July E-Newsletter

July E-Newsletter

Events Calendar

August 1: Virtual Riverkeeper Beer Series Cleanup with The Wedge Brewing Company
Despite the unusual times we find ourselves in, there is still trash collecting in our river. We hope that as many folks as possible can help us clean up the French Broad, but know that we can’t all be on the river together. We are offering a limited capacity in person clean up as well as a virtual clean up with the Wedge on August 1st. There are prizes from ENO for the most interesting finds for both virtual and in-person participants!Join us for the first virtual Riverkeeper Beer Series Cleanup of the French Broad River by cleaning your local creek, roadway, or neighborhood.

To participate virtually use the #wedgecleanup for changes to win some sweet prizes from ENO. The in person cleanup will start at Zoe’s Kitchen at the Biltmore Bridge on the Swannanoa River and end at the Wedge. For corona safety reasons we will not be providing shuttles, but do have boats, pfds and paddles available. Catie is putting together a registration page. For folks that want to self shuttle they can leave cars at the Wedge Foundation and shuttle up to Biltmore Bridge on the Swannanoa.

July 15, 11:30-12:45pm: MountainTrue University: Dear White People
This week’s MountainTrue University will feature Tanya Marie Cummings, a MountainTrue board member and the founder of Pathways to Parks, in a talk sharing stories of how she’s experienced racism as a black woman in WNC and in the outdoors. Tanya believes that when white people pull their heads ‘out of the sand’ and strive to understand the ugly disease of racism, they can become allies to black people to effectuate the ‘change’ that America so desperately needs.

July 26, 2-5pm: Apalachia Lake Paddle
Join us for a socially distant canoe outing on the peaceful Apalachia Lake, which has very little private shoreline development and no commercial recreation facilities. Fishing and swimming are both options along the way, so bring your line if you’d like.

 

 

 


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.

2020 BioBlitz Documents over 1,100 Species

2020 BioBlitz Documents over 1,100 Species

2020 BioBlitz Documents over 1,100 Species

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz to record all the species we can find in a given area. Typically, we gather around 50 naturalists and novices together and document 300-500 species in a day. This year, we were unable to gather in person, so we used iNaturalist, an online app for identifying and cataloguing organisms. 

We were also grateful not to take this on alone. We teamed up with Madison Natural Heritage, a new digital archive featuring the rich diversity of Madison County, and decided to focus within the county to help populate their data set.

We were blown away to find that 97 observers documented 2,618 organisms and 1,186 unique species, including at least one that has never been documented in the county. Also among these finds were several threatened and rare species (don’t worry- the locations are hidden for those observations). We have more than doubled our record species count for past BioBlitzes, and couldn’t have done it without you! We also had record youth engagement, and were able to provide prizes for every student who participated.

Some species to note include the small spreading pogonia, a showy native orchid that is rare in NC. The golden banded skipper is a lovely butterfly that is rare enough to be considered mythical by some enthusiasts who have yet to see one. Moss phlox, also called Mountain Pink, is a critically imperiled species in the state that was willing to let one participants snap a photo of its fuschia flower. Fen orchid is an endangered flower in the state, which had never before been found in Madison county. The hunt also turned up many vulnerable and near threatened species, including the Carolina Mountain Dusky salamander and the Stygian Shadowdragon dragonfly. All of these observations are research grade, and can contribute vital information on population levels for some of these very special species. To check out all the observations, check out our iNaturalist Project

What’s next for this data? Madison Natural Heritage is a new project of the Madison County Library, aiming to engage kids, students, scholars, citizens and visitors in discovering the natural wonder of the county. The data we’ve collected will help to populate their archive of scientific data. To learn more, visit madisonnaturalheritage.org.

A huge, shout-it-from-the-rooftops THANK YOU to everyone who participated and made this BioBlitz so successful. We hope next year we can get together and celebrate in person, but for now, y’all rock!


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 Great American Outdoors Act Passes The Senate, Reinvests In America’s Public Lands

The Great American Outdoors Act Passes The Senate, Reinvests In America’s Public Lands

The Great American Outdoors Act Passes The Senate, Reinvests In America’s Public Lands

Photo by Kirk Thornton on Unsplash

In a big victory for our public lands, The Great American Outdoors Act (SB 3422) was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 17 with bipartisan support and a vote of 73 yeas to 25 nays.

The bill would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year and allocate $9.5 billion over the next five years to address the maintenance backlogs in America’s National Parks, National Forests, and other public lands.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by Congress in 1964 with the purpose of investing earnings from oil and gas leases into projects that were meant to “safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.” The fund has been used for water conservation and habitat restoration projects, to support wildlife refuges, and has been accessed by local governments to fund recreation infrastructure and public parks. 

