Holly Kays

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Usually, talk around conservation and forest management focuses on big chunks of public land like the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, not smaller parcels of private acreage. According to Lang Hornthal, co-executive director of the nonprofit EcoForesters, that needs to change — added together, those smaller parcels cover enormous swaths of land. 

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Wolfetown Rep. Bo Crowe spent the weekend in jail following his arrest Saturday, Jan. 7, for an alleged assault that left the victim unconscious — but he will not be resigning his position on Tribal Council. 

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For the first time in 22 years, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will conduct a census of its tribal members. 

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For more than a year, Canton residents have complained about a gritty white dust from the Evergreen Packaging paper mill clinging to their cars and driveways — and they’re still complaining.

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From new parks to big birthdays to policy overhauls, 2022 has been a year of change and major milestones for the outdoors in Western North Carolina. Here’s my best stab at outlining some of the biggest news to enter the region’s outdoor world this year.

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Update: Shortly after press time Dec. 20, the Jackson County Clerk of Court released an order sealing the 911 records for an additional 30 days. The order was filed at 3:18 p.m. Dec. 20, 31 hours after the previous sealing order had lifted and The Smoky Mountain News had submitted a renewed request to obtain them. The order, which this time was released as a public document, places both the 911 records and the state’s petition to seal them under seal. 

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Update: According to Interim Fire Chief Thomas Simmons, the fire's cause has been deterimined to be accidental, due to an appliance left on in the building. The appliance is not yet being named, as the department is waiting for engineers to make a final determination.

Kituwah LLC CEO Mark Hubble was just going back to sleep after a night in the emergency room when his phone rang. The headquarters for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ multi-million-dollar business arm was on fire.

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In the Dec. 15 special election filling two vacant Tribal Council seats, Cherokee voters favored candidates with careers in business and finance rather than those with legislative experience.

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The Kituwah LLC building has been destroyed in a fire that started during the early morning hours of Thursday, Dec. 15.

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As Christmas 1900 approached, ornithologist Frank Chapman hatched an idea. 

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Brandon Tyler Buchanan, 25, of Cherokee is now facing new criminal charges in addition to the first-degree murder charge he faces in the death of Kobe Toineeta, also a 25-year-old from Cherokee. 

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Cherokee’s recently created medical cannabis LLC will likely have $63 million at its disposal as it prepares for its first year of retail sales, thanks to a vote from Tribal Council Thursday, Dec. 8. The body also acted to set pay rates for the board of managers at Qualla Enterprises LLC and fill two vacant board seats.

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Western Carolina University is ahead of the pack on employee satisfaction, according to the results of a survey to University of North Carolina System faculty and staff.

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Joel Sartore lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, but he — and his camera — are constantly on the move.

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“Extraordinary” inflation and the need to match state salary increases will prompt increases to the cost of attendance at Western Carolina University next year, according to the 2023-2024 schedule of tuition and fees the Board of Trustees adopted at their Dec. 2 meeting. 

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Shortly after the 1835 Christmas holiday celebrating peace and good will toward men, U.S. government officials met with a group of 500 Cherokee leaders at New Echota, Georgia, and signed a treaty that led to the tribe’s cruel eviction via the Trail of Tears.

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New data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis show that 2021 was a year of growth for the outdoor economy in North Carolina — but that the industry is still working to make up ground it lost during the pandemic. 

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Tribal members Lavita Hill and Mary Crowe have received an Attorney General’s Dogwood Award from N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein for their work to restore the traditional Cherokee name to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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On Thursday, Dec. 15, Cherokee voters will head to the polls for a special election that will seat two new representatives on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council.

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A wildfire reported Wednesday, Nov. 23, in the Harmon Den area of Haywood County was still burning with no containment as of Monday, Nov. 28, estimated at 150 acres.

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Twenty-two years ago, Janet Hensley, now 59, was working in guest services at a new hotel in her hometown of Erwin, Tennessee.

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As voting hours ended on Election Day 2020, talking heads waiting for results to roll in filled the TV airwaves with speculation based on the exit polling data before them. What might it mean for the final results, and for the future of the American presidency?

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After months of discussion and deliberation, Mainspring Conservation Trust and Northbrook Carolina Hydro II have signed an agreement allowing Mainspring to purchase the aging Ela Dam in Swain County — paving the way for dam removal efforts to progress.

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In a unanimous vote during Annual Council Monday, Oct. 24, the Cherokee Tribal Council passed an ordinance to strengthen the tribe’s ability to enforce its banishment rules. It’s been refining the legislation since March and discussing the topic for much longer.

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The Cherokee Indian Police Department is seeking information about the whereabouts of Kyria Neal Swayney, a 16-year-old girl who was last seen Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Swayney is five-foot-seven and weighs about 140 pounds. The CIPD has classifies her case as a runaway case. Call 828.497.4131 with information.  

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The Cherokee community is mourning the death of Kobe Toineeta, 25, who died by homicide Friday, Nov. 11. 

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Voters in Cherokee’s Dec. 15 special election will choose from a crowded field of candidates seeking to fill two unexpected vacancies on Tribal Council.

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Sept. 27, 2021, was a day of constant phone calls and email notifications for Brendan Davey, regional supervisor at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality office in Asheville.

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Sometime around 1940, a red spruce seedling pushed above the forest floor in southern Haywood County. Its roots drank from the moist soil, and each year the tree grew taller and stronger.

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This fall, Western Carolina University will launch a pilot program that guarantees undergraduate students up to $3,000 per year in scholarships over the course of their four-year college career. Called Catamount Commitment, the program is a repackaging of Western’s existing scholarship resources that aims to help students and their parents better count the cost of college before enrolling.

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The Cherokee Tribal Council allocated an additional $1.38 million to Cherokee Central Schools during an Oct. 24 Annual Council session, increasing the school system’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and giving employees a cost-of-living increase.

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During an Oct. 17 Annual Council meeting, the Cherokee Tribal Council approved an ordinance that strengthens ethics laws for tribal officials — but struck a proposed change that would have restricted their activity for a year after leaving office.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a key partner in a $55 million effort to bring the state’s first track dedicated to quarterhorse racing to a 200-acre property outside of Ashland, Kentucky, with a groundbreaking ceremony held Friday, Oct. 28.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rob Saunooke is banned from practicing law on the Qualla Boundary. While Judge Sharon Barrett did issue a March 2018 ruling preventing him from practicing law on tribal lands unless specifically permitted by a court order, the Cherokee Supreme Court later vacated Barrett’s order.

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When Cheryl Hillis started managing vacation rentals in Haywood County 15 years ago, Airbnb didn’t exist, reservations were made with phone calls and mailed checks, and she lived nowhere near Western North Carolina. Hillis was the face of Buffalo Creek Vacations, but she took reservations and managed payments from whichever town her military husband and their four boys lived at the time.

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During Annual Council Oct. 24, Tribal Council approved “Project Coda,” a $324 million effort to control “a brand recognized worldwide” and invest in multiple resorts to be developed across the country.

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In a unanimous vote Monday, Oct. 17, the Cherokee Tribal Council passed an ordinance that prohibits begging and panhandling in a variety of locations and situations on the Qualla Boundary.

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Former Tribal Council Rep. Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor is now facing a fourth charge in the domestic violence case that spurred his Oct. 16 resignation from office representing Wolfetown and Big Y.

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Bo Crowe, a fifth-term Tribal Council member representing Wolfetown and Big Y, has announced his intention to challenge Principal Chief Richard Sneed’s 2023 re-election bid.

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The Oct. 20 death of Lambert Wilson — a beloved educator, business owner and supporter of Native American art — sent shock waves through communities across Western North Carolina. However, few details are available regarding the circumstances of what his friends and colleagues say was a tragic and unexpected passing.

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More than 130 people from 25 Western North Carolina counties met in Boone last month to talk about how best to build the region’s outdoor economy — and over the next two years, that conversation will continue. Building Outdoor Communities, a program from Made By Mountains, aims to help individual communities foster collaboration and expertise to meet their outdoor economy goals.  

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Following a 90-minute closed session discussion Monday, Oct. 24, the Cherokee Tribal Council voted to allocate an additional $55 million to Kituwah LLC for projects that CEO Mark Hubble promised would yield an immediate return.

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Focused on cleaning up her inbox, Sara Stanley, a May graduate from Western Carolina University’s journalism program, was about to delete the email from the Society of Professional Journalists when she noticed her name in the preview.

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After nearly a century in operation, years of inspiring trepidation at winter’s approach and $33 million from the state legislature, Western Carolina University’s antique steam plant is approaching its final retirement. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Oct. 21, about 100 people gathered to celebrate completion of the new facility, which is expected to come online in the next month or so.

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A special election Thursday, Dec. 15, will seat new Tribal Council members to fill vacancies left by the death of Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke and the resignation of Wolfetown Rep. Bill Taylor, Tribal Council decided during Annual Council Monday, Oct. 24.

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A woman is facing five federal charges stemming from two alleged incidents of sexual abuse of a minor on tribal lands. 

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In January 2020, Sara Duncan was less than a year into her role as an assistant professor at Western Carolina University’s School of Health Sciences when she started talking to Lisa Lefler, director of WCU’s Culturally Based Native Health Program, about opportunities for kids to get involved in Cherokee science.

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During a special called meeting Thursday, Sept. 29, the Cherokee Tribal Council passed an update to the tribe’s election ordinance that gets rid of term limits for executive offices and makes absentee voting available to all tribal members, regardless of residence or employment.

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Wolfetown Rep. Dennis Edward “Bill” Taylor has resigned his seat on Tribal Council following an Oct. 6 incident that led to a trio of criminal charges and a domestic violence protective order.

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The sun was still high in the sky on a perfect October day last fall when I finished setting up my campsite in the Chattahoochee National Forest outside Helen, Georgia. Wandering through the woods to explore my new surroundings, I came to a sudden halt at the sight of an enormous spider, perched in the center of a giant web stretched across my path.

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