The Green Scene

There goes the neighborhood?

When a proposed 279-acre subdivision comprised of 123 lots raises concerns about traffic congestion, water-table depletion, soil erosion and habitat destruction, can surrounding neighbors take action to stop it?

“We can at least try,” says Beth Woody, whose property borders the site of the Brittain Knob development in Weaverville, one of 23 major subdivisions whose applications were rushed in to Buncombe County planners just before a stricter slope ordinance came into effect last month. Woody joined forces with neighbors and submitted a letter to the Buncombe County Planning Board on July 24 outlining their major concerns with the plan.

According to two separate legal opinions, the letter states, a right-of-way leading to the property does not meet the requirements of a county subdivision ordinance. But there are other issues — including the threat of water-table depletion in a dry area that relies solely on wells and springs — driving their opposition. “We’re not against development,” Woody stated. “But this is just irresponsible. It’s being done so haphazardly.”

The Brittain Knob proposal will go before the planning board at a 9:30 a.m. hearing on Monday, Aug. 7, in the county’s Training Room, located at 199 College St.

Liza in the sky with diamonds

Lee James Pantas' The Twin Turtles of Oceania
Lee James Pantas’ The Twin Turtles of Oceania

“I just wanted to do some good with my art,” Fairview artist Lee James Pantas tells Xpress. “I’m trying to do something that will raise awareness of environmental issues.”

Some environmental activists opt to initiate petitions, write letters to the editor or stage public rallies. Pantas has chosen a decidedly more elaborate approach to saving the planet: churning out whimsical paintings of an imaginary underwater landscape. He’s also a planner: In 2015, he says, the art will be auctioned off to benefit local green organizations. Entitled “Liza’s Reef,” so far his series consists of eight paintings — eventually there will be 40 — depicting a coral reef surrounding a fictional South Pacific island. Images of the series can be viewed online at, which will also be the site of an online store established to benefit various environmental organizations.

Pantas’ work has been exhibited in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and locally at the Blue Spiral and Seven Sisters galleries.

But the projected beneficiaries of his long-term project — including local groups WNC Nature Center and RiverLink — have awhile to wait before sales from the upcoming series will generate the needed green.

Thinking like Aldo

At a time when video games and online chat rooms are all the rage, what’s the trick to getting young people to care about their natural surroundings? That question was tackled at a recent gathering of environmental educators at the Cradle of Forestry, where a Leopold Education Project training session was conducted by U.S. Forest Service Education Specialist Alice Cohen-Goldstein.

The session centered on A Sand County Almanac, originally published in 1949 by Aldo Leopold, a forester regarded as an icon of the wilderness-conservation movement. Reading excerpts from the classic, participants discussed using it to instill in today’s youth a “land ethic” — a consideration of how their actions affect the natural world.

LEP director Ed Pembleton, who had traveled from St. Paul, Minn., for the training, explained that the national program is backed by Pheasants Forever, a 110,000-member hunting/conservation group that has contributed $2.7 million to the project. “When an ethical hunter kills an animal, it’s with respect for the spirit of that animal and for the natural environment,” explained Pembleton. “The purpose of this program is to teach that deep respect for the natural world. When we approach the hunting community with a request for funding, their immediate response is: How much, and how soon?” Who knew that gun-toting conservationists had so much influence?


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