Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Our Parks

Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Our Parks

Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Our Parks

Encourage the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to improve its Regional Haze Rule State Implementation Plan.

Take Action:

  1. Use the form below to submit public comments asking DAQ to consider all haze-causing pollution including nitrogen oxides and expand its list of sources to include all of Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants.
  2. Attend the public hearing on October 6 at 6 p.m. and voice your support for stronger air pollution controls.

Air pollution threatens the health of wildlife and our communities, drives the climate crisis, and remains one of the most serious problems facing our national parks. In fact, nearly 90 percent of our more than 400 national parks are plagued by haze pollution caused mostly by coal plants, vehicles, and other industrial sources, as well as oil and gas development and operations.

National parks and wilderness areas like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shining Rock, Linville Gorge, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock, and Swanquarter Wilderness Areas are labeled “Class I” areas, have the strongest clean air protections in the country, mandated by the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Regional Haze Rule is the CAA’s time-tested, effective program that requires federal and state agencies as well as stakeholders to work together and put forth implementation plans that will reduce air pollution and restore clear skies at Class I areas around the country.

This is a great opportunity to make our air cleaner and healthier. Let’s encourage the Division of Air Quality to improve its Regional Haze Implementation Plan by including all of Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants and taking into account all haze-causing pollution such as nitrogen oxide.

Take action today and attend the public hearing on October 6 in support of clean air and a better Regional Haze Implementation Plan.

TALKING POINTS:

  • While most haze pollution does not originate in national parks, it can travel hundreds of miles from its source, thereby affecting parks and nearby communities. In fact, nearly 90% of national parks are plagued by haze pollution, and on average, park visitors miss out on 50 miles of scenery because of haze — a distance equal to the length of Rhode Island.
  • The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule (RHR) is a time-tested, effective program that has resulted in real, measurable, and noticeable improvements in national park visibility and air quality. The RHR is intended to protect Class I national parks and wilderness areas both inside and outside North  Carolina including Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shining Rock, Linville Gorge, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Swanquarter Wilderness Areas from air pollution. North Carolina’s plan is required to address visibility impairing pollution that has the potential to affect Class I areas in order to make reasonable progress towards clear skies in the second round of planning.
  • A recent study found that air pollution in some of our most iconic national parks is comparable with densely populated cities like Los Angeles and Houston.
    • The study’s key findings show that between 1990 and 2014, average ozone levels in the parks were indistinguishable from levels in the United States’ 20 largest metro areas.
    • The study also found that park visitation drops by at least eight percent when ozone pollution is high — a clear indicator that air quality is an important issue for the public and directly impacts their use and enjoyment of our national parks.
  • The same sources of pollution harming our communities are also fueling the climate crisis, and the consequences are alarming. Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires over natural levels across the western U.S., including at Yosemite and other parks, raised sea level at the Statue of Liberty and other coastal parks, and is melting glaciers at Glacier Bay and  Glacier National Park.
  • The same sources of pollution causing haze in our national parks are also disproportionately affecting communities near those sources; communities that are most often living below the poverty line and/or are communities of color. State agencies and the EPA have the opportunity to take into account the benefit that controls on haze-causing pollutants have for disproportionately affected communities and ensure that those benefits are considered and prioritized in developing state or federal implementation plans.
  • Poor air quality in our national parks also threatens our economies. Our national parks provide nearly $42 billion in economic benefit and support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country each year. Without strong safeguards protecting the air we breathe, we can’t keep these places and local economies strong, let alone keep people healthy. Every visitor to a national park deserves to experience clean air and clear views.

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.

E-Vistas Newsletter – September 2021

E-Vistas Newsletter – September 2021

Creation Care Alliance: Sustainable and Just Food Systems

Join the Creation Care Alliance from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, September 16, for a time of centering, community and learning about sustainable and just food systems. We will hear from Jarred White and Michelle Osborne of Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA regarding how faith communities can care for people and places through food ministry. We’ll have break-out room conversations following their discussion to brainstorm the ways we can deepen our current creation care and ecological justice initiatives by investing more in healthy land and food. We can’t wait to spend time with you! Learn more and register.

Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Share Your feedback on ‘AVL Shares Space’ Outdoor Expansion Initiatives

The City of Asheville is seeking public feedback on temporary initiatives launched in the spring of 2020 to support safe business operations and customer access during COVID-19. With assistance from MountainTrue’s Asheville Design Center, these initiatives have enabled over 100 businesses and organizations in Asheville to expand into adjacent outdoor public spaces and parking lots.

Take the survey here. The survey will remain open through September 20. (Participating businesses are being surveyed separately.)

