levels of aspiring tree identifiers! Sign up here.

March 11, 12-1pm: MountainTrue University: A History of Environmental Extraction and Activism in Appalachia
Our AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator, Grace Fuchs, completed her thesis work at Ohio University on the social and environmental impacts of fracking in Appalachian Ohio.

In her talk, Grace will define the cultural and geographic boundaries of Appalachia; look at the environmental impacts of the timber, coal, and fracking industries in the region; and present a historical analysis of Appalachian activists who have fought long and hard to protect their communities in the face of cultural and ecological destruction. Sign up here.

March 13, 7:30am-9:30am: Winter Bird Watch on Lake Chatuge
Get outside with us for our 15th annual Winter Bird Watch at Lake Chatuge! We typically see 18-25 different bird species on this trip, including small songbirds, larger birds of prey and wintering waterfowl. Sign up here.

March 20, 10am-4pm: Signs of Spring Hike on the Green River
This is a great late winter hike that offers continuous views of the Green River, from its quiet stretches to its most intense rapids. We’ll also pass through healthier eastern hemlocks stands, and are likely to spot early wildflowers and migrating warblers. Sign up 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.

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

By Hannah Woodburn, High Country Water Quality Administrator of MountainTrue

While we see it everywhere, mass-produced plastic has only existed since the 1950’s. Not only does producing plastic create greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, but our air, food and water systems are becoming increasingly contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic – called microplastics – that are a concern for ecosystem and human health.

Microplastics are defined as being smaller than 5mm and enter our freshwater systems through runoff and industrial processes. They can be purposefully designed to be small (think microbeads), or they can be fragments of larger items like tires, fishing line, water bottles and synthetic clothing.

So How Did We Get Here?

The amount of plastic created worldwide has increased from 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Plastic materials are derived from ethane, a natural gas product, and are extracted using a method called fracking. Every stage of plastic production results in greenhouse gas emissions, releasing a variety of pollutants during the process. Further, the US is the top producer and exporter of ethane in the world, and our plastic production is currently projected to double by 2050.

While plastics do represent a milestone in technological and chemical development, between 26-40% of all plastics are made with the intention to be single-use items – like food packaging, bottles, cups, plastic bags, housewares and cosmetic packaging. This poses a great environmental concern, especially when only 6.6% of all the plastic produced in 2018 was recycled and only a small portion of plastic can actually be recycled in the first place: items marked 1, 2, and sometimes 5.

Left: Sampling for microplastics at the MountainTrue lab. Right: This tiny red fiber that showed up in our microplastics sampling is smaller than .5mm, and likely from a piece of fishing line or synthetic clothing. 

How We Sample For Plastics

MountainTrue has started sampling for plastics on the French Broad, Green and Watauga Rivers, and will begin plastics sampling on the Hiwassee River this spring. For the macroplastics portion, we ask volunteers to collect trash and record how long they were there, what types of plastic they find, what brands are most prevalent, the number of pieces collected in total and how much time the volunteers sampled for.

To assess the presence of microplastics, which are often too small for the naked eye to see, volunteers take a water sample at each site in a one-quart glass jar and bring them back to our lab. We then process the water samples via vacuum filtration, look at the filter paper underneath a microscope and record the number of microplastics found in each sample.

What Can You Do?

Personal change is important, but our consumer choices alone are not enough to spark systemic change. We cannot “recycle” our way out of this issue.

We need to ask our legislators to help protect our communities and ecosystems from single-use plastics. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was introduced to Congress in 2020, but did not make it to a floor vote. However, this bill will be reintroduced this month, and it provides a comprehensive plan to eliminate single-use plastics at a federal level. We encourage you to take action and sign the petition asking President Biden to be a #PlasticFreePresident here.

#PlasticFreePresident Action Items That President Biden Can Take Without Congress:

1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single use plastic items and replace them with reusable items.
Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities

2. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions

3. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors

4. Update existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastic facilities by using best available science and technology

5. Stop subsidizing plastic producers

6. Join international efforts to address global plastic pollution

7. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear

 


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: The General Assembly’s Back In Action

MT Raleigh: The General Assembly’s Back In Action

MT Raleigh: The General Assembly’s Back In Action

The North Carolina General Assembly is back in action for its 2021 session – and MountainTrue is ready with a list of suggestions for legislators to protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources.

In recent weeks, our staff have met with legislators from across the region to educate them about our 2021 legislative priorities and to hear about their To-Do lists for the session. Thanks to Senators Deanna Ballard, Chuck Edwards and Kevin Corbin, as well as Representatives Jake Johnson, Tim Moffitt, Mark Pless, Karl E. Gillespie and Ray Pickett for taking the time to meet with us. We’ll also meet with other members of the WNC delegation through the early weeks of the session.

