Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County has won the 2021 Bioblitz over Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species.

There were several notable performers in the Bioblitz, with 14 people making over 50 observations! The top three participants were Max Ramey (643 observations, 455 species; Watauga and Transylvania), Tim Lewis (408 observations, 323 species; Jackson), and Janaye Houghton (289 observations, 276 species; Jackson).

MountainTrue staff selected several people for recognition for their outstanding participation in the Bioblitz. Winners will receive gift certificates for local conservation-friendly businesses.

Max Ramey, as previously noted, was stellar and took home awards for Most Observations, Most Observations in Watauga County, and Best Observation for a stunning image of a Hellbender (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82943347).

Tim Lewis was recognized for Most Observations in Jackson County and Sherry Downing won Most Observations for Transylvania County. Scott Persons got the award for Best Bird Observation for a crisp image of an Indigo Bunting. (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82101741)

Erin Martin won Best Fungal Observation for a marvelously textured photo of the Common Toadskin Lichen (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82589987)

Janaye Houghton won Best Arthropod Observation for an otherworldly image of a Spittlebug (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/82367166). 

The participation in the 2021 MountainTrue Bioblitz was phenomenal! It’s inspiring to see so many people learning about and appreciating the incredible diversity of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoyed this year’s MountainTrue Bioblitz, stay tuned for next year. We plan to have many more group and in-person opportunities at the next Bioblitz. 


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.

Western Region Non-Native Invasive Plant (NNIP) Intern (Murphy, NC)

Western Region Non-Native Invasive Plant (NNIP) Intern (Murphy, NC)

MountainTrue is seeking a dedicated individual to fill a part-time 12-week internship position for its western region in Fall 2021. The Intern will serve a minimum of 180 hours from August 30, 2021 through November 20, 2021. 

Western Region NNIP Intern Position Summary:

This internship position includes a combination of on-the-ground stewardship of public and conserved lands, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and public outreach. A primary task of the NNIP Intern is to assist Western Region Program Coordinator, Tony Ward with non-native invasive plant control work. The position will require travel to various locations within a 60-mile radius of Murphy (including north Georgia) and substantial work outdoors. Mr. Ward will provide training, support, and guidance for the position. The NNIP Intern will also benefit from the knowledge and expertise of other Public Lands staff through the teamwork approach practiced by MountainTrue.

Qualifications – Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Must have: Education or experience in – and a passion for – natural resources management, biology, or environmental science. Strong communication skills. Ability to work independently and balance multiple tasks. Stamina to work outdoors and maintain a positive attitude in challenging conditions and inclement weather. Respect for diverse groups and interests.
  • Would prefer: Education/knowledge in native and non-native plant identification. Experience working with volunteers.

Eligibility Requirements:

Applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident
  • Be available and commit to part-time service (15 hours per week) for the entire 12 weeks
  • Be at least 16 years of age on August 30, 2021
  • Have independent transportation

Responsibilities and Duties:

Non-Native Invasive Plant Control & Riparian Buffer Enhancement: 40%

The primary task of the NNIP Intern is the physical work of manual and chemical treatment of non-native invasive plants on public and conserved private lands sites in the MountainTrue western region which have been prioritized by the Western Region Program Coordinator. This aspect will also likely include assisting with riparian buffer plantings and live-staking at select sites as well. 

Volunteer Recruitment & Coordination: 30%

Organize volunteer workdays for treating NNIPs along the River Walk in Murphy, NC and the Little Tennessee River Greenway in Franklin, NC or other locations as prioritized by the Program Coordinator. Assist the Program Coordinator with management of the volunteers, which includes teaching them restoration techniques, informing them of the risks associated with the outdoor work, and supervising them during the workdays. The Intern is expected to keep detailed records of volunteer personnel (including names and contact, liability waivers, hours served, and frequency of participation).

Non-Native Invasive Plant Inventory: 20%

This aspect of the position involves field inventory/data collection of non-native invasive plant species. The intern will conduct walk-throughs of sites that have had NNIP treatment in the past, to document presence or absence of problem plant species. Get location and photo documentation and create reports for prioritization of future workdays.

