Asheville’s WNC Alliance Wins Statewide Innovation Award

ASHEVILLE, NC – The Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) was recognized for its “exemplary performance in innovation” and awarded $10,000 from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation at the North Carolina Conservation Network’s Annual Retreat in Raleigh.

The foundation gave WNCA its annual Community TIEs Award based on the group’s innovative approach of working with federal and state agencies, private companies, and other non-profits and involving volunteers in invasive exotic plant species control and native habitat restoration efforts on vulnerable public lands in Western North Carolina. Criteria for the top innovative program included the use of new and different solutions to combat old challenges.

“The innovation category traditionally receives the most applications from competing groups,” WNCA Executive Director Julie Mayfield commented, “so we are particularly honored to be chosen for this award, and we are grateful for the $10,000 gift.”

Excessive growth of exotic invasive plants is ranked second only to habitat destruction as a threat to wildlife. To combat this growing problem, WNCA and its partners launched this program in 2004, and since then the program has:

– Trained close to 200 volunteers in identification, inventory methods, and control methods of nearly a dozen invasive exotic plants;
Coordinated over 1,300 volunteer hours over 29 days across 25 miles of trails and roads in national forests and national parks;

– Coordinated control work on over 13,000 square feet in the Sandy Bottom ecosystem in Asheville to directly benefit endangered Bog Turtles and diverse salamander species;

– Planted over 150 mixed-hardwood trees for habitat restoration; and Educated over 300 other citizens through presentations to various organizations, schools, and garden clubs.

“Our success is measured not only in the hard numbers of miles and acres controlled, but also in the knowledge volunteers take back with them to their yards, their neighborhoods, and their local parks,” said WNCA Ecologist Bob Gale, who manages the program. “WNCA is proud to use this innovative and scientific approach to continue to improve our region’s most ecologically sensitive areas.”

Other partners in the program are Equinox Environmental Consulting and Design, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Southern Appalachian Man and Biosphere, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and North Carolina Department of Transportation.

WNCA is a 27-year old environmental group that empowers citizens to advocate for livable communities and the natural environment of Western North Carolina. For more information on upcoming WNCA activities, call the office at 828-258-8737 in Asheville.

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