Vistas E-News, October 2019

MountainTrue Annual Gathering At New Belgium

Join us on October 23rd for our 2019 Annual Gathering at New Belgium Brewing in Asheville. Expect great beer, delicious food and great camaraderie.

Stronger Together: MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering
October 23, 6-9 pm
New Belgium Brewing Company
21 Craven St., Asheville, NC 28806
Click Here to RSVP

MountainTrue is a member organization, and your dedication and support helps us fight for our communities and protect one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. At the Annual Gathering we’ll be honoring our 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners, voting on our new board nominees and celebrating our recent merger with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition.

MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering is made possible with the help of the law firm of Davis & Whitlock Environmental Law. Together with New Belgium Brewing, their generous support helps us keep costs for the Annual Gathering low.

Vote On Our New Board Nominees

MountainTrue’s board members are voted on and approved by our current members. With so many new members throughout our region, this year we are rolling out electronic voting. You must be a current member for your vote to count.

Vote Online Now

Online votes will be tallied along with a live vote that will take place at our Annual Gathering.

Meet Our 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners

MountainTrue is proud to announce our annual award winners for 2019. These awards are given to MountainTrue members and volunteers who have been outstanding in their commitment to preserving WNC’s natural heritage. Awards will be formally presented at our Annual Gathering on October 23.

  • Esther Cunningham Award Winner: Katie Breckheimer
  • Volunteer of the Year for the High Country Region: Chris Souhrada
  • Volunteers of the Year for the Southern Region: Kay Shurtleff and Lucy Butler
  • Volunteer of the Year for the Western Region: Charlie Swor
  • Volunteer of the Year for the Central Region: Erin Gregory

Read more about our MountainTrue Award winners.

Nominate MountainTrue For Best Of The Blue Ridge Awards

Cast your vote for your favorite outdoor organizations, businesses, events, people and destinations. The nomination window for Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Best of the Blue Ridge closes on October 18 at 9AM. We would appreciate your support for Best Environmental Organization in the Businesses category. Vote now.

Calling Volunteers Who Like To Hike!

In advance of the release of the next management plan for the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, we are looking for volunteers who are interested in talking to hikers, anglers, birders or any type of recreational user at trailheads and parking lots about how they can help ensure the places they like to access are protected. If you’re interested in being part of our trail outreach team, please fill out this short sign up form.


 

Central Region News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Building Our City Speaker Series Addresses Walkability And Road Diets

Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who advocates internationally for more walkable cities. We are excited for him to come to Asheville to inspire our community to imagine and plan for a more vibrant, walkable city. Jeff will be touching on the upcoming Charlotte St. road diet project which will decrease vehicle traffic lanes in order to add bike lanes and other bike and pedestrian friendly features. Join us to hear how projects like this will transform our community!
Read more.

Plugged In Buncombe Makes It Easier To Participate In Local Democracy

Have you ever wanted to attend a local government meeting, but worried you wouldn’t be able to follow along? This fall, MountainTrue is working to remove this roadblock through Plugged in Buncombe, an effort to demystify local advisory boards and committees. Participants will get the background on each meeting they’re interested in, and will be paired up with local topic experts who will be available to answer questions before and after each meeting. See the full list of meetings here and sign up to participate here.

Paint-Out And Artist Retreat To Preserve The French Broad

Join Preserving a Picturesque America (PAPA) for a free four day retreat in Hot Springs from Oct. 24-27. Conservationists, writers, artists are invited to participate in creating, learning and sharing ways to preserve the scenic beauty of the French Broad River. PAPA will be giving tours to sites that were depicted in the 1872 book, Picturesque America. The goal is to create an updated version of the book to promote the protection of these sites. For more details contact Scott Varn at 828-273-5383. Check out the Facebook Event.

Join The Buncombe County Parks, Greenway And Recreation Advisory Board

The Buncombe County Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Advisory Board was dissolved a few years ago but is now being reestablished. The County is starting from scratch and is seeking to get representation from a wide cross section of residents. The inaugural board will have a tremendous influence on goals and processes — a big task, but an important one. If you have a passion for parks, greenways and recreation, apply here.

