Canyons restaurant in Blowing Rock stands perched among the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by North Carolina’s beautiful Globe Forest. Other than delicious quesadillas and breathtaking views, yesterday Canyons played host to a meeting of the conservation group WildSouth for a discussion of the dangers facing the mountain environment. For years, the trees of Pisgah National Forest have been left untouched, but recently, this status has become jeopardized.
After a series of controversial logging actions in the 1980s, the US Forest Service promised no more logging would be done in this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2006, however, the USFS announced plans to begin cutting trees in the Globe Forest once again. Under the direction of conservation group WildSouth, the Grandfather National Scenic Area (GNSA) was born. By designating certain areas of federally owned land in Pisgah National Forest as part of the GNSA, the area’s natural beauty would be preserved.
The GNSA wouldn’t infringe on private property, as it would only apply to 25,500 acres of public lands in Pisgah National Forest, and would also allow for fire management activities and the creation of wildlife habitat. This proposal would ensure the natural beauty of the region would be preserved, with tremendous beneficial effects on tourism and other industry. Establishing the GNSA would almost immediately increase property values within the viewshed as well as ensure that the hundreds of millions of tourism dollars spent yearly inside GNSA counties don’t leave the state any time soon. What’s more, thousands of jobs would be threatened by measures that would diminish the region’s picturesque nature, as tourism-driven economy is dependent on scenery. The proposal was unanimously adopted by the Blowing Rock Town Council, the Boone City Council, and the Watauga County Commission, as well as over 75 other local and national businesses and organizations.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But as is so frequently the case with our friends the Republicans, common sense and facts don’t necessarily rule the day. Republican Representatives Virginia Foxx (NC-5) and Pat McHenry (NC-10), who are currently uncommitted, were invited to the meeting, but neither they nor their staff attended. Also absent were Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr. In attendance, however, were Democratic Congressional Candidates Roy Carter (NC-5) and Daniel Johnson (NC-10). Both candidates announced their support of the measure and spoke to the crowd the importance of the mountains in their own lives. Carter, whose home in Glendale Springs looks onto Grandfather Mountain, rallied the crowd with tales of his own childhood spent in those same forests.
After the GNSA meeting, Roy Carter addressed the press and outlined his environmental plans for the fifth district. With the mountains at his back, Carter spoke to the necessity of ending the pollution caused by fossil fuels by reducing dependence on foreign oil with higher fuel efficiency standards and increased investment in alternative forms of energy. While announcing his opposition to subsidizing oil companies and their record profits, Carter reminded voters that time and time again, Virginia Foxx has voted against the interests of her constituents and for those of big oil companies in which she is personally invested.
Carter also articulated the very real dangers of global warming, promising to ensure that government buildings will be built to green standards and to operate his own congressional office in a carbon-neutral fashion.
Finally, and fittingly, Carter returned to the subject of the Western North Carolina’s natural beauty. “It is our great heritage and our responsibility to be its caretakers so that we may pass it on to the next generation of Americans,” he said. “The 5th district possesses incredible natural beauty in its rivers and mountains, but these wonders are in danger of being destroyed.”