Some of MountainTrue’s priorities for 2021 include:

Water Quality Solutions

  • Increase funding to help farmers improve water quality. Agricultural waste is a significant source of E. coli and other bacterial pollution in WNC’s waters. Allocating more money to help local Soil and Water Conservation Districts help farmers with fencing and other pollution control efforts will keep agricultural waste out of rivers and streams.
  • Address failing septic systems. Failing septic systems are another major source of bacteria. Reinstating the Wastewater Discharge Elimination (WaDE) program will help reduce this pollution. Before it was cut several years ago, WaDE visited 13,379 WNC homes and identified 2,016 sources of water pollution in WNC – mostly from leaking and failing septic systems.
  • Help property owners reduce stormwater pollution. Stormwater is the third largest source of bacteria in NC’s waters. The Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) allows WNC’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts to help property owners reduce stormwater pollution.  Like the cost-share program for farmers, existing CCAP funds are insufficient to meet the demand for assistance.

Improving Access and Quality of Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is a $28 billion business in North Carolina, and WNC’s outdoor industry accounts for thousands of jobs in our region. Improving access to our region’s wild places builds support for their protection and helps our economy. That’s why we support the following investments: 

  • Expanded public access and improvements to the Watauga River and French Broad River Paddle Trails 
  • Improvements to public access and trails for a popular recreational area on the Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk counties
  • Dam removal and improved fishing access on the Watauga River
  • Trail improvement and other investments to improve outdoor recreation on the Tuckasegee River in Swain County
  • New public access for float boats on the Valley River in Cherokee County
  • Expanded funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund as well as the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (formerly known as Clean Water Management Trust Fund) to help preserve the health of critical watersheds. 

The General Assembly will now be in session every week through mid-summer. Stay tuned for updates from us on how our region’s waters, recreation spots and communities fare at the legislature in the coming months.

Speaking up for WNC’s environment in Raleigh is central to MountainTrue’s mission – that’s why we are the only WNC environmental organization with a year-round advocate in the capitol. Your support of MountainTrue is key to our success, so thank you for making our state policy work possible! 


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.

January 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

January 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

January 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Take Action For A Healthier Pigeon River

Please email the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and speak up for stricter discharge permits for the Canton paper mill to help clean up the Pigeon River. The new draft permit for Blue Ridge Paper Products as proposed by DEQ would weaken regulations, require less monitoring and allow for more pollution to be discharged to the river. Act now to protect the Pigeon River.

Update: The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is postponing the public hearing and extending the period for public comments until April. They have yet to announce the new hearing date and comment deadline, but as soon as they do, we’ll let you know. Stay up to date by signing up for our Action Alerts here.

 

Jan. 28-29 : Sacred Lands, Sacred Bodies: Faithfully Caring For People And Place


The Creation Care Alliance is hosting this online symposium to create space for connection among neighbors, lay leaders and clergy. We will share stories of creation care and resilience from congregations taking practical steps to care for our neighbors and the earth. Whether you’re new to creation care or a long-time advocate, you’ll gain new language and tools to inspire your congregation to care for the environment and each other, interwoven with space for relationship, and prayer. Learn more and register.

 

We’re Hiring! Two Positions At MountainTrue Are Accepting Applications

Open Positions

MountainTrue is an equal opportunity employer committed to creating an inclusive and anti-racist working environment. Women, people of color, and those with firsthand experiences of environmental harm are strongly encouraged to apply.

Temporary Development And Operations Coordinator (Last Chance!)
We’re looking for a detail-oriented individual to join our Development team while one of our staff is on maternity leave. The position is responsible for processing donations, issuing donation acknowledgments and maintaining accurate data in the organization’s database. This is a four-month position at 20 hours per week with a rate of pay of $18 per hour. Application deadline: Friday January 22. Read more and apply.

Summer Community Outreach And Water Quality Intern
We’re hiring a summer intern who will work with MountainTrue through the two-month Non-Profit Internship Program (NPIP) sponsored by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. This position will be split evenly between community outreach and our French Broad Riverkeeper team. A stipend of $3,200 will be provided. The application deadline is February 15 at noon. See eligibility requirements and access the application.

Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Protect Richmond Hill And The French Broad River. Stop The Bluffs At River Bend.

Help fight a planned mega-development that would be built on 92 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River. The proposal includes 1,545 luxury residential condo units, a 250-room hotel, a 59,000-square-foot office space, and 30 1,000 square-foot buildings in Woodfin adjacent to Richmond Hill Park and on the banks of the French Broad River.

