Dedicated to the exposure of, education of, and conservation of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Get Outside WNC was created by Jenna Watson, a West Henderson High School senior. Since she was little, Jenna has enjoyed hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, fly-fishing on small mountain streams, and running on trails in Pisgah National Forest with her high school cross-country team. Born in Asheville and hoping to pursue a career in environmental conservation, Jenna's goal is to expose youth to the outdoors, share her passion for nature, and protect the local environment.
Throughout her high school career, Jenna has come to value the peace of hiking and being outdoors. Hiking has served as a way to decompress, relax, and recover from the stress of school and life as a teenager. With the crises of poor teen mental health and decreasing exposure to the outdoors among youth, hiking is a pertinent way to bring together young and old alike in the Asheville area.
Importance of Conservation
Now more than ever, the conservation of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Western North Carolina should be discussed and prioritized with the utmost importance. Development in the Asheville area is increasingly creating harmful levels of population density and a decrease in tree canopy cover. According to a study conducted by NASA in 2019, Asheville's population has experienced a 10% increase since 2009 as well as a decrease in canopy cover by 6.4%. While this growth can stimulate Asheville's economy and fund increasing tourism efforts, this significant expansion has also led to the mass construction of apartments in previously forested areas and affects the environmental conditions of low-income regions.
Development in Western North Carolina along with global shifts in the environment have contributed to increasing severity in weather patterns that have led to droughts, flooding, and wildfires. According to Carolina Public Press, this erratic weather has created a "destabilizing whipsaw effect" on the forest ecosystem. The destruction created by unstable weather patterns not only makes recovery and clean-up more difficult, but also increasingly affects homeowners as residential areas spread further into Appalachia.
Lastly, the Blue Ridge Mountains are enduring a surge in the introduction of invasive species. These species range from insects such as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, to fish such as the Northern Snakehead, and even to plants such as Japanese Stiltgrass. These invasive species each pose a unique threat to the fragile balance of the local environment and are extremely difficult to eliminate. The Appalachian Voice, a publisher focused on regional environmental issues, states that invasive plant species in Western North Carolina reduce biodiversity along with the amount of nutrients, water, and sunlight native plants obtain. Due to their rapid germination and growth rates, invasive plants constitute an increased danger to the health of the delicate mountain ecosystem.
Our 2024 Winter beneficiary is MountainTrue, an organization located in Asheville, NC. Comprised of 3 preexisting organizations - Environmental and Conservation Organization of Henderson County, Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance, and Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition - MountainTrue has protected the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains for over 40 years. Fighting against oil & gas exploration, logging in protected forests, problematic highway expansion, and leading the Asheville Beyond Coal Campaign, MountainTrue has been pivotal in the management of WNC's precious ecosystem.