Big Ivy protections spur big turnout at Buncombe meeting

Friends of Big Ivy at Buncombe County Board of Commissioners
SPEAKING FOR THE TREES: Supporters of greater forest protections for Big Ivy fill an overflow room during a March 1 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Photo courtesy of Friends of Big Ivy

By far the largest crowd at a Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — over 300 people, filling the main board chambers and two overflow rooms — descended on the county’s administration building March 1.

Most of those in attendance had come to speak on behalf of Big Ivy, a forested region in the county’s northeast. Although the U.S. Forest Service has recommended that most of that land be managed for conservation or recreation in the final draft of its plan for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, approximately 4,000 acres in the North Fork and Snowball Mountain areas have been flagged for potential logging.

Will Harlan, head of the nonprofit Friends of Big Ivy, said both areas have cultural and environmental importance that outweigh their use for forestry. North Fork, he pointed out, protects the headwaters of the Ivy River, the principal water source for Weaverville; Snowball hosts popular recreational assets such as the Snowball Trail and a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Harlan and many of the more than 50 people who had signed up for public comment, including Co-Director Bob Wagner of the nonprofit MountainTrue and Anna Littman of Ivy Creek Family Farm, asked the commissioners to file a formal objection to the draft plan. By doing so, the county would be allowed to participate in subsequent meetings with Forest Service staff as they resolve issues raised by the community.

Brownie Newman, the Buncombe board’s chair, noted that the county had passed resolutions in both 2016 and 2020 supporting federal wilderness designation for the Craggy Mountains and Big Ivy areas. In keeping with that stance, he continued, the county would submit an objection to the Forest Service, with guidance from Friends of Big Ivy.

Commissioner Amanda Edwards asked Harlan if such objections had made a difference in other Forest Service processes across the country. He responded that, under new federal rules adopted in 2012, community input had become more significant in shaping final plans.

“We’ve seen substantial response from the Forest Service to objections, especially when they come from the most populous county in the Pisgah-Nantahala footprint,” Harlan said. “You all have a really important role to play, and your voice will be heard.”

In other comments

A contingent of residents organized under the name Swannanoans for Respectful Development also petitioned the board for help. Matt Barker, the group’s leader, alleged that a Dollar General store being constructed at the intersection of Rowland Road and U.S. 70 is in violation of state rules regarding the placement of its driveway.

According to documents presented by Barker, the N.C. Department of Transportation had approved permits that would place the store’s driveway 120 feet north of the intersection, in compliance with the 100-foot minimum. But actual work at the site has the driveway situated just 6 ½ feet north of U.S. 70. Resident Gabrielle Price called the placement an “unfathomable safety risk,” saying she and her 5-year-old child had almost been hit by a construction vehicle leaving the Dollar General site.

And Leonty Ostapovich, a pastor and member of Buncombe County’s Ukrainian population, asked the community to support his homeland as it faces invasion by Russia. Through a translator, he said he was collecting donations before traveling to Ukraine’s border with Poland, where he hopes to assist war refugees.

SHARE

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.