MountainTrue opposes this project in its current form because of the potential impacts to the public commons – places we all share like the French Broad River, Richmond Hill Park and roads unsuited for the additional increased traffic. We are partnering with Richmond Hill & River Rescue — a local community group — to oppose this project, and we need your help. Take action.

 

Hot Springs Workday: Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants With Tamia Dame And Bob Gale


MountainTrue staff, volunteers, and partners regularly collaborate on the treatment and removal of invasive plants on our public lands to promote quality habitat for native plants and wildlife. Here’s an up-close perspective on a recent workday by MountainTrue’s Forest Keeper Coordinator, Tamia Dame. Read more.

High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Microplastics Sampling Program Kicks Off

We have launched a new microplastics sampling program and are recruiting volunteers to help us collect water samples for analysis. If you would like to get involved with this new program and volunteer with us, fill out this form and we’ll get you plugged in! Sign up here.

 

February Live Staking Work Days At Guy Ford River Access Park

The Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue are combating sediment erosion in our local waterways. Sediment is a major polluter in our river basin, clogging fish and aquatic habitats, increasing water temperatures, and transporting toxic substances. We are helping to reduce the amount of sediment that flows into our rivers by planting live stakes along eroding riverbanks. As these stakes grow into trees, they stabilize the sides of the rivers and creeks where we plant them and reduce the overall amount of sediment getting into the river. Come plant with us! Sign up here.

 

Water Quality Internship Posted For Our Boone Office – Summer 2021

The Water Quality Intern is responsible for aiding the High Country Water Quality Administrator (HCWQA) with managing multiple water quality monitoring programs. This position would require interactions with volunteers on many levels (recruiting, training, organizing). This position requires attention to detail and learning how to apply hard science skills to the needs of the community. The internship will run from May to August. Read more and apply here.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Holiday Recycling In Hendersonville Was A Huge Success!

Our annual Holiday Recycling Event at Jackson Park in Hendersonville was a huge success – despite having to reschedule due to winter weather, and limiting volunteer involvement because of the pandemic. Hundreds of trees were ground into mulch and hauled away to nourish home and community gardens and landscapes. Heaps of lights and wreaths were recycled by the Henderson County Coop Extension Service for the 4-H Project, and greeting cards were recycled by Hope Academy. A special thank you to: King Hardware & Rental for providing the mulcher, Hendersonville and Henderson County personnel who were onsite mulching trees, our incredible volunteers who helped with planning, and especially Henderson County Environmental Programs Coordination and MountainTrue’s Recycling Team Chair, Christine Wittmeier, for her leadership and organization to make sure everything went off without a hitch.

 

New Permanent Access To The Green River Is Moving Forward

Our good friends at the Green River Access Fund are excited to announce the purchase and initial construction of a new permanent access point on Gallimore Road! For 17 years, the Access Fund has been working to secure permanent access to this incredible whitewater resource through key sales to a leased parking area. Now that the new property has been secured, some additional fundraising is needed to cover construction costs and maintain the existing parking area during construction.

We can’t understate how important access is here. While putting on the river at this location is a convenient “shortcut” put-in for expert Narrows paddlers, it is also a mandatory takeout point for those looking to experience the popular intermediate/advanced Class III/IV Upper section. Securing permanent access here is truly a dream come true. Learn more about the project and how you can support it.

 

UPM Raflatac Supports A Cleaner French Broad River With Donation To MountainTrue

MountainTrue is pleased to partner with label material manufacturer UPM Raflatac, which is sponsoring MountainTrue’s Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) — a volunteer-powered program through which members of the public collect water samples from over 30 sites throughout the French Broad River Water Basin every month. The donation will be made through the company’s Biofore Share and Care grant program.

UPM Raflatac develops innovative and sustainable labeling solutions that help businesses move beyond fossil fuels. As one of the world’s leading producers of self-adhesive label materials, it maintains a global network of factories, distribution terminals and sales offices, and operates two factories in Henderson County, North Carolina, employing approximately 350 people.

“This support is crucial to the work of MountainTrue,” explains MountainTrue Southern Regional Director Gray Jernigan. “The VWIN program is the foundation of our work to protect the water quality of the French Broad River and other local watersheds.” Learn more.

Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

What Should I Expect From A Virtual Watershed Gala?


Although we won’t be able to hug David Liden like Nancy Troxler did when she won the Holman Award in 2016 (David introduced her), we can still celebrate with him!

Since some of you may not use Zoom on a regular basis like we do at MountainTrue, we thought we’d give you some idea of what you will experience during the online Watershed Gala on February 25 at 6pm. Callie Moore will emcee the event like always, only this time she’ll be coming to you virtually from her home in Hayesville.