The AVL Shares Space initiatives include the following:

  • “Shared Streets” (pedestrian priority environment and use of on-street parking spaces along a corridor)
  • Temporary Parklets (use of on-street parking spaces)
  • Expansion on private lots (i.e. parking lots)
  • Expansion on public sidewalks
  • 10-minute curbside pick-up zones

Take the Close the GAP Survey

The City of Asheville is updating the City’s Greenway (G), Accessibility (A), and Pedestrian (P) Plans. The combined plan, which is referred to as “Close the GAP,” will look to update and expand the network of accessible sidewalks and greenways for our community.

The City has issued a Close the Gap Survey that asks a series of questions about you and your walking and wheeling needs on Asheville’s streets and greenways. In addition, they have produced a video that provides an overview of the Close the GAP Planning Process.

High Country Regional News

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

Meet Our New AmeriCorps, Kylie Barnes

Please welcome our new AmeriCorps member, Kylie Barnes! She will serve a one-year term as our High Country Water Quality Administrator, managing our water quality programs and providing educational outreach. Kylie is a recent graduate from Appalachian State University, where she earned degrees in Economics and Sustainable Development. We are thrilled to have her on our team and look forward to the skills and perspective she brings to the High Country.

Winkler’s Creek Trash Trout Repaired, Back in Service

The Winkler’s Creek Trash Trout sustained some damage from Hurricane Fred. Our team was able to make the needed repairs and get the Trash Trout up and running again. In the most recent haul, we recovered 800 individual pieces of trash, mainly consisting of styrofoam, plastic bottles, plastic bags and cigarette butts.

Help Clean Up Watauga Lake

Join the Watauga Riverkeeper and the Watauga Watershed Alliance for a trash and litter cleanup on September 18. On-site registration and equipment pickup is from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the following locations: Fishsprings Marina, Pioneer Landing Marina, Roan Creek Bridge on Highway 167. If you have any questions, please contact wataugawatershedalliance@gmail.com or Andy Hill at andy@mountaintrue.org.

Learn about Creation Care at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Join the Creation Care Alliance (CCA) on Saturday, October 2, for a picnic and community-building event at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Meet CCA’s new director Sarah Ogletree, spend time with others in your region dedicated to the work of creation care, and think about the callings to ecological justice pressing on the hearts of the High Country. Our lunch gathering will happen from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Learn more.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Weigh in on the Henderson County 2045 Comprehensive Plan!

Henderson Country has kicked off its Comprehensive Planning effort with a Community Survey. This is an important opportunity for you to have a voice in how our county meets the challenges of climate change, a growing population and increased pressures on our built and natural environments. We’ve prepared a guide for members of MountainTrue who want to see our community grow sustainably and responsibly. Click here for a list of suggested responses and more information about the survey and other opportunities for public input.

Second Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament is a Great Success!

On Saturday, August 28, MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper and NC Wildlife Resources Commission kicked off the Second Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament at the Broad River Greenway in Cleveland County! The tournament is a fun competition and a great way for MountainTrue to engage with the diverse communities that enjoy swimming and fishing in the Broad River. Tanya Poole with NC Wildlife Resources Commission provided fishing poles, tackle and bait to share with kids and offered fishing instruction to all who were interested. David Caldwell, our Broad Riverkeeper, ran some short fishing trips with his canoe, and we served up some homemade peach ice cream! Participants caught a lot of fish on opening day and throughout the week, but the title of Broad’s Best Angler 2021 went to Fitz McMurry, with three fish for a combined length of 59 inches!

Join Us for a Moonlight Float on the Broad River!

Paddle with us by the light of the moon on September 18! We will put in at Lake Houser in NC and float to the Broad River Greenway in Boiling Springs, NC. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MountainTrue is limiting our guided trips to a maximum of 10 participants. Sign up.

Litter Cleanups on the Green and Broad Rivers on Saturday, September 25

September 25 will be our Sixth Annual Sarah Sweep. We’ll be cleaning up from Double Shoals to Zion Church Road on the First Broad River. All are welcome to join us on this lovely section of the river that Sarah Spencer held dear to her heart. While paddling the shallow and shaded waters that flow between rock cliffs and rhododendron, Sarah would always stop to pick up any litter along the way. Sarah and several friends died tragically in 2016, and this event is in honor of these friends and their love for the river. Sign up here: https://mountaintrue.org/event/sixth-annual-sarah-sweep-on-the-broad-river/

On the same day, you can join our Green Riverkeeper will be hosting a cleanup of the Lower Green in Polk County, from Big Rock Access to the Lake Adger Public Marina. We’ll be giving the river a thorough cleaning after a busy recreation season in the gorge. Sign up.