The fund has made a great impact in Western North Carolina, with money from the LWCF funding projects in every county. “[The LCWF has] purchased land for ball fields, boat launches, greenways, state parks, all the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and inholdings in our national forests,” says Jay Leutze, board member of the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy, as quoted in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Though the LWCF has been authorized at $900 million per year, Congress has regularly diverted these funds for other purposes. With this bill, Congress would finally put an end to that practice and fulfill the original promise of the LWCF. 

The part of the Great American Outdoors Act that is meant to specifically address the maintenance backlog for our public lands is called the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund. Through the act, Congress would fill the coffers of the Legacy Restoration Fund with up to $1.9 billion for each of the next 5 years, for a total of $9.5 billion. The fund is split between the National Park Service (70% or up to $6.65 billion), the Forest Service (15% or up to $1.4 billion), the Fish and Wildlife Service (5% or up to $475 million), and the Bureau of Indian Education schools (5% or up to $475 million). The Legacy Fund is a great and necessary first step in restoring the glory of our public lands; over the next five years, it would cut the combined $20 billion backlog nearly in half. 

The Senate deserves a big round of applause for coming together across party lines to pass the Great American Outdoors Act. North Carolina’s Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr were both co-sponsors, as was Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Now, a companion bill is up before the House of Representatives, which is anticipated to vote on the bill in July.  


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.

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Take Action Now.

Take action today and submit your comments to the Henderson County Planning Board in opposition to the rezoning to allow construction of a dangerous and unnecessary asphalt plant in East Flat Rock.

SE Asphalt wants to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single family homes, small farms, and the Green River Game Lands. The site drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

The developer has applied for conditional rezoning for 6.5 acres to a conditional district to construct the new asphalt plant. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant because:

The asphalt plant is too close to residential areas, homes and businesses.
The proposed site is across the Spartanburg Highway from a mobile home park and is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The parcel is currently zoned for Community Commercial. By seeking conditional rezoning to allow for the asphalt plant, the developer is effectively trying to rezone a site — that is bordered by residential areas — for industrial use.

A study by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) showed 45% of residents living within a half mile of a new asphalt plant reported a deterioration of their health, which began after the plant opened.

Asphalt plants are a source of harmful air pollution
Asphalt fumes are known toxins and contain pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics can cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.

The asphalt plant could harm our natural environment
The proposed site is dangerously close to the Green River Game Land and borders the headwaters of Laurel Creek. Air pollution and water runoff of pollutants from the site would impact the Game Lands and Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.

The East Flat Rock asphalt plant is an environmental justice issue
The site is across the road to a low-income community that would bear the brunt of air and water pollution, dust, noise, truck traffic, and exposure to harmful toxins. Low income communities are disproportionately impacted by industrial facilities across the nation, and that’s not right.

What you can do:

1. Submit your comments to the Henderson County Planning Board and County Commissioners in opposition to the asphalt plant.

2. Attend these upcoming meetings:

3. Stay informed and get involved with the local community organizing group Friends of East Flat Rock:

  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/251151092979467/about/
  • Website: https://friendsofeastflatrock.org/

Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and put a stop to this pollution factory before it even gets started! Join us in the fight!


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.

Introducing Madison County Natural Heritage

Introducing Madison County Natural Heritage

Written by Pete Dixon of Madison Natural Heritage

Madison Natural Heritage is excited to partner with MountainTrue for the 2020 Madison County BioBlitz aimed at creating a biological inventory of all of Madison County. Madison Natural Heritage is a new educational project, recently started by the Madison County Public Library system. This interactive digital project will serve as a natural history museum to engage students, scholars and citizens and to collect and archive data about the rich and cherished natural world in Madison County.

The library system’s interim director, Peggy Goforth, is excited to share her love for the county with the children who utilize the libraries. “Because Madison County is so special and unique” Goforth says, “it is critical that we instill in our children the knowledge to preserve and maintain this beautiful place that we love and call home.” Her fierce love of Madison County is shared by residents across the county and is reinforced by biologists throughout the state who believe it to be extremely unique. When asked about Madison County, retired state naturalist Harry LeGrande said, “[it] may be the single most important county in the NC mountains for the state’s biological diversity.”

Pete Dixon, of Madison Natural Heritage, and Josh Kelly, Public Lands Biologist at MountainTrue, work to identify plants species for the Madison County BioBlitz.

Madison Natural Heritage will use available database technology, such as iNaturalist, eBird, and the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, to capture natural science data. These tools will allow Madison County students to learn how to digitally log data using citizen science techniques while exploring the extraordinary environment surrounding them. Madison Natural Heritage is carefully coordinating with schools to make sure it supports their goals and doesn’t replicate existing programs.

