The Green Scene

Dogwood hits the double digits

Protest infront of Staples
A Dogwood Alliance protest in Atlanta, Ga., in 2001.

It takes thousands of years for a forest ecosystem to develop fully, but no time at all, in relative terms, to process trees into junk mail. That’s one reason the Dogwood Alliance, Asheville’s own regional forest-defense organization, has devoted the past 10 years to holding companies accountable for the impacts of industrial forestry practices on the Southern landscape. On Nov. 11, they’ll celebrate their 10th anniversary, marking a decade of fighting corporate practices of paper-industry giants like Office Depot, Staples and Bowater.

“Our region produces more paper than any other region in the world, which constitutes 15 percent of the world’s paper supply,” says Scot Quaranda, communications director for the nonprofit. As of 2002, approximately 6 million acres of Southern forests were logged annually, largely to produce paper, according to the Dogwood Alliance Web site.

At times pressuring corporations through protests and public awareness-raising efforts, and at times negotiating with them directly, Dogwood has won commitments from several major industry players to adhere to more environmentally responsible policies. One of their most notable victories was claimed when Bowater, the largest newsprint manufacturer in the United States, agreed in June 2005 to end the conversion of hardwood forests into single-species pine plantations on its land.

Looking forward, Quaranda says the Dogwood Alliance has set its sights on the packaging industry, as the majority of paper produced in this region ultimately goes toward wrapping up and displaying consumer goods. “We live in an incredibly over-packaged world,” he comments. “Basically, our forests are being used once and thrown away.” While he declined to state specifically which corporations the nonprofit will target with their new campaign, Quaranda hinted that they’ll be working with multiple companies at once, tackling the issue of how to change company policies to reduce overall packaging.

But first, they’ll take a breather: On Nov. 11, from 7-10 p.m., the Dogwood Alliance will host their 10th anniversary celebration at the Asheville Arts Center (308 Merrimon Ave., Asheville). The party is open to the public and will feature music by DJs Ras Bob-o and Mr. Felty.

This is not an invasive

For generations, the Cherokee wove traditional baskets constructed tightly enough to carry water. The Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR) initiative, operated through the Cherokee Studies program at Western Carolina University, is supporting the tribe’s efforts to keep the tradition alive through youth-instruction programs. But there’s a problem: river cane, the native bamboo used to create the baskets, is in scarce supply in Western North Carolina’s landscape.

Commonly mistaken as an invasive plant, river cane grows upwards of 15 feet and was once plentiful in the mountains. Its habitat has been threatened over the years due to a combination of forces such as agriculture, dam construction and real-estate development.

David Cozzo, project director the RTCAR, says the plant has environmental benefits as well as cultural significance. “It filters out the nutrients from agricultural runoff, it’s good for keeping sediment in place, and it provides wildlife habitat” for birds, butterflies and other species.

In an effort to revive healthy stands of river cane and ensure the supply of a resource used in Cherokee crafts, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, which also funds RTCAR, has awarded a $101,000 grant to a team of WCU scientists to support research on the ecology of the grass.

An initial $40,000 planning grant last year enabled WCU students and faculty to locate about 40 stands of river cane throughout the region. Students did the groundwork to decipher the sets of physical conditions that produce the best sets of river cane for artisans, and will be joined by a team of experts in the upcoming project to determine how and where new stands could be planted successfully.

Cozzo says it takes about 60-100 colms (stalks) of river cane to produce one basket. “The amount of work involved [in making one] is pretty amazing,” he commented.

“We think river-cane restoration is a high priority for the Eastern Band,” says Rob Young, associate professor of geology at WCU. “It’s nice for WCU to be able to provide that kind of service.”

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