You’ll see video clips of Callie and Tony highlighting our accomplishments in 2020. Member Mike Oliphant will introduce this year’s Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award recipient David Liden, we’ll watch a video of David receiving his award, and then David will say a few words to us. We’ll break into smaller rooms (based on your selection at registration) to share stories with other members about outdoor adventures or your favorite food and beverage venues. There will also be an appearance by one of our favorite Gala characters, and we’ll draw the winner of our online raffle for a $200 gift card at The Copper Door!

While attending the Gala on Zoom, you can choose whether or not people can see you over video or not, and can choose whether to talk or just listen. Whichever you choose, please join us to celebrate clean water in our region and those who work to keep it that way! Registration is now open, and we’re still accepting auction donations through February 5.

 

Efforts To Remove Invasive Plants At Island Park Continue In February


MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward, shows volunteer Ralph Murphy how to treat the stump of a freshly-cut invasive autumn olive at the Island Park workday on December 12.

MountainTrue and the Tuckasegee River Alliance are hosting another set of volunteer workdays at Island Park in Bryson City, NC in February. The objective at these workdays will be to use hand tools to cut larger invasive shrubs/trees, and then to treat the stumps with a small amount of concentrated herbicide. We’ll also pull smaller plants up by the roots.

Each workday will be held from 11 am-2 pm and limited to 15 volunteers. Our most recent MountainTrue University talk was about the Island Park Project. Watch it on our YouTube channel here.

Sign up for the Saturday, February 6 Island Park workday.
Sign up for the Wednesday, February 10 Island Park workday.

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Note: Due to the escalation of the COVID-19 crisis, in-person events for MountainTrue have been cancelled in January and February with the exception of program critical volunteer workdays. We hope to reschedule events like our Winter Tree ID hike for early March. Below are the current events still on the schedule.

Feb. 6, Feb. 20, Mar. 6 & Mar. 20: Live Staking Workdays In The High Country
Fight sediment pollution and erosion with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill by planting live stakes along streams and river banks.


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.

Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants In Hot Springs With Tamia Dame and Bob Gale

Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants In Hot Springs With Tamia Dame and Bob Gale

Removing Non-Native Invasive Plants In Hot Springs With Tamia Dame and Bob Gale

Last December, I headed out with MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, to treat non-native invasive plants with a few volunteers at an Appalachian Trail (AT) trailhead in Hot Springs, NC. This trailhead leads hikers straight to the parking lot for Laughing Heart Lodge, which is just one of the many hostels along the trail that provides accommodations to thru-hikers. The small town of Hot Springs is a hub for AT thru-hikers because of its position along the AT, its charming accommodations and its natural beauty.

Trailheads are often vulnerable to the spread of non-native invasive plants due to their proximity to roadways, since tires and shoes can carry the seeds of invasive plants and deposit them onto the ground around them. Upon meeting around ten in the morning at the trailhead, we were greeted by a plethora of multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), kudzu (Pueraria montana), oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and a newly appearing vine here, Akebia quinata, also known as five-leaf akebia or chocolate vine. Only a short distance up the trail ahead, invasive plants were sparse – making this a great opportunity to prevent them from spreading further.

After a brief training in cut-and-paint herbicide use, non-native invasive plant identification and safety, the group broke up to tackle the dense foliage from each corner of the parking lot. Cut-stump herbicide treatment is ideal for woody stem plants such as multiflora rose and Chinese privet, and easy to figure out for first-time volunteers. Here’s how it works: Once plants have been cut to the base of the stem, take a small bottle with a sponge tip and a needle that protrudes with pressure and presses onto the cut stump, sending the herbicide down into the roots. The herbicide contains a blue dye as an indicator for safety or spill purposes, which also makes it easier to tell the difference between treated and untreated plants in areas dense with invasives.

The weather was cool and sunny; great weather for battling a thorny wilderness of multiflora rose in long sleeves under little tree canopy. This exotic invasive perennial shrub is particularly harmful because of its natural lack of predators, incredible shade tolerance and high seed production, to name a few factors. When we arrived, the southeastern corner of the parking lot had several mature multiflora rose plants which had effectively overtaken the native plant life beneath them.

Bob and Tamia worked on this corner until it was nearly rid of invasives and visibly much healthier, promoting an environment in which native plant life can thrive as hikers pass through. Positioned on the north and northwestern corners of the lot, volunteers Scott and Kayla cut through thickets of multiflora, privet, oriental bittersweet and kudzu. Diligently cutting and painting through the morning and afternoon, these two were able to significantly improve the appearance of this side of the parking lot and make great progress on this non-native invasive removal project.

While the situation here is not yet perfect, we were able to put an impressive dent in the sheer volume of non-native invasive plants that stood when we arrived. We look forward to continuing our invasive treatment work on the Hot Springs AT trailhead as the weather warms, and thank Scott and Kayla for their hard work with us!


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.