High Country Regional News

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

Watauga Live Staking Season Kicks Off On October 18 In Boone

Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill is looking for some hearty volunteers to help stabilize local riverbanks. Volunteers will plant “live stakes” — a cutting from a tree species like silky dogwood, black willow, or elderberry that can be planted along riverbanks. They grow into trees and their root systems shore up riverbanks and reduce erosion.

The series kicks off with a Shade Your Stream workshop in partnership with the New River Conservancy and Blue Ridge Resource and Conservation Development Council and takes place this Friday, October 18, 2019 at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center. Learn more.

Additional “Paddle and Plant” workdays will be held by MountainTrue at Valle Crucis Community Park on November 8, November 15, December 6, December 13, February 9, February 16, March 13, March 20.

Watauga Riverkeeper Conducts Hellbender And Mussel Survey

Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill scuba diving with a headlamp. 

As part of the environmental impact survey for a dam removal project in the Watauga River Basin, Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill joined Dr. Mike Gangloff from Appalachian State University to conduct a survey of Hellbenders and Green Floater Mussels — a species of special concern and a threatened species, respectively. The aim of the project is to improve aquatic habitat and to ensure that dam removal does not harm these local treasures.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Green Riverkeeper Tracks Down Sewer Leak

Over the summer of Swim Guide bacteria sampling, we got some unusually high E. coli results in Cove Creek below Little Bradley Falls. Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan received a tip about a broken sewer line from a Saluda resident and did some follow up testing. Upstream the water tested clean. Twenty yards downstream was nine times over the EPA limit of 235 coliform forming units per 100 mL of water. The Green Riverkeeper has contacted the Town of Saluda and we’ll be working with them to get this fixed.

Help Save The Hemlocks Of The Green River

The eastern hemlocks of our Green River Gorge are under attack by the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic invasive insect that will kill most of our region’s hemlock trees within the decade unless action is taken. Join the Paddlers Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT) for a day on the Lower or Upper Green River treating and saving hemlocks. For the Lower Green, no experience is necessary. For the November 3 workday on the Upper Green, all volunteers must have their own gear and be experienced on Class III whitewater. Sign up for one of four upcoming workdays:

Western Regional News

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

Support Native Habitats, Buy A Native Tree Or Shrub

Native trees and shrubs are important to the integrity of local habitats and key components to healthy streams and lakes. They provide shelter and food for native animals, filter pollution from water runoff, trap excess soil, keep water water temperatures cooler and help prevent stream bank erosion.

To raise awareness about the beautiful, resilient plants that are native to our Southern Appalachian Mountains and to raise funds for our ongoing invasive plant eradication efforts, we are again holding a Native Tree and Shrub Sale this fall. Choose from 25 species of native trees and shrubs, ranging from large shade trees, native ornamentals, pollinator species, and those particularly beneficial to wildlife.
Read more and order yours.

Callie Takes Part In Panel Discussion On Water & Climate Change

MountainTrue’s Western Regional Director, Callie Moore, participated in a well-attended film screening and panel discussion presented by WNC Climate Action Coalition on September 21 at Lake Junaluska. Panelists, which also included David Weintraub, director of the film Guardians of our Troubled Waters, and Eric Romaniszyn, executive director of Haywood Waterways Association, discussed local rivers, water quality and climate change-related impacts. Extreme weather events associated with climate change are causing increases in runoff, flooding and landslides across our mountain region. Panelists discussed how this is impacting water quality and straining our water infrastructure. Thanks to MountainTrue member, Neva Duncan Tabb for facilitating MountainTrue’s participation and providing signage to call attention to our table at the event. (Photo: Callie & Neva Duncan Tabb)

Save The Date! The Hiwassee Watershed Gala Returns On February 27, 2020

The 12th Annual Watershed Gala and Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award presentation will be held on February 27, 2020. This is our annual celebration and a chance to recognize all of our members, supporters and volunteers who work to keep our Hiwassee watershed healthy and clean. We hope you will join us for a delightful evening of food, laughter, and fun. Further details to come.

Upcoming Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Now – Nov. 11: Fall Native Tree And Shrub Sale In Murphy
Choose from 25 species of native trees and shrubs, including large shade trees, native ornamentals, pollinator species, and those particularly beneficial to wildlife, and support the work of MountainTrue.

Oct. 16: Plugged In Buncombe
In an effort to encourage Buncombe County residents to get plugged into our local democracy, we want you to join us at advisory board or committee meetings. These meetings are designed to encourage residents’ input on specific community issues at the city and county level.
3:30-5:30 p.m.: Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and Environment
5:00-7 p.m.: Planning & Zoning Commission

Oct. 18: Shade Your Stream Workshop With The Watauga Riverkeeper And Friends
Join our Watauga Riverkeeper, the New River Conservancy, and Blue Ridge Resource and Conservation Development for a workshop focused on stream bank repair and live staking techniques.

Oct. 22, Nov. 1, 3 & 10: PHHAT Hemlock Treatment Workday On The Green River
Save the hemlocks of the Green River from the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid.
Sign up for the Oct. 22 workday.
Sign up for the Nov. 1 workday.
Sign up for the Nov. 3 workday.
Sign up for the Nov. 10 workday. 

Oct. 22: High Country Habitat Restoration Workday
Learn about some of the worst invasives in the region and help clean up the Boone Greenway with MountainTrue and the High Country Habitat Restoration Coalition.

Oct. 23: Stronger Together: MountainTrue’s 2019 Annual Gathering
Celebrate another great year of protecting the places we share with MountainTrue at New Belgium Brewing in Asheville.

Nov. 2: Guardians Of Our Troubled Waters Film Exhibition In Mill Spring
Join filmmaker David Weintraub for a screening of and discussion about his documentary featuring the stories of the river heroes who helped clean up our waters.

Nov. 7: Plugged In Buncombe: Planning And Zoning Commission
Learn about the works of the Planning and Zoning Commission and how you can get involved in helping to steer future development in the city of Asheville.

Nov. 6: Building Our City Speaker Series With Jeff Speck In Asheville
Prepare to be inspired at this latest installment of the Building Our City Speaker Series featuring Jeff Speck, a city planner and urban designer who advocates or more walkable cities.

Nov. 8 & 15: Watauga Riverkeeper Paddle-N-Plant Workday
Reduce the amount of sediment that flows into our rivers by planting live-stakes along eroding river banks with the Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue.
Sign up for the Nov. 8 workday.
Sign up for the Nov. 15 workday.

Nov. 9: Lake Chatuge Clean Up
MountainTrue hosts the 10th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The first 100 volunteers receive a free Rivers Alive t-shirt.

Nov. 14: Hendersonville Green Drinks: The Story Of DuPont State Recreational Forest
Sara Landry, Executive Director with Friends of DuPont State Forest will join us to discuss the story of DuPont State Forest.

Check out our full Events Calendar


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.

Diana Richards invites you to attend an evening with the Green and Broad Riverkeepers


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.

MountainTrue’s Response to Forest Service Message on the Buck Project

MountainTrue’s Response to Forest Service Message on the Buck Project

MountainTrue’s Public Lands Biologist, Josh Kelly, next to a “temporary road” built by the Forest Service in 2012 in Nantahala National Forest. 


This May, MountainTrue spread the word and made a call for public comments against the Forest Service’s preferred alternative for the Buck Project, which we believe is
one of the worst timber cutting proposals in the history of Nantahala National Forest. 

It came to our attention that many of the people who commented on the project through our online action alert received a message from Steverson Moffat, NEPA Planning Team Leader for the Forest Service, and they were curious as to what to make of it and how to respond. While we’re glad that the Forest Service is taking the time to engage with people who comment on their projects, we have a very different interpretation of the Buck Project than what was shared in the Forest Service’s message.

In the Forest Service’s response (which is included below), it is clear that the Forest Service sees a “need” to create more young forest in the Buck Project Area for disturbance-dependent wildlife species like the ruffed grouse. Not surprisingly, the majority of the logging projects in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests use exactly the same justification. It is true that scrub, shrub, woodland (an open forest), and grassland habitats and the species that depend on them are in trouble because natural processes like fire, floods, and large-scale grazing have been interrupted or destroyed by a largely developed landscape.

Sustainable timber harvest can be used as a surrogate for these suppressed natural processes to provide habitat for declining species; however, we don’t believe that we must sacrifice the last wild areas of our National Forests and habitat for sensitive rare species to make way for open habitat. Our National Forests are large enough for both values, but only some areas are suitable for each.

As the Forest Service notes, there are over 20,000 acres of public land in the Buck Project Area. What is not noted is that this is one of the wildest places left in the Appalachians. Over 400 acres of timber harvest can be attained there without cutting existing old-growth, habitat for rare species, or building roads into areas that are ideal for backcountry management. A similar amount could be harvested from the developed footprint of the area every 10-20 years in perpetuity. To get at more will require road building into the Chunky Gal potential Wilderness Addition and cutting in sensitive habitats. 

One of the biggest concerns we have with Mr. Moffat’s letter is the claim that the proposed road building and logging won’t affect the status of Chunky Gal in the new forest plan. Building miles of roads and cutting 20-acre blocks of this area will decrease the Buck Project Area’s natural qualities, making it much less likely to be recommended as Wilderness or Backcountry in the new forest plan. The planning rule literally uses “apparent naturalness” as the standard for whether areas qualify for Wilderness and Backcountry management.  If the Chunky Gal area isn’t managed as Backcountry in the new plan, it leaves the area open to development with road systems in the future.

The Forest Service also makes the assertion that temporary roads are “an attempt to tread as lightly as possible on the landscape while meeting management objectives.”  In fact, “temporary roads” are no more temporary than any other logging roads. They would need to be 14-20 feet wide in order to support the large equipment and trucks needed to harvest hundreds of acres of forest. These roads would be temporary in name only, and would persist for decades on the ground. 

Furthermore, Forest Service regulations state that for a road to be categorized as “temporary” it can only be used once. Some of these “temporary” roads have already been used in two other timber sales in the past 20 years by the Forest Service. If a road will knowingly be used repeatedly, it is required to be added to the official Forest Service system. The problem is, that requires maintenance money that the Forest Service doesn’t have. If roads aren’t maintained, erosion into streams is a significant hazard. The Forest Service currently has an $8.4 billion backlog for needed road maintenance nationwide. When the Forest Service disregards its own regulations in order to get out of road maintenance requirements at the expense of water quality, it’s fair to call that an accounting trick. Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests need to maintain the 2,300 miles of road they already have before building new ones.

The message also states that “the Forest Service specialists who are tasked with managing the Nantahala National Forest take seriously the responsibility entrusted to them by the American people and strive to balance the needs of the ecosystem with the often conflicting desires of the public.”

The Forest Service has every opinion inside its ranks that you find in the American public at large. There are many Forest Service employees who disagree with aspects of the Buck Project as proposed. To frame the proposal for this project, which would develop the area with miles of roads and hundreds of acres of logging, as being consistent with the needs of the ecosystem is arguable at best.

MountainTrue believes the solution is to find the places where society’s need for wood, wildlife’s need for scrubby habitat, and the conditions of the forest align so that timber harvest makes sense at all three levels. That’s why we support a modified Alternative D that does not build new roads, stays out of existing old-growth forest, and does not harm natural heritage areas.

It is clear at the local and the national level that the Forest Service wants to cut more timber. The way to accomplish that is not to harm the fantastic biodiversity of the Blue Ridge Mountains by developing the last wild places and cutting areas identified as biological gems like the disputed parts of the Buck Project. We can achieve all our goals in a much more environmentally sound way by opting for a modified Alternative D.

Original Message From The Forest Service

You’re receiving this message because you commented on the Tusquitee Ranger District’s Buck Project during the notice and comment period in April and May of 2019. Under normal circumstances, you would have received this reply within about two weeks of the end of the comment period, but I had some family business that took me out of town for a few days in mid and late-May and, well, things got a little backed up.

I have taken the liberty of attaching the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) to this message that was (and still is) available for review during the N&C period. Maps of the project area and proposed treatments, which are too megabyte-rich for email, can be found by following this link and clicking the “Analysis” tab: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50345. I strongly encourage you to read the EA because it addresses many of the issues that you have raised.

To directly respond to specific points and concerns most of you shared with us in your correspondence:

  •         Everyone who works for the National Forests in North Carolina also loves and appreciates our public lands and the natural values they provide, including those listed in your messages: clean water, wildlife habitat, hunting, fishing, recreation, solitude, nature study, and much more.
  •         Yes, the Buck Project analysis area is part of an iconic Appalachian landscape, and needs our care. Referencing Chapter 1 of the EA,
  • There are currently 111 acres of forest in the 0 – 10 year age class, and 18 acres in the 11 – 20 year age class. This habitat type, once too abundant in the wake of extractive logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is now rare across the Nantahala National Forest (EA at page 7). Young forest stands, those 20 years and younger, typically, provide critical age class and structural diversity that provide critical habitat for a wide variety of non-game and game wildlife species that require interior forest early successional habitat (ESH) to complete some, or all, of their life cycles (please see the references cited and hyperlinked on pages 6 and 7 of the EA). The Forest Service is balancing this need for ESH while also conserving older forest stands, which also provide important habitat for non-game and game wildlife.
  • Currently, 14,222 acres of the Buck Analysis area are 81 years and older; by the completion of the proposed project, this total will increase to 17,811 acres, or 86% of the analysis area.
  •         Care has been taken to locate treatments in areas that do not contain habitat for rare plants or, where work is proposed near rare plant populations, buffers and exclusion zones have been established to maintain appropriate habitat conditions (EA at pages 35 and 36).
  •         The Forest Service has evaluated the proposed actions on areas that have been identified as lands that may be suitable for wilderness and has determined that project activities would have no impacts to the wilderness characteristics of the Boteler and Chunky Gal inventory areas (EA at pages 28 and 29).
  •         Potential impacts of temporary road prisms and other project activities on soil and water resources are presented in sections 3.2.1, 3.6, and 3.7 of the EA.
  •         Proposing temporary roads is not, from our perspective, an “accounting trick”, but rather an attempt to tread as lightly as possible on the landscape while meeting management objectives.

Other topics addressed in the EA include the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects to management indicator species, communities, and special habitats; proposed, endangered, and threatened species; regionally sensitive and forest concern species; old growth forest; air resources; timber resources; heritage resources; recreation resources; scenery; social and economic considerations; road management; and climate change.

The Forest Service specialists who are tasked with managing the Nantahala National Forest take seriously the responsibility entrusted to them by the American people and strive to balance the needs of the ecosystem with the often conflicting desires of the public. We are currently reviewing all comments on the Buck Project and anticipate releasing a draft decisional EA and draft Decision Notice later this summer. You will be receiving those documents by email when they are released for the 45 day objection period. Until then, should you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best, 

Steverson

Steverson Moffat, Ph.D.

NEPA Planning Team Leader, Forest Service, Nantahala National Forest


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.

Callie Moore – Bio

Callie Moore, Western Regional Director

Callie served as Director of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition for 17 years until the organization merged with MountainTrue in 2019. She has a Master’s Degree in Water Resources from Indiana University and is a graduate of Western Carolina University’s (WCU) Environmental Health Program. Before HRWC, Callie was a river basin planner for the NCDENR, Division of Water Quality, during which time she worked extensively in several WNC river basins including the Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, and Savannah. Other prior work experience includes water quality monitoring, sediment/erosion control compliance inspections, and environmental education for the Tennessee Dept. of Environment & Conservation and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Callie is a graduate of the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership, Leadership Chatuge and she served on the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Community Leadership Council.

