Western North Carolina has a plethora of environmental groups, making it easy to find the one that best matches up with your own passion. Many groups rely on memberships not only for financial support. More members also give an organization clout when pushing for public policy initiatives.
Water quality groups
Watershed Association of the Tuckaseigee River
A group that works to protect the Tuckaseigee River and the watershed that feeds it. The group has been active in finding ways to reduce sediment and pollution entering Jackson and Swain counties waterways. 828.631.1500. www.watrnc.org
Haywood Waterways Association
A nonprofit dedicated to maintaining and improving the water quality of the Pigeon River and Pigeon River Watershed — primarily that of Haywood County. The group promotes and advocates for water quality with local governments, does environmental education in the schools, performs public outreach, conducts water quality monitoring and sampling. 828.456.5195. www.haywoodwaterways.org
Little Tennessee Watershed Association
A conservation organization that protects and restores water quality and habitat in the Upper Little Tennessee River and its tributaries upstream of Fontana Lake. The group advocates and promotes water quality and stream protection, and performs water sampling and monitoring. 828.369.6402. www.littletennesseewatershed.org
Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
A nonprofit dedicated to conserving rural lands, forests, and waters in the six western most counties. The land trust has saved several thousand acres of farm and forest land from development in the region — sometimes by buying the land outright, but more commonly working with private landowners on conservation agreements. 828.524.2711. www.ltlt.org
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
Works across Western North Carolina to save land from development, protecting the natural, scenic, recreational, agricultural, historic and cultural resources of the region. Land trusts help private landowners place their tracts in conservation agreements or occasionally purchase special tracts outright. 828.253.0095. www.appalachian.org
Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust
Saves land from development in the Highlands area by securing conservation agreements with private landowners and sometimes buying special tracts outright. 828.526.9938 ext. 25.
Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance
Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has worked nationwide to protect America’s wilderness, not as a relic of the past, but as a thriving ecological community that is central to life itself. Above all, The Wilderness Society’s mission is to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. The national group has a field office in Franklin dedicated to the Southern Appalachians. 828.369.7084. wilderness.org
A statewide air quality advocacy group based in Sylva. The group has worked to keep air pollution and global warming at the center of public awareness. The Canary Coalition is also a player in the political arena. Its lobbying efforts have helped shape state policies. www.canarycoalition.org
Formerly the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, this group is a primarily a watchdog for the national forests. It’s mission includes fighting logging and road building in national forests, protecting rare and endangered species, protecting against damaging forms of recreation such as ATV-use, and advocating for a healthy ecosystem. Regional office in Asheville. wildsouth.org
Southern Environmental Law Center
This group fights for environmental issues through the court system. Whether it is challenging violations of the Clean Air Act by utilities, stopping logging that threatens endangered species, or fighting irresponsible road construction, this group consistently rights environmental wrongs when legal action — or the threat of legal action — is the only recourse. Regional office in Asheville. www.southernenvironment.org
Dedicated to protecting the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River watershed and corridor. Lobbies against more intensive recreational uses in special areas of the Chattooga River, such as high-impact horseback riding or paddling, and advocates for proper care by the national forest service. www.chattoogariver.org
An environmental action group operating throughout the region, the group brings concerned citizens together to address critical environmental issues facing local mountain communities, from sustainable development to the plague of exotic plants on the ecosystem. Local chapters in Haywood County and in Jackson County, and elsewhere in the region. 828.524.3899. www.wnca.org
National Park supporters
Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This group supports the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by providing funds for projects the park otherwise couldn’t afford. Some projects include the reintroduction of elk, installing bear cables at backcountry campsites, restoring historic structures, protecting hemlocks from invasive bugs, building a new visitor center on the N.C. side of the park, and funding salaries for extra park rangers. 800.845.5665. www.friendsofthesmokies.org.
Friends of the Parkway
A nonprofit that works to preserve, protect and promote the Blue Ridge Parkway and its surrounding scenic landscape. Like Friends of the Smokies, the organization plays a vital role in aiding the park service with needs that go unfunded by the federal government. 800.228.7275. www.blueridgefriends.org.
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
Another major fundraising arm for the Blue Ridge Parkway, making possible visitor outreach, preservation of land adjacent to the Parkway, and programs for school children. 336.721.0260. www.brpfoundation.org.
National Parks Conservation Association
This group fights to safeguard the scenic beauty, wildlife, and historical and cultural treasures of the entire National Park system — whether it’s stopping construction of the North Shore Road through the Smokies or limiting snowmobiles in Yellowstone. 800.628.7275. www.npca.org