LaKyla Hodges is the equity and education manager of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.
What’s a local sustainability initiative that you think is going well or on a successful path?
The countywide initiative to incorporate farming and gardening is on a very successful path. This is something that combines sustainability and community building. I strongly believe that bridging community and environmentalism is one of the most effective ways to address issues. Asheville, being known as an eco-friendly city, wouldn’t hold much value if there weren’t continued efforts to engage communities in sustainable practices.
What is one piece of environmental legislation or policy change that you would like to see the city of Asheville or Buncombe County make?
Asheville does a great job at normalizing individual efforts to benefit the environment such as shopping local, reducing waste and outdoor recreation. That being said, I feel that we could benefit from stronger legislation around urban development. Asheville is growing at a rapid rate, and it’s important to remember that a large part of the appeal to our area is the lush green space and accessibility to parks, greenways and preserves.
What is your organization’s preferred method for educating the community about your mission?
Myself and my organization are passionate about a hands-on approach to community education. My role is to implement educational programming for groups around Buncombe County, focusing on our organizational issue areas, which are water quality, habitat, outdoor recreation, local food production and scenic views. We also host public educational hikes and events that are often free to the public, and we do lots of tabling events.
Where is your favorite outdoor space in WNC?
My favorite conservation area in WNC would have to be the Highlands of Roan. SAHC started as the Roan Mountain Preservation Committee, which means the Highlands have a special place in our organization. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to learn about the rich history of the area as well as enjoy recreation out on the lands.