Conservation Education: 10%

This aspect will primarily consist of educating volunteers and members of the public about native and invasive plants through organized education events and workdays. This could also include participation in or presentations at meetings; designing and producing posters and brochures, or promoting events. The Intern will be expected to assist with the Cherokee Heritage Festival on Saturday, September 18th in Hayesville, NC.

Weekly Schedule:

The Intern’s work schedule can be fairly flexible after training is complete; however, 2-3 longer days (5-7.5 hours/day) per week is preferable to allow for travel to/from work sites. Work will be required on at least three Saturdays, including September 18th (see above). An appropriate number of weekdays/hours will be excused to offset these as determined by the Intern’s supervisor.

Compensation & Benefits

  • $1,500 stipend (paid in equal installments, every two weeks on Friday)
  • Mileage reimbursement at $0.45 per mile on a monthly basis as per submitted and approved expense reports
  • Mentorship, training, and professional development opportunities. These may include a commercial applicator’s pesticide license, CPR/AED training, and more. 

HOW TO APPLY

Please send your resume and/or a statement of interest and qualifications to: tony@mountaintrue.org. Application deadline: August 4, 2021 at 5pm

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

Protect Old-Growth, Wildlife & Our Natural Heritage in Nantahala National Forest

The US Forest Service is proposing a 1,500-acre timber sale in the Snowbird Mountains in Nantahala National Forest that would log documented old-growth stands, steep headwaters of pristine streams, and areas recognized by the state of North Carolina for their outstanding biodiversity and healthy forests.

Act now and tell the forest service to fix their proposal and protect our natural heritage.

This is the latest in a series of bad faith projects on the Nantahala National Forest that propose road building and timber harvest in some of the wildest and healthiest forests in our region. The Crossover Project would prejudice the new Forest Plan against the protection of old-growth forests, rare species, and backcountry areas and put water supply watersheds at risk. This is not what we consider a “collaborative” project that furthers ecological restoration for Nantahala National Forest.

Josh Kelly, MountainTrue’s field biologist explains: “The Forest Service worked with a broad group of stakeholders, throughout the forest management plan process. With one hand, they assure us that they take collaboration and our input seriously, then with the other hand they draw up these plans that plainly contradict the recommendations of hunters, hikers, anglers, equestrians, timber companies and other forest users. This is an old-school timber sale that targets the most sensitive and controversial areas for logging. If this project represents Nantahala National Forest’s priorities for the next 20 years, everyone should be very concerned, not just because of the damage it would do to the land, but because of the lack of relevancy, it would ensure for the agency. ”

The Crossover Timber Project would log 158 acres of the Ash Cove Backcountry Area which was proposed for Backcountry Management in Alternative C in the new forest plan and endorsed by the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. Commercial logging and building logging roads are incompatible with the Backcountry Management Area. The proposal for Crossover, following on the heels of a similar decision in the Buck Project, shows that Nantahala National Forest is biased against Backcountry Management.

The Crossover Timber Project would log 51 acres of Natural Heritage Areas. Within the project area, the slopes of Teyahalee Bald have been identified by the State of North Carolina as Natural Heritage Natural Areas for their outstanding biodiversity. These areas are home to some of the healthiest forests in North Carolina that include rare species like Mountain Catch Fly that would be harmed by commercial logging.

The Crossover Timber Project would log at least 98 acres of existing old-growth forests. The Forest Service’s own records show that all of these forests are over 130 years old, and fieldwork conducted by MountainTrue has documented trees over 200 years of age in these areas. MountainTrue alerted the Forest Service to the location and presence of these rare old-growth sites and they are still being targeted by this timber sale.

The Crossover Timber Project proposal would log more than 400 acres at the source of Robbinsville’s drinking water supply. Seventeen stands slated for analysis of commercial and non-commercial timber harvest treatments lie in the Long and Rock Creek watersheds. These streams flowing off the ridge of the Snowbird Mountains are all classified as High-Quality Waters and feed public drinking water supplies for the Town of Robbinsville.