Western Regional News

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

Fifth Annual Fall Native Tree and Shrub Sale

We are now accepting orders for our Fall Native Tree Sale Fundraiser. Choose from 34 native species, ranging from large shade trees to smaller ornamental shrubs. All plants are quality nursery stock and are available in one to three-gallon pots. Native plants are a great way to support pollinators and wildlife species. We are accepting orders until November 14. You can pick up your purchases from MountainTrue West office parking lot in Murphy, NC, on Saturday, November 20, 9:00-1:00. Finally, learn why it’s great to plant trees in the dormant season and start planting. Place your order today!

Planning For the Future of Bryson City

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MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities director, Chris Joyell, led an interesting walking tour through downtown Bryson City in August. He reviewed recommendations from the Bryson City Community Assessment Report completed by Handmade in America in March 2011. The town has made many improvements over the past 10 years, including attractive directional signage and a covered river-side pavilion near the historic courthouse museum. The Town of Bryson City is currently updating its Land Use Plan to guide future changes that will affect residents and visitors over the next 25 years. If you live, work or play in Bryson City, please complete the Opportunities and Challenges Survey before September 17!

Hiwassee Lake Big Sweep: September 25th

NC Big Sweep is a statewide litter cleanup program that brings citizens and community organizations together to clear trash from their waterways. The annual Hiwassee Lake Big Sweep event hosted by Mainspring Conservation Trust is set for Saturday, September 25. All residents are encouraged to participate, especially anyone who can bring their own boats. To promote social distancing, Mainspring has created a list of “Litter Zones” in need of attention. All litter must be dropped off at the Hanging Dog Boat Ramp before Sunday morning. Details can be found on Facebook.

Volunteer This Fall on the Murphy River Walk

Starting September 27, MountainTrue will host a series of community volunteer workdays on the River Walk in Murphy, NC. Each Monday afternoon this fall (weather permitting) and probably on a Saturday or two, volunteers will work to control nonnative invasive plants along sections of the trail using hand tools. No prior experience is necessary to participate, and we will provide tools and training. Please email Tony Ward if you’re interested in helping with this project. Join us to learn, give back to the community and gain experience you can use to eradicate invasive plants on your own property!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Sep 18 – Asheville Urban Bike Tour

Sep 18 – Moonlight Float

Sep 18 – Big Sweep on Watauga Lake

Sep 22 – Building Our City: Sustainable Tourism

Sep 25 – Sixth Annual Sarah Sweep

Sep 25 – Green River Big Sweep

Oct 7 – High Country Annual Member Gathering
4:30 – 6 p.m. at Valle Crucis Community Park – Details to come.

Oct 9 – Fall Scenic Hike

Oct 16 – Broad River Fall Float

Oct 20 – Western Region Annual Member Gathering
Details to come.

Oct 26 – Southern Region Annual Member Gathering
Details to come.

Nov 5 – Tanawha Trail Hike

Nov 7 – Buncombe Solar Trolley Tour

Want to halt plastics pollution in WNC? Think globally, act locally.

Want to halt plastics pollution in WNC? Think globally, act locally.

Did you know that Americans use 100 billion plastic bags each year, and, on average, we use them for only 12 minutes? It’s true.

And once a plastic bag is thrown away, it takes 500 years to degrade. However, it never really goes away. Instead, each plastic bag breaks down into millions of smaller and smaller particles called microplastics.

These microscopic pieces of plastic are everywhere — from dust particles in the atmosphere to the deepest parts of the ocean. You breathe in and consume approximately one credit card’s worth of microplastics each week, and the health effects of this are largely unknown.

Make a Contribution Today

We’re working to reduce the amount of plastics making their way into the environment. Will you lend a hand in the fight against plastics? Donate today.

Many of us are familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and plastics in our oceans, but plastics are a growing problem in the rivers of Western North Carolina. MountainTrue has been taking regular water samples from watersheds throughout our region for the past couple of years. Early data shows 15-20 pieces of microplastics per liter in the French Broad River and 7-13 pieces per liter in the Watauga River. These results are among the highest on record for plastic pollution in rivers.   

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all have to be part of the solution. That’s why MountainTrue is taking a multi-faceted approach:

In Asheville and Buncombe County, we’re pushing for an outright ban on plastic bags, styrofoam, plastic straws, coffee stirrers, and cup lids.

In Hendersonville, we’re partnering with the City and local businesses on the “Working to be Plastic Free” program to help businesses voluntarily transition away from one-time-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, and takeout containers.

In Boone, as in other parts of our region, we’ve deployed a Trash Trout to collect litter already in the waterway. We collect the trash each week, sort it, and catalog it to inform future advocacy.

And in Raleigh, we’re advocating for state-wide legislation to ban plastic bags and plastics and styrofoam in food service.

MountainTrue volunteer Erica Shanks poses with garbage, mostly plastic, collected from the Green River. 

One week’s worth of plastic collected in our Winkler Creek Trash Trout near Boone, NC .

