MountainTrue University

MountainTrue University is a speaker series where we connect with our community to share our knowledge on a variety of environmental topics.

Upcoming Virtual Classes:


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Past Classes:

The Importance of NEPA

In our first installment of MountainTrue University, our Western Regional Director, Callie Moore, explained what NEPA is and why it’s so important to the environmental movement. In her talk, Callie provided case studies of how NEPA has helped us win environmental victories here in places like Fires Creek and Corridor K. She covered how state environmental policy acts and the Freedom of Information Act support NEPA and our work protecting our local environment.

Ancient Forests of the Blue Ridge

From MountainTrue University: Ancient Forests of the Blue Ridge with our Public Lands Biologist, Josh Kelly. In his talk, Josh focused on our Old-Growth Forests, starting with the basics of what makes a forest “old-growth” to where you can find them in WNC. Then, Josh discussed the role of old-growth in our forest ecosystems and the prospects for landscape-scale restoration.

Top Native Alternatives

For this week’s MountainTrue University, we hear from Tony Ward our Western Regional Program Coordinator. In his talk “Native Alternative to the Top Ten Least Wanted Plants”, Tony will review our top ten least wanted and widespread nonnative invasive plants along with recommendations for native alternatives to replace them. This is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the damage invasive plants can do to our ecosystem and some of the native plants that you can plant instead.

The Shameful Legacy of Urban Renewal

Chris Joyell, Director of the Asheville Design Center, will look back to the devastating redevelopment of AVL’s African-American neighborhoods in the early 80s and the lasting impacts urban renewal has left on the community.

How Geology Shaped Our Mountains and Waterfalls

How is it that we have the many special places that MountainTrue helps protect? Join Bill Jacobs, the author of “Whence These Special Places?”, as he explains the fascinating geologic processes that produced WNC’s array of mountains and waterfalls. Bill’s particular interest is how the unique appearances of many of our most popular natural features are explained by differences in their geologic history. For this program, he discussed locations across SW North Carolina, including such iconic features as Looking Glass Rock and Falls, Shining Rock, Devil’s Courthouse, Craggy Pinnacle, Pearson’s Falls, as well as several unique features in Panthertown Valley.


Hannah Woodburn, our AmeriCorps High Country Water Quality Administrator, will dive into SwimGuide. MountainTrue samples many rivers and popular swimming areas in our region to check for E.Coli levels, and we publish that data through the SwimGuide app. Hannah will explain the sampling process, what makes a stream safe to swim, and how to volunteer to help.

Forest Communities

Bob Gale, our Public Lands Director and Ecologist, talked about “Forest Communities of the Southern Appalachians”. Bob walked us through the many different types of forests found in our mountains, explained what factors determine where each type can be found and what species are unique to the different types.

State of the French Broad

We heard from our French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson, for a talk about the history of the French Broad Watershed as well as the major threats facing our river today. He discussed the work that he does to hunt down pollution sources and ways you can help keep our river clean.

Dear White People

Tanya Marie Cummings, a MountainTrue board member and founder of Pathways to Parks, gave a talk entitled Dear White People: To Know Better is to Do Better. Tanya Marie shared stories of how she’s experienced racism as a black woman in WNC and in the outdoors. She 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 during this pivotal time in American history.

Raleigh Report Live

On July 27, 2020 we hosted special live Raleigh Report featuring MountainTrue’s lobbyist Rob Lamme and our legislative advocacy team. During this webinar we discuss MountainTrue’s legislative priorities and work, and how environmental issues have fared in the General Assembly. Rob Lamme has represented MountainTrue in Raleigh for state government affairs since 2016 and has worked in North Carolina policy and government for more than 20 years. He is the former communications director and budget director for the North Carolina Senate, as well as government relations director for the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Faith, Ecology, & Race

On September 23 we hosted a conversation between Reverend Tami Forte Logan, Missioner of Faith4Justice Asheville, and Reverend Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of the Creation Care Alliance. They explored issues of faith, ecology and race while talking about how their individual programs and efforts to promote justice in our community complement each other’s efforts.

Faith4Justice Asheville is a coalition of faith leaders in the Asheville region provoking justice for and with Black and Brown bodied people through faith and racial equity work. Reverend Tami Forte Logan is also a womanist, preacher, Christian educator, popular educator, community organizer, cultural organizer, the business owner of Inside & Out Consulting, and a long-term racial equity facilitator and practitioner.

Recycling & Waste Diversion

On October 28th, we hosted MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, Gray Jernigan, and Henderson County Environmental Programs Coordinator, Christine Wittmeier. Gray and Christine discussed municipal recycling and waste diversion programs in WNC. During this webinar, we covered what materials can and cannot be recycled, logistical challenges with recycling vendors, local and global markets, and new opportunities that are emerging in the field.

Fish Tissue Sampling Project

On November 9th we hosted an informative discussion between MountainTrue’s High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn and Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell. They spoke about their ongoing studies focusing on the levels of heavy metal pollution in fish tissues. Through this study, they hope to better understand the impacts of anthropogenic pollution and raise awareness for affected communities.

