ACTION ALERT: Protect Our Forests and Farms from Sprawl

ACTION ALERT: Protect Our Forests and Farms from Sprawl

ACTION ALERT: Protect Our Forests and Farms from Sprawl

We need you to email the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to ask them to take action to prevent sprawl and protect our forests, farmland, and rural communities.

Henderson County is drafting its new Comprehensive Plan — the blueprint that will guide growth and development here for the next twenty years. As part of that process, they have surveyed members of our community, and that survey shows broad support for conservation.

Henderson County residents identified:

  • protection of open spaces and forests (55.30%),
  • farmland preservation (45.16%), and
  • conservation (35.04%) of unique natural areas

as their top 3 priorities for the 2045 Henderson County Comprehensive Plan.

Unfortunately, MountainTrue has serious concerns that the comprehensive plan being created by the county’s consultants is out of step with the desires and needs of Henderson County residents. The County has circulated a draft Future Land Use Map that prioritizes sprawl — development that spreads too far into the countryside, unnecessarily destroying forests, farmland, and rural communities — at great expense to taxpayers and against the desires of county residents.

So we need you to act today. Email your Henderson County Commissioners, and ask that they adopt a smart, responsible and sustainable comprehensive plan.

Watch: How Henderson County can accommodate growth without sprawl.

Chris Joyell, MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities Director, discusses how Henderson County can welcome far more population growth than the state anticipates without causing sprawl. Watch.

Learn More About the Henderson County Comprehensive Plan

Henderson County’s new Comprehensive Plan will serve as the blueprint for growth and development over the next twenty years. Learn about how this plan will help determine how our communities grow and develop to meet the challenges of climate change, a growing population, and increased pressures on our built environment.

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Asheville and Buncombe County

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Asheville and Buncombe County

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Asheville and Buncombe County

Plastic pollution: we’ve all seen it littered on the side of the road, blowing in the wind, floating down rivers and streams.

 

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all have to be part of the solution. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. Let’s enact common-sense laws at the state and local levels to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter in our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Our water quality testing concludes that microplastic pollution is widespread throughout the French Broad River Basin and other Western North Carolina waterways. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. That’s why we’re working with nonprofit partners to implement a single-use plastic ban in Buncombe County. We can and should enact common-sense legislation at the local level to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter and microplastic pollution in Buncombe County’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Visit the Plastic-Free WNC website to learn more about our plastics-focused work in Western North Carolina and Buncombe County

MountainTrue Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook clearly remembers the day she and French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson were confronted with the dismal reality of the plastic pollution crisis: “It was the final straw — figuratively and literally. A few years ago, Hartwell and I were paddling the Swannanoa River. Plastic was everywhere — thousands of plastic shopping bags littered the trees around us, and plastic bottles floated in the river like rafts of ducks. These weren’t new sights for us by any means, but they were the ultimate kick in the gut to start making more permanent changes to protect our rivers and streams.”

 

Want to join us in taking a stand against plastic pollution in Buncombe County? Add your voice below:

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Boone

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Boone

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Boone

Plastic pollution: we’ve all seen it littered on the side of the road, blowing in the wind, floating down rivers and streams.

 

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all have to be part of the solution. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. Let’s enact common-sense laws at the state and local levels to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter in our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Our water quality testing concludes that microplastic pollution is widespread throughout the Watauga River Basin and other Western North Carolina waterways. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. That’s why we’re working to implement a single-use plastic ban in the Town of Boone. We can and should enact common-sense legislation at the local level to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter and microplastic pollution in Boone’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Visit the Plastic-Free WNC website to learn more about our plastics-focused work in Western North Carolina and Boone

Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill on plastic pollution: “We’ve spent years conducting river cleanups, engaging hundreds of volunteers and partner organizations. We spend a lot of time on the Watauga, New, and Elk Rivers collecting water samples, planting trees, and tracking pollution. I thought we had a good handle on the plastic problem. A watershed change and paradigm shift for how I considered the issue came about when we partnered with the Town of Boone and Asheville Greenworks to install a passive litter collection device known as a Trash Trout. The data we began collecting on the type and amount of single-use plastics — including styrofoam and other littered items — truly blew us away.” 

 

Want to join us in taking a stand against plastic pollution in Boone? Email Boone Town Council using the form below:

Plastic-Free WNC

Plastic-Free WNC

Plastic-Free WNC

​​Plastic pollution: we’ve all seen it littered on the side of the road, blowing in the wind, floating down rivers and streams. Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all have to be part of the solution.

Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill on plastic pollution: “We’ve spent years conducting river cleanups, engaging hundreds of volunteers and partner organizations. We spend a lot of time on the Watauga, New, and Elk Rivers collecting water samples, planting trees, and tracking pollution. I thought we had a good handle on the plastic problem. A watershed change and paradigm shift for how I considered the issue came about when we partnered with the Town of Boone and Asheville Greenworks to install a passive litter collection device known as a Trash Trout. The data we began collecting on the type and amount of single-use plastics — including styrofoam and other littered items — truly blew us away.” 

