The historic merger of three long-standing Western North Carolina environmental groups was unanimously approved Nov. 20 by the boards and members of Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO), the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (J-MCA) and the WNC Alliance (WNCA).
Julie Mayfield, co-director of WNCA, opened the proceedings by welcoming the members of all the organizations and the elected officials in attendance. Probably the most anticipated moment of the evening arrived next when Communications Manager for WNCA, Melissa Williams, unveiled the new name for the merging organization. Williams and a marketing committee made up of members from all the organizations worked with marketing firm, Design One to develop the new name and logo – MountainTrue.
Williams expressed the challenge this new name presented as these organizations created a new identity together. “People really care about how we move forward. We got a lot of input from membership,” she said.
“What we have now is a bold name that is affirmative. It is a challenge to us as an organization to rise up to what we believe in and what we want to be in the future.”
The remainder of the evening’s business was moderated by Ned Ryan Doyle, the co-host and producer of long-running environmental public affairs radio show, Our Southern Community, and past recipient of the WNCA’s Esther Cunningham award.
Doyle reviewed the history and process of merger which began germinating in Spring 2013. After more than a year of facilitated talks, due diligence processes and development of a new organizational structure, the members of ECO and WNCA voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger in May 2014. The J-MCA board voted unanimously in favor of the merger earlier this week.
On Nov. 20, the boards and memberships of each organization voted unanimously in favor of the merger, then new board members for Mountain True were voted on and accepted.
The new organization, MountainTrue, will not legally exist until January 1, 2015, at 12:01am. Those wishing to join ECO, J-CMA or WNCA or renew their membership before the end of 2014 will make those donations to the original organizations.
MountainTrue will work in four regions of WNC and have board representation from each region, with a minimum of two representatives from each region. The offices and staff of each organization will remain in place and there are plans to add staff as well.
“This is the merger of three organizations that all have unique strengths so it’s really a merger of strength for Western North Carolina,” declared Doyle.
In celebration of the merger and the new name, Josh Kelly, public lands biologist for WNCA, performed an original song written to the tune of classic mountain song, “Mountain Dew.”
The evening culminated in the annual presentation of the Esther Cunningham Aaward. Esther Cunningham was a 64- year-old grandmother and retired teacher from Macon County when she founded the WNC Alliance 32 years ago in response threats of drilling for fossil fuels in the mountains of WNC. ECO’s board and members and J-MCA’s board were awarded the Esther Cunningham collectively for their history of environmental protection as well as for their courage in moving forward with this merger. Bob Wagner, co-director of WNCA stated, “Esther would be really proud.”
Here’s the full press release from the new organization:
Merging environmental organizations announce new name, logo
ASHEVILLE—The boards and members of WNCA, ECO and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance on Thursday night enthusiastically approved the new bylaws, board of directors, and new name and logo for their merging nonprofits.
Effective at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2015, these three environmental organizations will legally become “MountainTrue” – a unified environmental organization working to build a larger community of advocates for the protection of Western North Carolina’s natural resources and quality of life.
“The name ‘MountainTrue’ is a values statement, an affirmation and a promise to the communities of Western North Carolina,” said Western North Carolina Alliance Co-Director Bob Wagner.
“To be ‘mountain true’ is to be committed to the values of stewardship and conservation of the forests, rivers and public lands of Western North Carolina,” Wagner said. “We’re very proud and excited to carry that mantle into the future as a united organization.”
The merger conversation arose last year when WNCA, founded in 1982, Environmental and Conservation Organization, founded in 1987, and J-MCA founded in 2000, went through leadership transitions and were on the cusp of new long-range planning.
Instead of continuing in separate silos, the organizations decided to explore a closer connection, which resulted in the agreement to merge.
Joining forces as a single organization will allow MountainTrue to:
- Have an increased local presence that allows for a stronger influence on policy at all levels of government;
- Have a broader geographic reach, encompassing 23 counties of Western North Carolina;
- Strengthen its grassroots engagement and involve a broader spectrum of the regional population.
MountainTrue will have offices in Asheville, Hendersonville, Boone and Franklin. Further details and specifics about the merged organizations will be released in early 2015.