State “Polluter Pack” list released
The Federation of State Conservation Voter Leagues, a national bipartisan, nonprofit organization working to increase the influence of state environmental leaders, recently released its first annual list of anti-environmental state legislators, known as the “Polluter Pack of 1998.” The list names 24 legislators from both parties, based on their voting records and environmental stands on one or more issues.
Representing North Carolina on the list are Reps. John Brown and Liston Ramsey. Brown, a Republican, “… has the lowest environmental voting record in the entire North Carolina [General] Assembly,” states a Federation press release, adding, “He has actively supported legislation that is anti-environmental and pro-agribusiness, voting against all attempts to regulate the hog industry.” Ramsey, a Democrat, “… has the lowest voting record in the caucus. Once an occasional supporter of environmental issues, Ramsey now votes against most of the pro-environmental legislation in the Assembly, including regulating the hog industry and transit funding.”
The Federation says it initiated its Polluter Pack list because private industry has begun concentrating more heavily on lobbying state legislatures to weaken environmental protections. State legislatures, according to the group, are finding themselves playing an increasingly important role in environmental law, including producing legislation targeting air and water quality and land use, and appropriating funds for environmental agencies and parks departments. They also monitor regulation and enforcement of the laws.
For more information, contact Lori Brown at (914) 923-0677, or Executive Director Tensie Whelan at (718) 622-0857.
Asheville Symphony Chorus announces new season
Asheville Symphony Chorus Director Dewitt Tipton is back from a two-year sabbatical to direct two concerts this season. The first, on Saturday, Nov. 7, will feature Brahms’ Liebesleider Waltzes and the Strauss Blue Danube waltzes. The second — on Saturday, April 24, 1999 — will be an all-Mozart program, built around the Requiem and Te Deum. Both concerts will be in Pack Place’s Diana Wortham Theatre.
Plans are also being made to form the Asheville Symphony Chamber Singers from within the ranks of the chorus. This smaller ensemble of 20 to 30 vocalists will be directed by Assistant Chorus Director Eric Wall, who led the ensemble during Tipton’s absence. The new group is intended to support and strengthen the chorus by attracting interested singers with vocal talent, while providing opportunities for outstanding local students to enhance the skills they cultivate at school. The Chamber Singers will perform at First Presbyterian Church on Friday, Oct. 23, and Friday, March 26, 1999. Both concerts will be at 8 p.m.
To learn more, call Eric Wall at 253-1431.
DOT names new head planner
After a nationwide search, state Transportation Secretary Norris Tolson has named Janet D’Ignazio of Michigan as the DOT’s new chief planning and environmental officer. D’Ignazio will coordinate all transportation-planning efforts, including highways, environmental projects, rail, aviation and public transit. She will also develop the Transportation Improvement Plan.
D’Ignazio has more than 25 years’ experience, including serving as chief quality officer for the Michigan Department of Transportation in 1996. In that position, D’Ignazio reorganized the department to develop policies and programs that focused on “multi-modal” transportation. She helped streamline that department and reduced costs for daily operations, while working to improve customer relations, according to a recent DOT press release. She is also a former assistant general manager of the Chapel Hill Transit Authority.
“Secretary Tolson has charged me to work closely with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and environmental groups to ensure the state’s transportation and environmental efforts are compatible,” D’Ignazio said. “The first step is to do a lot of listening — to citizen and advocacy groups, such as the Alliance for Transportation Reform, the Sierra Club, the Conservation Council, the Wildlife Federation and other groups, to get input for long-range thoroughfare and mass-transit planning.”
D’Ignazio is scheduled to begin work in early September. Her salary will be $99,389.
For more information, contact the NCDOT Public Information Office at (919) 733-2522.
World Wide Wolfe
The influence of literary icon — and noted Ashvillean — Thomas Wolfe is visible not only here in our fair city, but also on the World Wide Web. Several adoring sites are devoted to the author and his work, as Bill Fishburne, the publisher of the IOWNC newsletter, recently discovered.
One site (www.cms.uncwil.edu/~connelly/twm.htm) offers a photographic tour of the Wolfe House — as it appeared before the recent, tragic fire.
Another prominent Wolfe link is the UNC-CH Thomas Wolfe Site (www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/wolfe/index/html).
Yet another site (www.findgrave.com/pictures/wolfe/html) can help Wolfe pilgrims track down the author’s gravesite in Riverside Cemetery.
You can also access photos and manuscripts from Wolfe’s life (at: www.lib/unc/edu/ncc/pcoll/48wolfe/index/html).
To contribute to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, make checks payable to “Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee” and send them to: Thomas Wolfe Memorial, 52 N. Market St., Asheville, NC 28801
Natural-history slide show and tour
The Western North Carolina Alliance, a grassroots environmental organization, is hosting a two-part program led by George Ellison, a nationally prominent expert on the Southern Appalachians.
Ellison will present a slide show/lecture, titled “A Natural History of the Southern Appalachians,” on Friday, Aug. 21 from 7:30- 9 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Asheville. Admission is $10. The program will depict the region’s geologic origins, emphasizing the Southern Blue Ridge Province. Ellison will give an overview of our region’s natural areas, such as high-elevation spruce forests and grassy and heath balds, and discuss several of the distinctive plants associated with each.
The second event, a guided auto tour along the Blue Ridge Parkway, will take place on Saturday, Aug. 22 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (cost: $25 per person). After a short session on wildflower identification, the group will car-pool to distinctive natural areas, in search of such species as grass-of-Parnassus, round-leaved sundew and Blue Ridge St. John’s wort can be found.
Ellison writes the weekly “Nature Journal” for the Asheville Citizen Times and is a contributing writer for Discovering the Smokies: A Science Journal. He also teaches 25 to 30 Elderhostel programs a year on various aspects of the natural history of the Southern Appalachians and Early Indian and Cherokee Culture.
For more information, call the Alliance at 258-8737.
Logging on the national forests is costing taxpayers big time, according to the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project.
In fiscal year 1996, nearly $800 million was appropriated from the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund for expenditures associated with the timber-sales program on national forests, according to an SABP fact sheet. The logging program returned no money to the General Fund of the Treasury that year, the group reports. The SABP says its findings were verified by the Congressional Research Service.
“This money-losing enterprise of paying the logging industry to clearcut the nation’s natural heritage won’t last much longer,” stated Biodiversity Project Campaign Coordinator Andrew George. “It won’t take long for these numbers to sink in, and for people to start seeing this scam for what it is.”
If all commercial logging on public forests were ended, and those subsidies were redirected into timber-community transition assistance, the SABP asserts, we would have more than $25,000 per timber worker to pay for job retraining and/or ecological restoration work. And that would still leave more than $200 million in savings — in the first year alone.
For more information, call Andrew George at 258-2667.