The Crossover Timber Project would permanently decommission the western half of the Snowbird Mountain Trail. Recreation groups within the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership had asked that the trail be improved, not decommissioned within their recommendations for the forthcoming forest management plan.

If the Forest Service truly believes in collaboration, the solution is easy: Follow the recommendation of the partners you’ve been working with for the past 8+ years. The Forest Service can have a successful timber project while protecting Natural Heritage Natural Areas and existing old growth, and keeping Snowbird trail open.

ACT NOW: EMAIL THE FOREST SERVICE.

THREE WAYS YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

1. Email the Forest Service

The Forest Service is now soliciting input on the design of its Crossover Timber Project!

2. Send a Letter to the Editor

Send a letter to the editor of the Smoky Mountain News to raise public awareness.

3. Support Our Timber Monitoring Program

MountainTrue monitors and analyzes every project in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests to support vulnerable species, safeguard old-growth forests, and make sure you have wonderful outdoor spaces for biking, hiking, hunting, fishing and foraging.

Kaiya Pickens Wins Top 2021 Carson Conservation Scholarship Award

Kaiya Pickens Wins Top 2021 Carson Conservation Scholarship Award

Kaiya Pickens Wins Top 2021 Carson Conservation Scholarship Award

Kaiya Pickens, the recipient of this year’s top Carson Conservation Scholarship award.

Murphy High School senior Kaiya Pickens is the top award winner of this year’s Glenn F. Carson, II Memorial Conservation Scholarship. Kaiya is planning a career in ecological restoration and has been volunteering with MountainTrue this semester to remove non-native invasive plants on the River Walk in Murphy, NC. 

Originally established by the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (now a part of MountainTrue) in 2014, the Carson Conservation Scholarship is a memorial to the late Glenn F. Carson, II. At the time of his death, Glenn was the District Conservationist for Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and was an important leader in the conservation community of Western NC. He was a graduate of Western Carolina University. 

The Carson Conservation Scholarship assists young people from Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties who want to pursue higher education in natural resource conservation fields such as agriculture, forestry, environmental science, health or engineering, and wildlife management. To date, $17,500 in scholarship funds have been awarded to eleven students.

In her scholarship application, Kaiya wrote, “Conserving the flora of Southern Appalachia is something that has grown to be very important to me because this biodiverse Eden provides a foundation for not only our ecosystems, but also for our homes and everyday lives.”

Kaiya is heading to the University of North Carolina at Asheville this fall, where she plans to pursue an Environmental Studies major with concentrations in Ecology and Environmental Biology. Her scholarship is $2,000 and is renewable at $1,000 per year for up to three additional years, based on continued eligibility.

Additional $500 scholarships were awarded to Ethan Beavers from Robbinsville High School in Graham County, and Colby Davis from Hiwassee Dam High School in Cherokee County. Ethan is attending Haywood Community College and pursuing a career in forestry. Colby is majoring in Agricultural Technology and Systems Management at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, GA.

To support more students through the Carson Conservation Scholarship fund, make a donation at mountaintrue.org/join and mark your donation as “In Memory of Glenn F. Carson, II.”


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.

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

One Million Gallons of Sewage Overflowed into Western North Carolina Waterways during Six Month Period

Photo credit: Alan Cressler, USGS. Public domain.

Asheville, NC —  More than one million gallons of sewage overflowed from inadequate wastewater infrastructure into the French Broad River and other area waterways in Western North Carolina according to state data acquired and analyzed by MountainTrue. The data was collected from August 3, 2020 until March 4, 2021 by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Asheville Regional office and is the best available estimate of the amount of sewage that overflows from wastewater infrastructures such as pipes and manhole covers into area rivers and streams across 19 counties of western North Carolina.