Although Callie grew up in middle Tennessee, throughout her life her family vacationed at their home at Lake Junaluska. It was then and while at WCU, that she developed a rich knowledge and love of western North Carolina and its rivers.

She and husband, Philip, currently live with cat, Tessa, in the Tusquitee Community of Clay County, NC. She enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities in her spare time, as well as making hand-stamped greeting cards and helping out around Moore Farm. In addition to being involved in the community through her church, Callie is a member of the Rotary Club of Clay County and serves on the board of the Unaka Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

envelope callie@mountaintrue.org
phone (828) 837-5414


We value mountain communities that are vibrant, livable, and respectful of their connection to and dependence on the region’s natural environment.
We value the integrity of natural systems – air, land, water, and native plants and animals – and believe in protecting and restoring them for the benefit of all generations.

  1. Fall Native Tree and Shrub Sale in Murphy

    September 30 - November 11
  2. Shade Your Stream Workshop

    October 18 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
  3. PHHAT Hemlock Treatment Workday 10/22

    October 22 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
  4. High Country Habitat Restoration Workday

    October 22 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
  5. Stronger Together: MountainTrue’s 2019 Annual Gathering

    October 23 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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.

MountainTrue 2019 Legislative Agenda

The 2019 session of the North Carolina General Assembly includes opportunities for important progress on a range of environmental issues. As the only Western North Carolina environmental organization with a permanent advocacy effort in Raleigh, MountainTrue will use its presence in the capitol – as well as its substantial grassroots membership – to support a number of important environmental and conservation efforts, including:

Emergency Funding for Petroleum Spills – Last year, MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill discovered a large plume of petroleum pollution on the Watauga and called for state water quality regulators to begin cleanup efforts. But because of restrictions on state cleanup funds, the response was delayed until the source of the pollution could be determined – a process that can take weeks or even months. MountainTrue is advocating for new, unrestricted funding to allow cleanup to begin immediately and reduce the damage petroleum pollution can do to water quality and habitat.

More Water Quality Testing in WNC – Run-off and other pollution can make swimming and playing in many WNC rivers and streams unsafe for adults and children. MountainTrue is asking lawmakers to fund water testing in our mountain rivers and streams so people know when it’s safe to swim. This testing is currently funded for our state’s beaches but not for rivers in Western North Carolina – even though we have some of the most popular water recreation destinations in the Southeast.

Help Small Farmers Protect Water Quality – Simple efforts like fencing can help small farmers reduce their impact on WNC water quality. Unfortunately many small farmers need financial help to implement these kinds of “Best Management Practices,” or BMPs. And while there is current state funding for BMPs, it is not enough to help every willing farmer. MountainTrue will advocate for farmers to get the investments they need to prevent sediment and animal waste from harming rivers and streams.

Protect NC Trout and the WNC Trout Industry Whirling disease is a microscopic parasite that has been found in WNC trout streams. Last year, MountainTrue secured state funding for a study to help understand the threat this parasite poses to the trout industry – which contributes $383 million annually to the region’s economy. MountainTrue will use the results of the study to develop a legislative action plan to address this environmental and economic threat.

Open Space Conservation Funding – Before the Great Recession of 2008, North Carolina was a national leader in protecting and restoring land for recreation, habitat and clean water. Since the recession, funding levels for open space conservation have slowly increased but are still nowhere near their pre-recession levels. MountainTrue will continue to work with others in the conservation community to protect and expand funding for our parks, critical habitat and the health of critical watersheds.

Improve NC Emergency Preparedness – This year’s storms were a wake-up call that all of North Carolina must do more to prepare for extreme weather associated with climate change. MountainTrue will advocate for new policies and investments to prepare for this new reality, including moving agricultural and other industrial polluters out of flood plains and better flood control policies to protect homes and businesses from repeated destruction.


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.