The 2019 Appalachian Studies Association conference returns to Asheville after 27 years. The annual gathering brings together an eclectic mix of scholars, educators, activists, students, groups and institutions to discuss and present on a wide range of topics related to life in the region.
By adding a dedicated urban forester, crafting an urban forest master plan and strengthening the current municipal tree ordinance, say members of Asheville’s Tree Commission, the city can manage its growth in a greener and more climate-resilient way. “The more hard surface we have, the more green we need to balance it out,” says commission chair Stephen Hendricks.
Jason Carter’s creative instructional attitude recently earned him the honor of being named a Teacher Ambassador by the California-based National Center for Science Education. Along with nine colleagues from across the country, he will help develop, test and deploy a curriculum that addresses climate change denial.
Later this month, the N.C. Forest Service will help the city of Asheville carry out a series of controlled burns on at least 95 acres around the North Fork and Bee Tree Reservoirs, thereby reducing the risk of more severe fires in a watershed that serves more than 125,000 area residents.
The I-26 Connector project, an almost $1 billion overhaul of the highway system in and around Asheville, is one of 37 Division 13 projects that have been changed in a new draft State Transportation Improvement Program for 2020-29. The draft STIP identifies state transportation projects that will receive funding over a 10-year timeframe.
“People have a lot of unexpected, surprising, beautiful and heartwarming stories that happen in the forest,” says Dogwood Alliance marketing director Amanda Rodriguez. “It’s not just about acres and clean water and deforestation: It’s also about the really unique human connection that people have with forests.”
Jim Tolbert of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby encouraged members of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a bill that aims to reduce carbon emissions through a tax on fossil fuel companies.
Located at 252 Patton Ave. and 28 Knoxville Place, the new facility will feature a gas-insulated design that gives it a smaller footprint than a conventional, air-insulated substation. Duke representatives estimate that substation construction will be completed by the end of 2020.
Conservationists have been attempting to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2010, but as Elise Bennett with the Center for Biological Diversity explains, regulatory changes to the act proposed by the administration of President Donald Trump could hamper the path to protection for hellbenders and other at-risk wildlife.
“The vagaries of climate and geology and time and the dispersal mechanisms of plants and animals too — all of those things, just over vast eons of time, have given Polk County this sweet spot,” says botanist David Campbell. His inventory of the county lists 32 significant natural heritage areas, as well as 127 rare or watch-list plant species found at those sites.
Many emails represent the views of local organizations and user groups – such as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, the Friends of Big Ivy, and mountain bikers – who have played active and forceful roles during the forest plan revision.
Buncombe County’s contract with Waste Pro, the company that handles trash and recycling collection in unincorporated parts of the county, will end on Dec. 31, leaving the door open for commissioners to select a new contractor.
Western North Carolina’s wild places and creatures lie at the heart of the region’s appeal, inspiring local artists and attracting visitors from across the globe. Events in 2018 promised to shape the future of those natural resources for years to come.
Twelve years: That’s how long humanity has left to hold global warming below the key level of 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to an October report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In light of that sobering reality, these developments from 2018 had the biggest potential impact on Asheville’s contribution to climate change.
Asheville’s human population growth has been matched by an increase in the number of vehicles on the region’s roads. Efforts to accommodate the resulting traffic — or move people around the city in different ways — were at the heart of many new developments in 2018.
“We have been shouting about climate change for a long time, but now, we feel like it’s going to take more messaging in a different way,” says Avram Friedman of the Canary Coalition, a Sylva-based environmental activism group. “We’re showing people that we’re so committed to this, it’s so important, that I’m willing to fast for 10 days to get this message across.”
At a recent event in Chimney Rock hosted by the Hill to Crag climbing initiative, veterans of the armed forces explored how climbing can serve as a way to recapture the excitement and camaraderie of deployment without the anxiety of working in a combat zone.
As of Saturday, Dec. 1, vehicle owners in Haywood, Henderson and Rutherford counties will no longer have to submit their cars and light-duty trucks to an annual emissions inspection. Inspections remain in place for Buncombe and 21 additional counties, while the three other counties bordering Buncombe — Madison, McDowell and Yancey — have never required them.
According to the project website for the planned Interstate 26 Connector project in Asheville, the N.C. Department of Transportation has been meeting with community groups about the roadway since 1989. On Tuesday, Dec. 4, NCDOT will again convene local stakeholders. Also: a major public land acquisition in the Cherokee National Forest, and a new community service option for veterans involved with the criminal justice system.
When invasive plants reach into productive “rich coves” like Sandy Mush, they can choke out much of the region’s native biodiversity. Endangered and sought-after plants such as yellow mandarin, black cohosh and wild ginseng, as well as thousands of other species of native plants and animals, can be at risk.
The new facility’s planned retirement is in 2059 — 17 years after Buncombe County government’s 2042 goal of transitioning all homes and businesses to completely renewable energy. Jason Walls, Duke Energy district manager, said his company is committed to helping local governments achieve their goals but that the new plant’s construction is based on forecasts of growing energy needs.