MountainTrue Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook clearly remembers the day she and French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson were confronted with the dismal reality of the plastic pollution crisis: “It was the final straw — figuratively and literally. A few years ago, Hartwell and I were paddling the Swannanoa River. Plastic was everywhere — thousands of plastic shopping bags littered the trees around us, and plastic bottles floated in the river like rafts of ducks. These weren’t new sights for us by any means, but they were the ultimate kick in the gut to start making more permanent changes to protect our rivers and streams.”

Following their experience, Anna and Hartwell started researching the plastics industry. The more they learned, the more they disliked. The strategy of the plastics industry is akin to the tobacco industry — both forced themselves on unsuspecting populations, fully aware of their products’ adverse health and environmental impacts. Both marketed themselves as “cool” and continue to disproportionately burden our most vulnerable populations with hazardous health concerns. 

Cigarette usage has been on the decline since the tobacco industry’s regulation. The plastics industry, to this point, has gotten a free pass. Wrapped up in the oil and gas industry, Big Plastic is cozy with the idea of buying politicians and bullying consumers into buying their products. With few sustainable, affordable, and accessible plastic alternatives, we — the general public — remain Big Plastic’s captive audience.

Some places have started implementing their own rules on plastic — eight states have implemented their own single-use plastic bans, along with 345 municipalities across the nation. We at MountainTrue want to follow their lead, hopefully inspiring others to do the sameWe based our proposed ordinance on the various successes of existing single-use plastic bans. It’s intended to mitigate plastic pollution in Western North Carolina by addressing the single-use plastic problem at its source. 

Now, let’s get into the details:

We begin the ordinance with a whole slew of “Whereases” — a standard practice in bills and ordinances. Our Whereases spell out atrocities of the polluted reality perpetuated by the plastics industry: a reality characterized by environmental injustice, rife with increasingly negative impacts on human and environmental health. 

The ordinance’s first section defines key terms and concepts, like what makes an item single-use, compostable, reusable, etc. We based these definitions on best practices across the country.

The following sections are the figurative meat of the ordinance:

Section two details prohibitions on: 

  • Polystyrene as a primary chemical additive in styrofoam food and beverage containers
  • Plastic shopping bags at points of sale
  • Plastic stirrer sticks and splash guards
  • Plastic straws (we recommend a request-only policy, though nursing homes and hospitals are exempt from this policy)

Some items in this section have built-in exceptions: the ban on plastic shopping bags excludes bags used for produce, bulk items, meats, seafood, flowers, small hardware, live animals (like fish or insects), dry cleaning, or hotel-provided laundry bags. It also excludes yard waste, pet waste, and garbage bags.

With the ban on plastic shopping bags at points of sale, we hope to encourage people to bring their own bags to the store. But, people are human and will forget sometimes. To cover those times, stores can provide paper bags for a fee of $0.10 each. They can also offer reusable bags for sale at checkout. Some locations already provide empty cardboard boxes for customers to use, and that’s ok too. The purpose of the paper bag fee is to discourage customers from relying on paper bags — which have their own environmental impacts — each time they shop. Anyone with SNAP or WIC benefits will be exempt from the fee.   

Section four highlights our proposed bans on disposable plastic service ware. The ban differentiates dine-in versus take-out operations. We recommend that no disposable plastic service ware be provided for dine-in customers and encourage businesses to provide reusable service ware instead. Should a business lack the dishwashing capacity to provide reusables, they are exempt and can provide alternative sustainable service ware. We recommend businesses provide no disposable plastic service ware for take-out operations and instead provide sustainable service ware at the customer’s request. 

The next sections highlight the ordinance’s implementation and enforcement criteria: 

From the passage of the ordinance, businesses will have a set amount of time to source new sustainable alternatives and exhaust their current stocks of and contracts for single-use plastics. Businesses that fail to comply with the ordinance after that period will face penalties of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. 

You can read our proposed ordinance in its entirety here

Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. Let’s enact common-sense laws at the state and local levels to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter in our rivers, lakes, and streams. Visit our Plastic-Free WNC site to learn more and take action against plastic pollution in WNC. And join us at 7 p.m. on January 26 for our virtual screening of The Story of Plastic.  

Stand Up for these Principles at a Comprehensive Planning Meeting

Stand Up for these Principles at a Comprehensive Planning Meeting

Stand Up for these Principles at a Comprehensive Planning Meeting

MountainTrue is encouraging our members and supporters to take an active role in several comprehensive planning efforts throughout our region — specifically in Henderson County, Buncombe County and Bryson City. These comprehensive plans are an important opportunity for you to have a voice in how our local governments grow and develop to meet the challenges of climate change, a growing population and increased pressures on our built environment.

