The Smoky Mountain News has compiled a comprehensive list of these groups in this coverage area. A year’s membership to any of these would make a great gift, as would making a donation to the group in a person’s name. Most memberships come with regular newsletters for members.
Many of the organizations sell items emblazoned with their logos — fleeces, long-sleeve T-shirts, hats, mugs, patches and tote bags — which provide a great wrapable object to accompany a gift membership.
All of these organizations rely on memberships and donations to operate. The preservation efforts and environmental advocacy performed by these groups is vital to the conservation of natural resources in the region.
In addition to their operating costs, these organizations rely on membership numbers to give them clout with elected leaders and lawmakers. The more members a group can tout, the more lawmakers pay attention to the group.
National Park supporters
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.
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 North Carolina side of the park, and funding salaries for extra park rangers. 800.845.5665. www.friendsofthesmokies.org.
Friends of the Parkway
A non-profit organization 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.
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. Regional office in Asheville. 800.628.7275. www.npca.org
Water quality groups
Friends of the Greenway
Known as FROGS, this group assists with the management and development of the Little Tennessee River Greenway in Macon County. The group works to promote greenway recreation, protect the river, expand the existing greenway, improve greenway facilities, and develop community appreciation for the river greenway. Membership starts at $25. 828.369.7331. www.littletennessee.org
Haywood Waterways Association
A non-profit organization 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.
Little Tennessee Watershed Association
A conservation organization that protects and restores water quality and habitats 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
Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River
A group that works to protect the Tuckasegee 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
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.
Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
A non-profit organization 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, and protect 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
A statewide air quality advocacy group based in Sylva, this group has worked to keep air pollution and global warming at the center of public awareness. The Canary Coalition is also a major player in the political arena. Its lobbying efforts have helped shape state legislation of public policy. www.canarycoalition.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 U.S. Forest Service. www.chattoogariver.org
Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance
Mountain Voices Alliance
This group was formed by citizens concerned with rampant development in Western North Carolina. They advocate for tougher ordinances on the real estate and construction industries and lobby for responsible and sustainable development. www.mvalliance.net
This national environmental powerhouse has two chapters in the region — one based in Asheville and one in Brevard. The group is primarily an environmental advocacy group that works to educate the public and lobby political leaders to preserve and protect the environment, outdoor recreation and natural resources. The local chapters hold monthly meetings and talks. www.sierraclub.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
Formerly the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, this group is primarily a watchdog for the national forests. Its 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
An environmental action group operating throughout the region, this 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. 828.524.3899. www.wnca.org
Outdoor recreation groups
A national group that works to conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources for recreation and advocates for paddling access and opportunities. Headquarters are in Sylva. Regional issues tackled by the group include paddling access on the upper Chattooga, whitewater releases on the Cheoah, and removal of the Dillsboro dam. 828.252.0728. www.americanwhitewater.org
Backcountry Horsemen of NC
Members coordinate group rides and overnight trips, perform trail maintenance and advocate for trail access to horseback riding, and fight attempts to make trails off limits to horses. www.BackCountryHorsemenofNC.com or 828.550.2929.
Blue Ridge Bike Club
Brings together a community of mountain and road cyclists who advocate for biking recreation and access. Club members hold group rides and social gatherings, and work to increase public awareness of cycling. The club performs maintenance on road bike pathways and mountain bike trails. www.blueridgebicycleclub.org.
Highlands Plateau Audubon Society
The local chapter of this national organization brings together bird enthusiasts with socials, bird outings and bird counts, and provides a network to trade bird species sightings. 828.787.1387 www.audubon.org
Pisgah chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bike Association
The local chapter of this regional organization holds group mountain bike rides and trail workdays, and advocates for mountain biking opportunities on public lands. www.pisgahareasorba.org
Pisgah Climbers Association
A community of commercial and non-commercial climbers who work together on maintaining favorite climbing areas and advocate access for climbers. www.pisgahclimbers.com.
Southern Appalachian Bicycle Association
A club of both road and mountain bike riders. Members perform trail maintenance and construction of new trails for mountain biking, hold group rides and carpool to races around the region. Local chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association. www.sabacycling.com
Tuckasegee Chapter of Trout Unlimited
The local group of a national organization has members from Jackson, Haywood, Macon and Swain counties. Trout Unlimited is a voice that speaks on behalf of angler interests and works to ensure the nation’s waterways are protected and access to streams is preserved. www.orgsites.com/nc/tctu.
WNC Sportsman’s Club
A group dedicated to the sports of hunting, fishing, shooting, and archery. Works with the U.S. Forest Service and the N.C. Wildlife Commission to ensure opportunities for such sports on public lands. wncsportsmansclub.com.
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The regional chapter of this national group preserves, protects and promotes the stretch of the AT running through Western North Carolina. Efforts include trail maintenance and preserving viewsheds along the trail corridor from encroaching development. www.appalachiantrail.org.
Carolina Mountain Club
The largest hiking group in Western North Carolina. Numerous hikes are held each week on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Members also build and maintain trails. 828.298.5084. www.carolinamtnclub.com
Friends of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail
A non-profit organization that supports the Mountains to Sea Trail. The organization has task forces along the length of the trail. The local task force group performs trail maintenance, has group hikes, and works on acquiring rights-of-way and easements along new stretches and promotes the trail. 919.496.4771. www.ncmst.org
Nantahala Hiking Club
A hiking group based in Macon County that holds weekly hikes. The group also conducts trail maintenance and hosts monthly meetings with speakers on different outdoor or environmental topics. maconcommunity.org/nhc
N.C. Bartram Trail Society
This group promotes and maintains a 100-mile section of trail in Western North Carolina that follows in the footsteps of 18th century naturalist William Bartram. The group honors the contribution of the early naturalist’s descriptions of plants and animals as well as Cherokee culture. www.ncbartramtrail.org.