In a year marked by a constant churn of updating numbers — COVID-19 dashboards, economic forecasts, political polls — Assistant Editor Daniel Walton took comfort in stories that were able to report more deeply on some of the issues facing Western North Carolina.
For many environmental organizations across Western North Carolina, COVID-19 fell like a lightning-struck tree across the path to progress. But like an intrepid hiker, WNC’s activists and organizers have bushwhacked new trails for action in the world of the pandemic.
On Nov. 18, nonprofit Conserving Carolina announced that it had entered a contract to buy an unused 19-mile rail corridor between Brevard and Hendersonville for conversion into a greenway. Backers hope the Ecusta Trail will become a regional draw for running and biking enthusiasts.
“I have overwhelming gratitude for the people who voted for our climate in the recent election.”
“The current trends eroding our once-common values honoring truth, wisdom and collaboration will not extinguish my steady hope for our national and global future — a hope for policies and practices that serve all people and planet, starting with our own hearts and relentlessly expanding love into backyards, city streets, forests and beyond.”
The three-year construction project brings the North Fork Dam up to North Carolina state standards for safety and adds climate resilience to Asheville’s largest water source. The work marks the largest renovation of the dam and its accompanying North Fork Reservoir since the facility’s opening in 1955.
According to a new study by Filterbuy, an air filter industry website, the median air quality index in the Asheville metropolitan area was 15.3% better over the period from 2015-2019 compared with the period from 2005-2009. The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton and Greenville, S.C., metros also showed big improvements.
Black Folks Camp Too founder Earl B. Hunter Jr. said new marketing collaborations would help him develop more interest in camping among the Black community. And later this month, Asheville-based artist Matthew Willey will begin work on a giant mural of honey bees at Hendersonville’s Hands On! Children’s Museum.
Deteriorating forest roads damage the ecosystem and limit access essential for forest management and the forest-product economy.
A $300,000 recurring allocation for the HRI, a program of Asheville-based nonprofit WNC Communities, stalled in the N.C. General Assembly due to partisan gridlock over the state budget. A joint proclamation between the HRI and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services now aims to make the hemlock’s future more secure.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on a resolution to adopt LEED Gold standards for new public facilities over 10,000 square feet and major renovations. The county’s policy would also require all new buildings to be constructed with solar-ready design and achieve net-zero energy use “where feasible.”
In their first public face-off, the candidates vying for the increasingly competitive 11th District congressional seat, Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis, touted their differences on just about all issues and hurled accusations, with each calling the other “fast and loose” with the facts. Who was telling the truth?
Board member Rick Livingston, who made the motion to deny the recommendation, said the proposed SE Asphalt plant’s location in a “very residential area” off the Spartanburg Highway was incompatible with both the county’s comprehensive plan and East Flat Rock’s community plan.
Environmental advocates urged Asheville City Council to adopt a series of proposals to strengthen protections for Asheville’s urban forests.
“Folks are really starting to get weary of the pattern of hurricanes and extreme weather and are looking for more stable environments such as Western North Carolina,” says local real estate agent John Haynes, about clients seeking to move to the region from coastal states like Florida, New Jersey and Texas.
Together, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County approved over $11 million in funding to install roughly 7 megawatts of solar power at public facilities and area schools. The projects are anticipated to save the governments and local schools roughly $650,000 in electricity costs in the first year and more than $27 million over the installations’ 30-year operational life.
Commission Chair Laura Hudson argued that the rules placed too much emphasis on tree protection and could become an untenable burden for developers. “If you jam too many requirements onto one small parcel, I think you’re going to kill the development altogether,” she said.
At an April 21 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners lent their unanimous support to designating 16,000 acres of the Pisgah National Forest in the county’s northeast as the Craggy Mountain Wilderness and National Scenic Area. And on April 28, Duke Energy unveiled the most detailed public explanation to date of how company leaders are thinking about the longer-term future.
As part of a Feb. 14 “Valentine for the Earth” action organized by Extinction Rebellion WNC, the local chapter of the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, the Asheville Police Department arrested 16 protesters for obstructing traffic in front of the Veach-Baley Federal Complex on Patton Avenue.
“The loss of life and damage caused by current global warming demonstrates that the Earth is already too hot for safety,” states the document approved by a 6-0 vote of Asheville City Council on Jan. 28. “Restoring a safe and stable climate requires an emergency climate mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II.”
Jeremiah LeRoy, Buncombe County’s sustainability officer, shares his top five reasons from 2019 to keep up hope about the county’s sustainability work.