Restoring Island Park

On January 12th we heard from Tony Ward, MountainTrue’s Western Region Program Coordinator, as he discussed his role in the Bryson City Island Park Project. The project is a partnership between the town of Bryson City, Tuckaseegee River Alliance, and MountainTrue. Tony discussed his plan to manage the nonnative invasive plant species that currently overrun the island, through socially distanced, small group workdays. Descriptions of the plants they are looking to control as well as the short-term and long-term techniques the project is using to control nonnative species are provided. These species threaten wildlife habitat, overall water quality, and the general aesthetics of our environment.

A history of environmental extraction and activism in Appalachia

On March 11th we heard from our AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator, Grace Fuchs, about the history of environmental extraction and activism in Appalachia. In this presentation, we will begin by defining the cultural and geographic boundaries of Appalachia, from there we will take a closer look at the environmental impacts of the timber, coal, and fracking industry in the region. We will then move to a historical analysis of Appalachian activists who have fought long and hard to protect their communities in the face of cultural and ecological destruction.

How Local governments are responding to Climate Change

On April 7th we heard from MountainTrue’s very own High Country Regional Director & Watauga Riverkeeper, Andy Hill for a High Country Sustainability discussion with George Santucci. George served as the long-time Director of the New River Conservancy. George has brought his decades of environmental experience and a unique and valuable perspective to his new role as Sustainability and Special Projects Director for the town of Boone. Join us for an informative discussion about how MountainTrue and the town of Boone have partnered to address energy use, climate change, stormwater, and microplastic pollution.



Climate Change in our Mountains and Strategies for Mitigation and Adaptation

On May 20th we heard from MountainTrue’s very own Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, and MountainTrue Field Biologist Josh Kelly. Bob and Josh provided an overview of the likely effects of global climate change on the people and ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains and discussed the adaptation and mitigation strategies needed to maintain the resilience of our mountain home.

Community-Powered Solar in the Fight Against Climate Change

On June 23rd, we heard from MountainTrue’s Organizer & Communications Manager, Eliza Stokes, to learn more about local advocacy for 100% renewable energy in our region. Eliza focused on the power of two recent collaborative solar energy purchasing efforts in Buncombe County – one between local governments and public schools, and another among local residents and businesses – and explored how similar campaigns could build momentum for renewable energy in other communities in our region.

Climate Change and the Built Environment

Climate change not only affects the forests and waterways of Western North Carolina–it is also directly impacting how our cities and towns develop. Join Chris Joyell, Director of the Asheville Design Center and MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities Program, as we explore how climate change will impact our decisions around affordable housing, transportation, and racial equity.

Non-Native Invasive Plant Treatment Methods

MountainTrue Public Lands Director Bob Gale and Western Regional Office program coordinator Tony Ward discuss management tools to control common non-native invasive plant (NNIP) species, including techniques for control, best seasons for treatment, and more in-depth discussion about herbicides. They also go over active ingredients and commonly used products and how to apply them correctly without environmental harm. There is less focus on the identification of invasive species, and more on control and proper management to avoid NNIP infestations.

Community Perspectives of a Healthy Yampa River

Join MountainTrue’s Americorps Water Quality Administrator, Mara Chamlee, to learn about her Master’s Capstone work at Colorado State University focused on the Yampa River in Northwest Colorado. Mara partnered with the nonprofit organization, Friends of the Yampa, to assist in their efforts to support a healthy Yampa River for all. Her work focused on assessing community values of the Yampa River and evaluating perspectives towards what a healthy river for everyone means now and in an uncertain water future in the state of Colorado. 

Although the Western United States faces a different set of challenges when it comes to water conservation, there are many lessons to be learned on how communities define what a “healthy river” means to them. Those lessons can be applied to river systems across the country and here in Western North Carolina. Tune in to learn about the fascinating system that is the Yampa River and what community perspectives of a healthy river can mean for conservation!

Review of the Forest Plan

The US Forest Service released the revised Forest Plan for Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests on January 21st. Join us for a look under the hood of the 2000 pages of the Forest Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement and what it means for one million acres of Western North Carolina.

SMART Growth: Looking to the Past to Plan for our Future

The state projects that in the next 25 years, over 75,000 people will move to Buncombe County. Housing experts estimate that these newcomers will require around 50,000 new homes. Where will these homes be built? Can our roads absorb this influx of new residents? How can we preserve our rural heritage while building town centers that people love?

Using Smart Growth Principles as a guide, Joyell explores these questions against the backdrop of the ongoing Comprehensive Planning effort, which will inform the next 25 years of growth and development in Buncombe County. He will discuss how we can realize a vision for growth that encourages economic development, respects our natural resources and agricultural heritage and enhances our quality of life for generations to come.

Chris Joyell has led the Healthy Communities program at MountainTrue since 2017. Prior to that, he served as Director of the Asheville Design Center, where he connected volunteer designers with projects that promote healthy, vibrant and equitable communities.

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