UNCA hosts this year’s Appalachia­n Studies Associatio­n conference

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.

Asheville GreenWorks pruning workshop

Urban forestry proposals aim to save Asheville’­s trees

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.

I-26 Connector constructi­on delayed in draft plan

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.

Hellbender on a rock

Endangered Species Act changes could hinder hellbender conservati­on

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.

White irisette

Polk County hosts nationally significan­t species diversity

“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.

Construction at Duke Energy's Lake Julian facility

2018 in review: 7 Asheville-area climate stories

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.

Scott Hardin-Nieri and Steve Norris

Activists, faith leaders hold 10-day fast and prayer for climate change

“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.”

Cars on highway

Three WNC counties to be removed from vehicle emissions program

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.

News in brief: I-26 connector meeting, Hump Mountain, veterans train service dogs

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.

Construction at Duke Energy's Lake Julian facility

New gas power plant to replace Duke coal facility at Lake Julian

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.