TAKE ACTION TO FIGHT E. COLI POLLUTION IN OUR RIVERS

We know the sources of E. coli pollution. Now we have the solutions to clean up our rivers. Advocated for major investments in wastewater infrastructure, and stand up for science-based policies to help farmers fence cattle out of streams and property owners fix their septic systems.

MountainTrue, a local conservation organization, monitors water quality throughout Western North Carolina and in Union and Towns counties in North Georgia for pollution, including levels of E. coli — an indicator of the presence of bacteria and other pathogens that are harmful to human health. The organization has documented a dramatic increase in bacteria pollution of the French Broad River Watershed over the past two years and concerning trends in other area watersheds.

“What we have seen over the past few years has me worried about the future of river recreation on the French Broad River,” explains Hartwell Carson, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper. “Take Pearson Bridge in Asheville’s River Arts District: That site passed the EPA’s safe threshold for swimming 81% of the time in 2016. Then in 2020, that site failed 81% of the time. Or Mud Creek in Henderson County, that site used to be safe at least 50% of the time and now it fails 93% of our tests.”

In April, MountainTrue released results from DNA testing that showed leaks from sewer and wastewater infrastructure were significant sources of bacteria pollution in the French Broad Watershed. The six-month sewer system overflow data from DEQ underscores those findings and supports part of MountainTrue’s policy agenda: reducing human-derived bacteria contamination by fixing our broken sewer and wastewater systems.

“The French Broad River is a significant public resource and a linchpin for our local economy” explains Hartwell Carson. “Protecting it will require action on the part of elected officials and agency personnel at all levels of government. Through our iloverivers.org advocacy campaign, we succeeded in getting the City of Asheville to participate in a Storm Water Taskforce. In the General Assembly, we’re advocating for targeted clean water investments to be included in this years budget, such as $3 million for septic system and wastewater upgrades through the Community Conservation Assistance Program, and $26 million to help farmers keep cattle and stormwater runoff out of our rivers through the Agricultural Cost Share Program and the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program. In Congress, we’re calling on our delegation to support the $111 billion in the American Jobs Plan that is allocated for water infrastructure.”

The public can read more about the issues affecting water quality, and advocate for the policies and reforms needed to fix them at iloverivers.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.

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

MountainTrue Launches BioBlitz to Crown Champion of Biodiversity in WNC

Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC – MountainTrue is hosting its annual 2021 BioBlitz as a regional competition to crown the 2021 champion of biodiversity. The competition will take place virtually across three counties from June 5 through June 19, and is a great opportunity for experts and aspiring naturalists to get outside and add to the scientific record by documenting the vast biodiversity of our region.

What: MountainTrue 2021 BioBlitz
Where: Jackson, Transylvania and Watauga counties, NC through the iNaturalist App.
When: June 5-20

Sign up & Learn More

The competition kicks off on June 5 on the iNaturalist web and smartphone platform. Scores will be tallied for each county and for individual participants, with prizes and bragging rights for our winners. Prizes will be awarded to individual winners in the following categories: overall best observation, most total observations, most species, most birds, most arthropods (including insects!) and most fungi. We will recognize the County Champion of Biodiversity as the county that receives the most observations of unique species. Additional recognition will go to the county with the most participants and the most observations submitted.

“The MountainTrue 2021 Bioblitz is a great opportunity for people to connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “This year, by expanding the blitz to three counties and making a game of it, we hope to be able to engage more people and find more species. . We might even find some that have never been recorded in our region.”

MountainTrue first took its Bioblitz to iNaturalist in 2020 as a safer alternative during COVID-19. Last year, 97 observers documented over 1,100 unique species. This year, by expanding the blitz from one county to three, MountainTrue hopes to record even more species and make a greater contribution to the scientific record for our region. Tell your friends, neighbors, family, and fellow naturalists and citizen scientists, and get prepared for a BioBlitz like no other!

IMAGE DOWNLOAD: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pT3KrHIgpQK0qlcoSI3DxlxpjsyTMHRd?usp=sharing 

Media Contact: 
Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director 
C: 415-535-9004, E: karim@mountaintrue.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.