The comprehensive planning process in Henderson County is already underway. The county’s planning consultant has fielded a community survey to gauge local priorities. If you are a resident of Henderson County, we urge you to check out our guide and complete the survey.

Henderson County has also scheduled a series of public input meetings throughout the county from September through December. For a list of upcoming meeting dates, times and locations, visit this link

Please attend one or more of these public input meetings. All meetings are open to anyone who lives in or does business in Henderson County. For your convenience, here are MountainTrue’s list of planning principles — the issues that all comprehensive plans should address:

Public Participation
Overall, we believe that communities should play a central role in planning for their future growth and development. We advocate for a design process that invites diverse voices, including those that have traditionally been excluded or ignored. The process should be equitable and inclusive of all communities and people regardless of class or clout.

Smart Growth
MountainTrue supports economic vitality and growth in Western North Carolina without compromising our mountain habitat. We champion our cities and small towns, which function as our communities’ economic, cultural, and residential centers. We encourage public and private development in these places where we’ve already made investments in infrastructure. At the same time, we discourage any expansion of infrastructure that induces sprawl into natural areas or the rural landscape. We advocate for a wide variety of housing choices and multiple modes of transportation.

Land Preservation
We support planning for development in a way that protects valued natural resources. We encourage communities to create a local source of dedicated funds to preserve open space and agricultural and forested lands. Planning can identify environmental features like wetlands, agricultural lands, forests and steep slopes and suggest strategies for preserving those resources from destruction or degradation by development.

Public Lands
MountainTrue advocates for the protection of our national and state forests in addition to our national, state, county and city parks and trails. We believe the management of public lands should maintain and restore their ecological integrity and promote recreational opportunities.

Clean Water
We work to preserve and restore waterways as healthy ecosystems as well as recreational and aesthetic resources. MountainTrue supports the development and enforcement of standards and regulations to protect surface and groundwater from pollution, litter, and development.

Clean Energy
MountainTrue supports the development of clean, sustainable, locally-produced energy. We are dedicated to helping communities transition to renewable energy. We work with local community members, policymakers and utilities to bring our region sustainable solutions for our energy demands and to promote energy efficiency.

Take Action to Fight E. Coli Pollution in Our Rivers

Take Action to Fight E. Coli Pollution in Our Rivers

Take Action to Fight E. Coli Pollution in Our Rivers

Let’s give our farmers, families and local governments the help they need to keep our rivers free and clear of bacteria pollution. Call on lawmakers to address the issues polluting our rivers.

The rivers and streams of Western North Carolina are widely loved and enjoyed by the people who live here. Our rivers are also a vital part of North Carolina’s economy, and they need to be preserved.

Unfortunately, stormwater runoff from heavier and more frequent rainstorms due to climate change combined with failing infrastructure are leading to higher levels of bacteria pollution in area waterways. Recent DNA testing done by MountainTrue of the French Broad River, one of our region’s most polluted waterways, indicates that cattle and faulty and inadequate sewer, septic or water treatment infrastructure are our major sources of E. coli bacteria pollution.

To fix the problems causing higher levels of bacteria in our rivers:

We are calling on members of the North Carolina General Assembly to increase funding for the Agricultural Cost Share Program, the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program, the Community Conservation Assistance Program, and the Waste Detection and Elimination Program.

Currently, state funding to help WNC farmers afford improvements such as new cattle fencing and riparian buffers through the Agricultural Cost Share Program (ASCP) and the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program (AgWRAP) is far outstripped by demand. Last year, these programs received $19.2 million and $7.3 million respectively in requests for just $7.5 million in combined annual funding. Increasing the state’s investment in these programs to $19 million for ACSP and $7 million for AgWRAP could drastically reduce bacterial pollution in WNC waters.

Similarly, funding for the Community Conservation Assistance Program — which assists government buildings, schools, parks, and homeowners manage and control stormwater runoff — is insufficient to meet demand. We proposed increasing funding for this program from $100,000 to $3 million to meet current demand from applicants and reduce stormwater pollution in rivers and streams already impacted by bacteria pollution.

The Waste Detection and Elimination (WaDE) program existed for eight years, between 2002-2009. In that time its staff visited 13,379 WNC homes and identified 2,016 sources of water pollution — mostly from leaking and failing septic systems. We propose restoring $200,000 to the budget to restart this incredibly effective program.

We are calling on North Carolina’s US Senators and members of the US House of Representatives to support the “American Jobs Plan”, which would provide funding for much-needed infrastructure improvements and climate initiatives including $66 billion for water infrastructure, not including an additional $45 billion to ensure that no child has to drink from lead pipes.