The Madison County Library System is primed to take on such an innovative project, which could pave the way for similar initiatives in other counties and states. Having been awarded “The Best Small Library in America” title by Library Journal in 2018, Madison County residents know what community commitment and a strong library staff can achieve. By taking on the Madison Natural Heritage project on the tailwinds of its recent national recognition, the Madison County Library System has the opportunity to put Madison County on the national map again by creating countywide programming that involves young people in the growing field of citizen science and curating an exhibition of the county’s rich natural heritage. 

To kick off this exciting new initiative, Madison Natural Heritage and MountainTrue are sponsoring a county-wide BioBlitz from June 6th through June 20. A Bioblitz is an organized effort to document as much biology in one place during a set time as is possible. In other words, it’s like a scavenger hunt for the whole community focused on finding any and all living things: birds, plants, insects, fish, mammals, etc. Anyone can join by signing up here. Kids are especially welcome.

For more information about Madison Natural Heritage, email Pete Dixon at pete@madnatural.org or visit https://madisonnaturalheritage.org/.


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.

iNaturalist How-to

iNaturalist How-to

Our 2020 BioBlitz: Powered by iNaturalist

Every year, MountainTrue hosts a BioBlitz event where we gather experts, enthusiasts and lifelong learners together to document every living organism we can find in a given area. This year, we still want to bring people together to learn, even if we can’t grab a beer together afterwards. To make this happen, we are pulling out a tool that our team has used for years, and many of you may be familiar with — iNaturalist.

If you’re already familiar with iNaturalist, scroll down for specific instructions on how to join our BioBlitz Project.

iNaturalist is a citizen-science tool used to collect and verify data on biodiversity. Individual users upload observations, which are checked by other users and experts, and then added into a massive database of information. This data becomes publicly available, making it useful for scientists, researchers, students and enthusiasts to use for various purposes and projects. It is one of the most popular tools out there, with over a million users, and has useful functions for any level of learner, from novice to expert.

Check out this bat from Madagascar! People all over the world use this app to identify and document species ranging from the ultra rare to the everyday.

Anyone with a smartphone or computer can use this app by downloading it on the app store or visiting iNaturalist.org. They have great video tutorials for both first-time and experienced users on their Getting Started page. The basics are simple: take a photo of a living thing, upload it, and iNaturalist can help you identify what it might be. The more pictures you add, the better it works. For the best identification, try to take up-close shots of different parts of the plant or animal.

Once your files are uploaded, other people from around the world can confirm your identification or take a guess if you have no clue. And if you’re a botanical enthusiast, you can help others learn by identifying their uploads!

If you’re looking for an even simpler version of this interface, there are multiple spin off apps that are generally designed to help kids and students engage with the natural world. Seek is an app that gives more guided (and simplified) instructions. EcoExplore helps kids make their own observations, and offers ipad rentals through local libraries to make citizen science more accessible. Both of these programs upload their data to the iNaturalist platform, and all can be used for our BioBlitz!

With just a single picture, iNaturalist can often help you narrow down what you’re seeing. Each suggested species comes with identification information that can help you confirm your find and know what to look for next time!

Whether you’ve used iNaturalist hundreds of times or have never heard of it, we’re hoping you’ll join us in this year’s BioBlitz. We are partnering with Madison Natural Heritage, a new program that aims to compile all available biodiversity data for Madison County, and make it accessible to students, teachers, and the general public. Our BioBlitz is a chance to help populate their data set with your observations! For more information, please visit http://madisonnaturalheritage.org/2020-bioblitz/ and sign up to get more information on how to participate. Happy hunting!

 

Specific Instructions for Joining our 2020 BioBlitz Project:

The first step is to create an account with iNaturalist. This is easily accessible on the app or web browser, and your account will be viewable under the “Me” tab on the app, or the upper right corner on the website. 

Once you have an account and are logged in, you can start joining projects. Follow our link (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/madison-county-2020-bioblitz) or search for “Madison County 2020 Bioblitz” in the main search bar at the top of the website.  Once you’ve found our project, hit “Join” in the About section on the website view. On the app, you can either search for this project through the search bar in the “Explore” tab, or on the “More” tab, under “Projects.” It may be necessary to scroll down to make the search bar visible on the “Projects” page. Once you’ve joined, you should be able to follow along and see what observations others are making!

Our iNaturalist Project is designed to capture all observations uploaded in Madison County between June 6th and June 20th — even if you haven’t joined our specific project. This allows us to capture uploads from the EcoExplore and Seek apps as well.

If you are having difficulty accessing our Project or have other questions, please contact forestkeeper@mountaintrue.org. We’re here to help. Thanks for learning 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.