A microfiber from one of our water samples viewed through a microscope in our lab.

This is just the beginning, but it already represents a significant expansion of our water quality work. To succeed, we need your help and support.

Your support today will help pay for testing equipment, public awareness efforts, lobbying trips to Raleigh, and more. We need these investments to effectively advocate for policies that protect the health and environment of the people and places we all love. 

Donate today, and visit mountaintrue.org/plastic-free-wnc  to take action. With your help, we can stop plastics at the source.

Pass a Plastic Reduction Bill in North Carolina

Pass a Plastic Reduction Bill in North Carolina

Pass a Plastic Reduction Bill in North Carolina

Image above: plastic makes up a majority of the garbage that MountainTrue pulls out of its Trash Trout litter-collection device on Winkler Creek in Boone, NC.

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all need to be part of the solution.

Take action today, and call on the North Carolina General Assembly to enact a smart plastic reduction bill to reduce our reliance on cheap, single-use plastics and clean up our environment.

Single-use plastics are clogging up North Carolina’s rivers and streams. These plastic bottles, styrofoam cups, and plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade, but they never really go away. Instead, they end up as microscopic fragments, films and fibers of plastic that end up in our environment, in our food system and even in our bodies. 

We breathe in and consume approximately one credit card’s worth of microplastics each week. Though the health effects of this are largely unknown, plastics and the additives used to make them can be harmful or toxic to both wildlife and people. Studies have shown harmful effects on our respiratory, reproductive, and nervous systems. 

Fortunately, there are bills before the North Carolina Senate (SB 451) and House of Representatives (HB 959) that would ban single-use plastic shopping bags, utensils, and styrofoam cups and packaging. Food packaging is a significant source of the plastics that we find in our rivers. If passed, these bills would help us reduce the amount of plastic in North Carolina’s environment. 

Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

Senate Budget Includes Enviro Investments. Will the House Follow?

Approval of a new state budget is near the top of the North Carolina General Assembly’s To-Do list every year.

And ensuring that the budget includes investments for Western North Carolina’s natural resources is a big part of MountainTrue’s legislative agenda.

We got an early read on how our budget priorities may fare this year recently when the North Carolina Senate approved its version of the state’s new spending plan a few weeks ago. The news – so far anyway – is pretty good.

The Senate budget includes some of our top priorities, including recurring funding to maintain the state’s landslide hazard mapping efforts in our region; funding to identify and address failing septic systems that are polluting rivers and streams; and a constellation of conservation investments to restore regional waters and make them more accessible to the public.

Take Action for the Environment

We need your help to win support for much-needed funding to clean up WNC rivers and protect our environment.

Some of the more recognizable investments include $12 million for the new Pisgah View State Park in Buncombe County and $7.5 million for removal of the Big Hungry Dam on the Green River in Henderson County — one of the most expensive and long-sought dam removal projects in the state.

Our team began meeting with legislators about our budget priorities months ago, so it’s great to see some of that work pay off with funding for a number of those projects included. But we would be remiss if we did not thank the legislators who helped with this success — particularly Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County.

Edwards is one of the chairs of a key Senate appropriations committee with responsibility for natural resources investments. He’s been a strong ally of MountainTrue’s efforts to address water quality problems — including E. Coli — in our region and to find the funding for a variety of other investments.

More good news: an important open space conservation fund also gets a big boost under the Senate budget. Last year the state’s Land and Water Conservation Fund provided $21 million in grants. Under the Senate plan, the Fund would receive $73.2 million in this fiscal year and $53.2 million next year. Trust funds for farmland preservation and our state parks system also got big boosts.

While the Senate budget is a good first step, we hope that House budget writers will build on this success and fund two big-ticket items that the Senate did not. WNC urgently needs funding to help farmers pay for fencing and other “best management practices” that will keep cows and stormwater runoff out of rivers and our waters free of E. Coli. Statewide demand for these programs far outstrips the availability of these funds. Likewise, funding to help property owners and local governments upgrade septic and wastewater systems to reduce water pollution in our region are also in great demand.

These two programs need millions of dollars of new investment.

For more information about MountainTrue’s budget priorities, give this document a look (pdf).

With the budget process in Raleigh in full swing, you can help us advocate for these investments. Use the form below to thank Sen. Edwards for his help and encourage House members to build on the Senate’s investments.

Finally — on a different note — many of you have likely heard about the big energy bill now moving at the legislature. At MountainTrue, we have serious concerns about the bill in its current form and are working with many other groups to fashion a much better solution. Look for updates about this issue in an upcoming newsletter.

Thanks for being part of MountainTrue’s advocacy efforts – together, we are helping bring millions of dollars to WNC to improve water quality and expand public access to our rivers and streams.