Land, Water, and Air Conservation
in Asheville and Western North Carolina
Western North Carolina Forestry - Then and Now
Western North Carolina is known as the birthplace of Forestry in America. The founding of America’s first Forestry School in Biltmore gave rise to modern scientific forestry in the midst of massive logging and timber famines. Gifford Pinchot1, who would later become the first Chief of the Forest Service, and Carl Schenk2, a German forestry doctorate developed the school.
Portions of Vanderbilt’s estate would become Pisgah National Forest’s Pink Beds and Cradle of Forestry. Today the "Cradle" hosts several events for fun learning opportunities in conservation. America’s first forestry school would eventually move to Sunburst, NC, near Lake Logan in Haywood County. Today, the tradition continues in Clyde, NC with Haywood Community College’s Forest Management program. This Society of American Foresters accredited school trains the next generation of foresters. The college also hosts several forestry events such as Arbor Day festivities and Timbersports. Check out Haywood’s blog for their calendar.
The legacy of Pinchot and Schenk continue today with the management of WNC’s many National Forest districts. The Pisgah and Natahala forests are managed for timber, range, recreation, wildlife and water resources3. Any decision made about our forests must include consideration of each of these values. In addition to federal and state public lands, other lands have been placed in conservation through the Nature Conservancy. Being very active in this area, this globally based group has protected over 700,000 acres throughout North Carolina. Other groups are active in this region, serving as watchdogs for North Carolina’s forests. The Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition monitors changes in federal management plans, and offers tips on how to be involved.
1Pinchot, Gifford. Breaking New Ground. Island Press, 1947 .
2Schenk, Carl A. Birth of Forestry in America, Biltmore Forest School 1898-1913. Forest History Society, 1913 .
3National Forest Management Act of 1976. 16 U.S.C. §§ 1600-1614, August 17, 1974, as amended 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1990.
Pure Mountain Waters of Western North Carolina
Pure mountain springs. Wild trout fishing creeks. The 240 bridge over the French Broad river. All are a part of the Asheville watershed, from the parkway’s ridgetops to the water treatment plant on River Road. Most of the Asheville watershed is on more than 17,000 acres of federal property, and protected by easements that adjoin federal land.
Here natural filtration through the environment takes place. Reservoirs supply the city with its water demands. Treated water then finds its way back to the French Broad river, north of Woodfin The river is also a popular bike, rafting and kayaking route.
In fact, with extreme ambition and proper planning, it’s possible to float all the way to the Louisiana delta! The river is also unique in that the French Broad River is the 3rd oldest river in the world, pre-dated only by the Nile and New River (latter also in North Carolina). The French Broad is also one of three rivers in the world that flows north along most of its route.
Managers in city government ensure that high water quality is delivered to residents. Asheville was the first city in the state to voluntarily comply with strict environmental standards for water quality.
Water quality is not the only issue to Asheville residents. Water conservation is just as important. Water saving features in the home are made available at little cost, with the help of the forward-thinking water department. Just go to the city government website to sign up for your low-cost, water saving methods.
Local conservation groups are active in the Asheville area, educating citizens about water quality issues, and what can be done to help our waterways. Of course, this education always begins with our youth. North Carolina’s Environmental Education Program gets kids involved with several interactive projects that teach about water resources. Other conservation groups are active in the area with children, such as the Adopt a Watershed Program. Several lesson plans are available to get kids involved early with water quality. The next step is to get everyone involved: There are several volunteer opportunities to help clean up our waterways, which are a great way to spend a day helping out and having fun, too!
Enjoy and, drink up!
Asheville Valley Air Quality
Western North Carolina is not unique to other places on the eastern seaboard in that air quality can vary greatly with the weather. There is no need to step around this issue, there are certain facts: the Great Smokey Mountains National Park is rated one of the most polluted parks in the states by the USDA. Asheville’s own automobile use, combined with westerly coal-fired plants account for our sometimes hazy skies. However, conscientious environmental leaders are unique to this area, with several active organizations working toward clear skies. The Canary Coalition is an example, bringing together academics, activists and others for a true grass-roots movement.
The City of Asheville runs their buses on propane and has several electric cars in service (beware the parking meter-reader!). Bio-diesel and “veggie” diesel co-ops offer fuel alternatives, such as Blue Ridge Biofuels.
Bike paths connect broad areas of the city. (insert a’ville bike paths link here) With many low or non-polluting choices and strong grass roots, Asheville leads the progress towards a clearer skyline. Air quality is important to monitor, especially for children and the elderly with asthma or other respiratory ailments. To check today’s air quality, visit: