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Updated: 5 min 20 sec ago

BC football spring game to be held Saturday

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 22:40
Brevard College football coach Paul Hamilton announced that the annual spring game will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Brevard High's Memorial Stadium.
Admission is free for Tornado fans to get a first glimpse of the 2015 team. Last year's squad finished 1-10 but set 58 school records to finish sixth nationally with 321.6 rushing yards per game.
The college also announced Monday its 2015 schedule, which includes a cross-country trip to Utah.
The Tornados' 11-game schedule is highlighted by a Sept. 26 trip to Southern Utah University, a member of Division I's Big Sky Conference and whose schedule also includes Utah State next season.
Brevard opens the season at Virginia Union on Sept. 5, a team that defeated the Tornados 31-14 in their only previous meeting in 2012. The home opener occurs a week later (Sept. 12) against Bowie State in the first meeting between the two schools.
The South Atlantic Conference schedule begins with a Sept. 19 road trip to Wingate before the cross-country trip to Cedar City, Utah, to face the Thunderbirds.
The Tornados will alternate between home and away contests for the remainder of the season. October begins with a game against Tusculum in conjunction with the school's Homecoming weekend, themed Coast Back to Brevard. The team then travels to Carson-Newman before returning home for its final nonconference game of the season against Limestone, a second-year independent Division II program that will be in the first of a four-year scheduling alliance with South Atlantic Conference schools.
Brevard travels to Newberry on Oct. 24 in advance of a Halloween afternoon home game with Catawba, a team that narrowly defeated the Tornados in 2014. The final road game will be Nov. 7 against Lenoir-Rhyne, which was ranked No. 3 in the nation and went undefeated during the regular season before being upset in its first playoff game last season.
The 2015 slate concludes with a Nov. 14 game with Mars Hill on the turf at Brevard Memorial Stadium.
Categories: News

WHKP Relays set for Tuesday at North

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 22:31
The annual WHKP Relays track and field event at North Henderson will most likely be postponed until later in the week, thanks to steady rains Monday night.
If there are breaks in the weather and the sun hits the track at North for a few hours, there's a chance that the boys will run the meet for the 54th year and the girls for the 21st year.
The meet is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and WHKP 1450 AM will begin live updates, starting at 6 p.m.
"The weather is not very promising for us right now," Knights track and field coach Heang Uy said. "But if the weather does hold just for even a few hours, the track will be runnable. Hopefully, we're able to get it in. If not, we'll run it later this week."
Eight schools will be represented, including all four Henderson County schools (North, East Henderson, Hendersonville and West Henderson). The other four schools competing are A.C. Reynolds, Asheville, T.C. Roberson and Polk County.
"T.C. and Reynolds are the favorites. For the girls, Roberson is always pretty tough. I believe they've won six in a row," Uy said.
The event is scored differently than a normal track meet. Instead of having individual scores for each team member, all the members of the team for each event will have a combined score.
Last year, T.C. Roberson swept the boys and girls titles.
This is one of two big events this week for area teams. On Saturday, the Blue Ridge Classic will be held at A.C. Reynolds, with most of the same schools competing against each other again.
Categories: News

Board tackles zoning changes for new Ingles on Spartanburg Hwy

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 22:21
The Hendersonville Planning Board is recommending a zoning change that would pave the way for a new Ingles store at 625 Spartanburg Highway.
The future 72,000-square-foot supermarket is envisioned to replace the current 46,379-square-foot store, with additions of land totaling 7.23 acres. Site plans include room for a Starbucks and pharmacy inside the market and a 5,418-square-foot canopy for a Gas Express in a smaller parking lot.
The store currently has 254 parking spaces, but under the city’s current zoning laws the proposed development would require 360. Developers requested a variance of the ordinance to whittle the amount of parking spaces down to 237.
Preston Kendall of Ingles Markets said they studied the amount of cars in the parking lots of six other Ingles stores in the region during some of their busiest times (4-6 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays). The stores in Fletcher, Arden, Lincolnton, Dallas and two in Tennessee did not show enough demand to warrant the extra spaces, he said.
John Cox of Land Planning Associates also assessed parking at the sites. During the busiest time at the Fletcher store, Cox said he counted 158 used parking spaces and noted that there were 51 employees on staff at the time. Assuming each employee drove a car to work that day, he estimated the store needed only 107 customer spaces during its peak time.
At the new store, he said, 58 spaces would be located at the rear of the building for employee parking.
Gary Jones, who is involved in a pending civil suit against the city for closing streets in the area, told the board that the developers want to build a superstore on a “postage stamp lot. They don’t have enough space,” he said. “It’s not because that’s all they need, it’s because that’s all that’s there.”
He added that a 72,000-square-foot store is going to need a lot of shopping carts, which will also take up room in the small lot.
“It’s like my granddaddy used to say, ‘You can paint a beautiful picture of a rooster laying an egg, but son, you and I both know a rooster isn’t going to lay an egg,” he said.
Board Chair Steven Orr and members Ben Pace, Michael Coggins, Ray Mundy and Jay Thorndike approved the variance request. Board member Steve Johnson voted against it.

More store, more shoppers?
Kendall told the board that the new store is “needed for that area. We have a store there now and the store does do business now. We see that if we can upgrade that location to add a pharmacy, which we don’t have, a Starbucks, which we don’t have, a gas station, which we don’t have there, that our customer base can build in that area just from adding those items that we can’t offer at the size store that we have now.”
“But don’t you worry about that taking away business from the other (Ingles) store out on Upward Road that’s about two or three miles away?” Johnson asked.
“I think that all it does is help Ingles as a whole,” Kendall answered. “We have stores in Asheville that are that close together … and it’s almost like they feed off of each other.”
Pace said that he knows people who drive past the Ingles supermarket at the corner of Spartanburg Highway and Highland Lake Road to shop at the Ingles closer to town “because it’s easier to get around” in the smaller store.
The larger stores are hard on the elderly, who have trouble walking from one end to the other, he said.
“The store’s getting bigger, yes, and it is hard to walk across it, but we do offer the chargeable electric buggies for that,” Kendall said.
Mundy mentioned the traffic congestion and problems of entering and exiting the Fletcher store, asking how many spaces are at that Ingles, which also hosts a Gas Express. Cox said that the lot has 350 total spaces.
Kendall added that they hope to avoid a similar traffic mess at the Spartanburg Highway site by adding an extra driveway.
Developers asked for a variance of the city’s ordinances to add another entrance to the site’s proposed gas station along Spartanburg Highway. The site is currently served by four driveways: two along Spartanburg Highway and one each along Joel Wright Drive and Copper Penny Way, which both dead end at the property.
Based on an initial store size of 77,427-square-feet, a recent traffic impact study by Mattern & Craig estimated the supermarket and its eight-pump gas station would generate a total of 7,923 daily trips. The analysis did not recommend an additional drive.
The city’s zoning laws limit the “number of driveways on any road to not more than two and limits the total number of driveways serving a site to three,” Planning Director Sue Anderson told the board. “The purpose of this provision is to limit the number of curb cuts along major highways in order to improve traffic flow.”
Mundy moved that the board to recommend city council not approve the variance to add another lane on Spartanburg Highway. The motion passed 5-1, with Coggins voting no.
The board also voted unanimously to recommend the council approve a variance to allow the store to have the four driveways it currently uses.
Developers also requested a variance in the city’s zoning ordinance requiring a 25-foot setback for the structure. Because of the way the property line runs, Anderson showed the board that a 330-square-foot corner of the new building will encroach on 22 feet of the setback zone.
Mundy moved that the planning board recommend council approve the setback variance. The motion passed 4-2, with Pace and Johnson opposing the recommendation.
In a final vote for the project, Mundy motioned that the board recommend council change the zoning classification of parcels from highway business to planned commercial development and recommended the council approve the project’s special use permit. Pace and Johnson voted against the idea.
In other action, the board:
-Unanimously agreed to recommend City Council approve a special use permit and zoning change for a new affordable housing complex with 80 multi-family residential units on 10 acres near Wal-Mart. The proposed development “will have frontage on Francis Road, Lakewood Road and Highlands Square Drive,” Anderson told the board. The applicant requested to rezone a portion of the parcel from industrial to planned residential development. Residents of Shamrock Estates, near the proposed complex, raised concerns of traffic increases, crime and impacts the heavy machinery may have on the roadways to the site.
-Unanimously recommended that council approve a text amendment to streamline the city’s permitting process. If approved by council, the text change would mean only developments of 20,000 square feet and larger would be required for review by the planning board. In order to preserve public notice of these projects, Anderson said it was agreed that commercial and industrial projects between 10,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet require a public notice to be posted at the site once staff has approved these projects. The notices will be used to inform the public of the plans for the site.
City resident Ken Fitch pleaded that the board reconsider the decision for the sake of transparency. He said the changes would diminish or eliminate public input on projects that directly impact the community and the lives of its people.
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver
Categories: News

Former HHS standout Cook sets WCU record

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 21:48
Former Hendersonville High track and field standout Hailey Cook rewrote the record books for her high school career, and now she's already doing the same in college.
Cook, a sophomore at Western Carolina University, broke an 18-year-old Lady Catamount record on Saturday with a toss of 14.99 meters (49 feet, 2.25 inches) in the shot put at the 2015 Beynon Sports Surfaces Catamount Classic in Cullowhee. She helped lead Western Carolina to the women's title, as the Lady Catamounts finished the meet with 326 points.
Breaking records is nothing new to Cook, who holds the discus and shot put records at Hendersonville High. She capped off her record-setting senior year at HHS by setting a record in discus at the 1-A state championship meet with a throw of 146 feet, 6 inches. She followed that up with a toss of 43 feet, 3.5 inches in the shot put, giving her 10 individual state titles. She also had two team state titles in high school: volleyball (2012) and track (2011).
Prior to her record-setting performance at the state meet in 2013, Cook was honored by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which gave her the highest honor it can give a female athlete: The NCHSAA Female Athlete of the Year award.
Cook will now set her sights on the 2015 Southern Conference Championship, which will be held April 25 in Birmingham, Ala.
Categories: News

Brevard's Gilbert earns T-N Player of the Week honors

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 21:29
Brevard's Casey Gilbert is always a steady player, softball coach David McNeill said.
Her consistency makes the Lady Blue Devils consistently good, but there are these stretches in a season when she's unstoppable. She's in one of those stretches right now.
Last week, Gilbert led the Lady Blue Devils to a division win in the Grand Strand Classic in Myrtle Beach and a big win over North Henderson. For that performance, the junior has earned the Times-News Prep Player of the Week award.
"It's just like she's in the zone," McNeill said of Gilbert when she's in one of those stretches.
She was in that zone on the mound and in the batter's box last week.
In the Grand Strand Classic, Gilbert pitched Brevard to two victories in three days. On Monday, she pitched a two-hit shutout and struck out 10 batters. On Tuesday, she didn't pitch, but her bat did the talking. Gilbert was 3-for-4 with a homer and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. She finished the tournament with a win and eight strikeouts on the mound and was 4-for-4 with a triple, three RBIs and three runs at the plate.
On Thursday, Gilbert pitched the Lady Blue Devils to a big WNC Athletic Conference win over North Henderson. She pitched seven innings and struck out six batters.
A lot of her dominance is talent, McNeill said, but a lot of it is the work that she puts into it as well.
"It's comes with hard work," the coach said. "Not only is she talented, but she's one of the hardest working young ladies I've been around."
Gilbert is currently 10-2 with a 1.80 ERA and 80 strikeouts this season.
Honorable Mention
Jessie Gossett, Hendersonville, baseball: Hendersonville's leadoff hitter went 3-for-4 on Friday to avenge the Bearcats' only loss of the season against Madison. Hendersonville beat the Patriots 7-1. Gossett hit a single, a double and a triple and was a homer shy of the cycle.
Dillon Curtis, West Henderson, baseball: Curtis did well at the plate last week in two West Henderson wins. Curtis finished the week 4-for-6 with three runs scored and two RBIs in wins over Tuscola and Franklin.
Categories: News

Monte's expanding with taproom, craft beer

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 20:41
As much as Monte's Sub Shop owners Dan and Monique Ruiz love food, they share a similar affection for good craft beer. And to showcase their adoration for both, the couple plan to open a taproom next door Monte's current location on Asheville Highway.
“It's not like going somewhere and doing something we know nothing about,” Monique Ruiz said. “It's just from one love to another — from food to beer.”
The focus is going to be on good beer, with a heavy emphasis on local brews from the likes of Pisgah Brewing Company, Highland Brewing Company and Southern Appalachian Brewing Company, among a slew of others.
The two also plan on bringing some outside flavor to Hendersonville, with beer from Colorado's Avery Brewing Company and Deep River Brewing Company out of Clayton.
The names of the two breweries coincidentally hold special meaning for the couple — they have two young children, Avery, 4, and River, 3.
“We were trying to figure out a way to expand the business, but not take too much time away from family,” Dan Ruiz said, noting the new venture is just an extension of Monte's, but with a different feel.
The taproom will initially feature 10 beers at a time, and the taps will rotate as much as possible. If the demand is there, Monique Ruiz said, they'll have the flexibility to expand their lineup and add more taps.
As far as food, customers can expect Monte's current full menu, along with separate menu items specifically for the taproom. Monique Ruiz is currently experienting with IPA-pickled cucumbers and is brainstorming ways to introduce deviled eggs to the menu.
A family-friendly atmosphere will prevail, the couple said, and more importantly, any air of snobbery sometimes tied to Western North Carolina's craft beer scene will be non-existent.
“It's craft beer,” Dan Ruiz said. “I've always thought the best beer in the world is the beer that tastes the best to you.”
If all goes according to plan, the couple hope to be pouring pints by the end of May.
Reach Biba at 828-694-7871 or jacob.biba@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Parkway foundation details 2015 high-priority projects

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 20:27
ASHEVILLE — It's the time of year when millions of visitors are anticipating their next adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As they plan their drive, hike or camping trip, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is preparing to meet their expectations by funding $600,000 in projects critical to the preservation and betterment of this treasured route.
Each year, the foundation collaborates with Parkway staff to identify high-priority projects in need of immediate attention to protect the environment and wildlife, prevent deterioration of historic buildings, and improve visitor enjoyment and safety.
For 2015, more than $600,000 in crucial projects and programs have been identified, ranging from wildlife research to historic preservation.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway is an incredible place that gives generations of visitors a meaningful connection to the outdoors and our shared history,” foundation CEO Carolyn Ward said in a news release. “With the support of our Community of Stewards, we are doing all we can to meet the needs of this beloved journey through our mountains.”
The foundation is also collaborating with groups such as the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail to strengthen our efforts. Through funding by the nonprofit, a youth conservation crew from CTNC will repair trails and campgrounds in the Highlands District. A partnership with FMST will help build a bridge over the Boone Fork near Blowing Rock.
Since 1997, the foundation has contributed more than $7 million to Parkway projects and programs. In addition to the foundation's 2015 project list, the nonprofit has committed to raise up to $500,000 for the Centennial Challenge, a competitive bid process for funds to be allocated by Congress. A park must have a partner that will match any allocated funds to qualify for this opportunity.
As soon as next week, Congress will announce which projects submitted for consideration will receive funding and require a match from the foundation.
Highlights of the high-priority projects for 2015:

Protecting natural resources and biodiverse ecosystems
Hemlock Preservation Project: The Parkway's old-growth Carolina hemlock trees, a rare endemic species, and eastern hemlocks are at serious risk due to the hemlock woolly adelgid. Hemlock is the dominant species in many Parkway forests and its demise would result in cascading effects to other species such as migratory birds and aquatic resources.
Funding through the foundation will ensure the preventative treatment of surviving trees along the Parkway and support a campaign to engage private landowners in the fight against this invasive pest.
High country resource restoration: The foundation is partnering with the Conservation Trust for North Carolina to help support the group's North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps, bringing improvements to Parkway campgrounds and trails while young men and women learn about the wilderness and themselves. Through foundation funding, a crew of teenagers and young adults will rehabilitate recreation areas in the Highlands District.
Bog turtle transmitters: Bog turtles are elusive creatures, difficult to find in summer and hidden in hibernation during the winter. By placing transmitters on turtles within the park, Parkway biologists and managers stand to learn a great deal about the habits and life of this threatened species. The project complements the Parkway's budding efforts to restore crucial wetlands.
Crayfish survey: Crayfish may be small, but they can send a big message, telling scientists a lot about the state of the environment in which they live. The southeastern Appalachian Mountains are one of two major crayfish hot spots in the world, yet little research has been done to catalog or understand the varieties of species along the Parkway.
The foundation will provide funding for a survey of these freshwater crustaceans to be conducted by Appalachian State University in conjunction with the National Park Service to identify existing species and immediate threats along the Parkway in North Carolina.
Wildlife forensics training: Rangers are tasked with not just the safety of Parkway visitors, but also the resources that make the park so special, including the plants and animals that live here. The foundation will fund training for park rangers to reduce poaching and natural resource theft.
Wildlife cameras and citizen science: Since the foundation's initial funding of 15 remote wildlife cameras in 2009, the devices have captured more than 25,000 images of over 35 species of wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, coyotes, red and gray foxes, elk, European wild hogs and white-tail deer. The infrared cameras are a valuable tool for resource managers in their efforts to survey and oversee native species.
The foundation will provide funds for 35 new cameras to replace aging units and increase wildlife observation locations. Citizens will be involved in the placement and monitoring of the cameras.
Research and management of elk and wild boar: Elk and wild boar populations are growing along the Western North Carolina section of the Parkway. The foundation will fund research to aid in good wildlife management decisions for these large mammals.
Safeguarding historic and cultural heritage
Flat Top Carriage Trail signs: Milepost 294 — Visitors often stray from the Carriage Road at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and create shortcuts to the Observation Tower. New signage will deflect visitors from these paths to preserve the plants being damaged by foot traffic.
Educating visitors and building the next generation of stewards
Parks as classrooms: For the last 17 years, the foundation has supported this important educational program focused on building relationships between children and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Funding supports seasonal staff to deliver programs through classroom visits and field trips.
Each year, rangers introduce 25,000 children to the natural wonders of the Parkway while tying into the broader educational goals of schools in Virginia and North Carolina.
Graveyard Fields interpretive signs: Milepost 418 — In 2014, the foundation provided funds to build a restroom facility and expand the parking lot at the Graveyard Fields trailhead. The foundation also partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to protect the fragile habitat by constructing an extended boardwalk along the hiking trail.
This year, the foundation will complete the work by adding educational signage about the history and environmental significance of one of the more popular places to recreate on the Parkway.
Linville Falls interpretive signs: Milepost 316 — Last year, the foundation supported the expansion of the Upper Falls Overlook to allow visitors access to an exceptional exposure of the Linville Falls thrust fault, the starting point of Linville Gorge. Signs highlighting the significance of this geologic feature will complete the project this year.
Outdoor Guide for visitors: By printing the Outdoor Guide, the foundation will share important information related to visitor safety and enjoyment of the Parkway, while fostering a greater appreciation for its natural and cultural resources.
Ensuring visitor enjoyment and safety
Boone Fork Bridge: Milepost 296 — Those who hike the section of the Mountains to Sea Trail near Blowing Rock have likely encountered the dangerous and seasonally impassible crossing at Boone Fork Creek. To remedy the problem, the Friends of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail secured a grant of $200,000 to build a pedestrian bridge.
The foundation will provide a match of $50,000 for construction and engineering costs to make this trail linked to the Blue Ridge Parkway a safe and enjoyable hike.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park brochures: The foundation will provide interpretive brochures so park-goers can navigate the 3,600-acre Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and gain a greater understanding of the historic significance of Flat Top Manor, the orchards and carriage trails.
EMS training and equipment: This investment in EMS training for staff and up-to-date emergency equipment makes exploring the Parkway a safer experience for all visitors.
Bass Lake Comfort Station Access: Milepost 294 — Through this funding, the foundation keeps the restrooms at Bass Lake on the grounds at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park clean and accessible for visitors year-round.
In addition to projects, the foundation supports Kids in Parks and musical programming at Blue Ridge Music Center. These programs educate a new generation of park stewards and instill pride in our cultural heritage.
For more information, visit www.kidsinparks.com or www.blueridgemusiccenter.org.
Categories: News

Burning debris sparks NC wildfires, perplexing officials

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 19:17
BLACK MOUNTAIN (AP) — State forestry officials say the recent wildfire near Asheville was the result of burning residential debris, and they say it's hard to get control of the problem.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports (http://avlne.ws/1ykqL6E) figures from the N.C. Forest Service show that of 4,593 fires in North Carolina in 2014, debris burning was listed as the cause in 2,237 of them. A long-term average shows that 42 percent of all wildfires in the state each year are caused by debris burning.
State officials say tighter regulations aren't necessarily the answer. A forest service law enforcement officer says what's needed is a greater sense of responsibility from people who start debris fires, and more understanding of the dangers.
The Buncombe County wildfire burned more than 700 acres, destroyed one home and damaged five others.
An N.C. Forest Service permit is required to burn debris if the burning is within 500 feet of woodlands, but regulations vary at the local level.
Open burning is regulated by the state Forest Service, the N.C. Division of Air Quality and, in Buncombe County, the WNC Regional Air Quality Agency. Additionally, local restrictions are in place in most municipalities.
In Asheville, for example, residential debris burning is not allowed, though small recreational campfires are permitted, Asheville Fire Department public information officer Kelley Klope said.
City residents generally follow the rules, but the department occasionally has to respond to an illegal debris burn, she said.
"Generally, we go out and try to educate, let them know the rules and have them extinguish the fire," Klope said. "It's generally people who aren't knowledgeable about the rules and regulations and thought they were doing the right thing."
Burning generally is allowed in unincorporated areas where public pickup of yard debris is not available. But an N.C. Forest Service burning permit is required for any fire within 500 feet of woodlands - unless the burn is within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling.
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Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com
Categories: News

You may have to re-file your taxes

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 17:18
A curve ball of tax changes tossed late in the game may send some people scurrying to make amendments or adjustments to their tax returns over the next few days — if they happen to see this article.
State legislators decided to seek a “conscious uncoupling,” calling it quits with a few of the federal government’s tax code deductions in a bill signed into law on March 31. The changes require individuals to resubmit an amended adjusted gross income if they fall into the following categories:
--Small-business owners who have written off bonus depreciation for assets put into service last year.
--Lower-income taxpayers who were given credit for mortgage insurance premiums.
--People hurt in the real estate market who were forced to sell their property for less than they owed on it and were able to write off the difference in their federal filing.
--Students in college.
--And certain residents over the age of 70-and-a-half who give part of their retirement to charity.
But aside from a letter on the state Department of Revenue’s website, there are few places where the everyday taxpayer (who has already filed and doesn’t have the penchant for randomly browsing the DOR website) may be reminded of the changes.
Any additional tax those changes created, however, are due Wednesday. Penalties for late payments kick in after April 15.
Senate Bill 20 — primarily known as the legislation that refigures the state’s gas tax to be lower this year but higher in years to come — included changes to the tax code first hinted at in a cover letter on the state’s online tax forms Jan. 15.
The letter warned, “If the General Assembly enacts legislation to update the (tax) code reference as recommended, North Carolina will require additions on the corporate and individual income tax returns” for certain filers.
As predicted in the January letter, small businesses will now receive 85 percent of the bonus depreciation deductions and “Code section 179 expenses” taken into account on their federal return. In translation, if a business bought an $85,000 dump truck in 2014, owners can only claim about $25,000 of the deductions allowed on their federal returns.
An individual taxpayer, who wasn’t able to make a big enough payment on their mortgage and had to pay for private mortgage insurance, could deduct that payment on their federal return. But the current state return will not allow it.
Residents who were forgiven for the difference in selling a home for less than what they borrowed to buy it are still able to write that off on their federal taxes, but will have to pay on that debt cancellation in the state, according to tax preparers.
North Carolina will not accept a deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. And qualified charitable distributions for certain seniors who have their IRA custodians send funds directly to a charity will now have to report their income and deduct the contribution.
“In many cases (that) doesn’t make a difference, but sometimes it does,” said Ron Carland, a certified public accountant with Carland & Anderson Inc.
The January letter encouraged taxpayers whose returns might be affected to “consider waiting to file the 2014 North Carolina income tax return until the General Assembly takes action.”
A letter now attached to the state’s tax forms says that people impacted by the changes “must file an amended North Carolina return. If the amended return reflects additional tax due, the taxpayer will avoid interest if the additional tax is paid by the original due date of the return (April 15).”
Trevor Johnson, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Revenue, said the department advertised the changes in the letter on the DOR’s website, sent out e-alerts to taxpayers who have signed up to receive them and have alerted tax preparation software providers.
But the changes came as another headache for tax preparers on Friday.
The moral to the story is, “Congress does what it wants to do with the federal tax code, and it’s just a huge inconvenience with the general public when the state doesn’t go along with them,” Carland said.
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver
Categories: News

Gerton duo, McGrady, volunteers honored by CMLC

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 16:43
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy announced John Myers and Jane Lawson of Gerton as winners of the organization's prestigious 2015 Lela McBride Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region.
The award was given out at CMLC's annual meeting at Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville Sunday. Bestowed annually, Myers and Lawson are the 21st recipients of the award. Former winners include Rep. Chuck McGrady, Congressman Charles Taylor and N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.
Beginning nearly a decade ago, the couple have partnered with CMLC on multiple conservation projects that have been a catalyst for a growing network of land protection and public hiking trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The couple has directly protected 169 acres of their own land in Henderson County and are the visionaries of the region's budding trail network.
Lela McBride, the award's namesake, was a community leader and conservationist that enabled the completion of the county's first Natural Heritage Inventory. She subsequently created the Henderson County Natural Heritage Trust, which grew to become CMLC.
CMLC also recognized state Rep. Chuck McGrady and his wife, Jean, for their two decades of commitment to CMLC's conservation efforts. McGrady was one of CMLC's early board presidents. He played an instrumental role in the organization's involvement in the conservation of DuPont State Recreational Forest.
Also honored at the meeting were 23 community volunteers for donating at least 70 hours of volunteer service to the land trust in 2014. CMLC recognized John Humphrey, David Brown, Diana Richards, Al and Barb Pung, Mike Knoerr, Genien Carlson, Bill Imhof, Fred Weed, Jerry McAninch, Wes Burlingame, Patrick Horan, Connie Backlund, Amos Dawson, Chris McDonnell, Bob Lindsey, Skip Sheldon, Jim Neal, Mary Beth Hayes, Brenda Hillyer, Tom Weaver, Mickey Kilpatrick and Tom Davis.
Volunteers donated a total of 5,743 hours in 2014, which made it possible for CMLC to conserve more than 1,000 acres of land last year.
CMLC conserves land and water resources to benefit the quality of life of residents and visitors in Henderson, Transylvania and surrounding counties. Since 1994, the land trust has protected more than 28,000 acres of natural lands in western North Carolina.
For more information, visit www.carolinamountain.org.
Categories: News

1 dead in shooting at NC community college

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 16:40
GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A gunman with a rifle entered a community college campus building Monday morning and killed a print shop operator who had just arrived at work, school officials and authorities said.
The two men knew each other, but it's not immediately clear what led to the shooting, according to authorities, who are searching for suspected gunman Kenneth Stancil, a former student. Authorities said they do not believe the shooting was random.
Police have swept the Wayne Community College campus and think Stancil has fled. They are using helicopters and dogs to search for him nearby.
Ron Lane was a long-time campus employee. He was shot to death about 8 a.m. on the third floor of the Wayne Learning Center, which houses the cafeteria and library, school spokeswoman Tara Humphries said.
"There has been one fatality, and there is one shooter," said Kim Best, spokeswoman for the city of Goldsboro, where the school is located.
Wayne County sheriff's Maj. Tom Effler said at a news conference that employees were able to identify Stancil since he had been a student. Authorities weren't sure how he left campus, including whether he left in a vehicle, Effler said.
At one point, authorities thought they had cornered the shooter in a restroom and fired tear gas into it, only to find that it was not Stancil in the bathroom, Effler said.
A student told The Associated Press that he heard a single gunshot and saw officers with their guns drawn storming into the learning center.
First-year student Jovaun Williams, 24, was climbing the staircase inside the building and had almost reached the second floor when he heard a single muffled pop.
It took a minute, he said, for him to recognize the sound was that of a gunshot similar to the kind he heard growing up in a tough neighborhood near Long Beach, California. He didn't know where it came from.
"You hear a shot and my biggest things is, get out of there," he said. "It definitely wasn't where I was at, so that was good enough for me."
By the time he walked back downstairs, he saw police officers running into the building with their guns drawn.
Authorities have described Stancil as a white man, about 5-foot-11, with a goatee and a tattoo over his eye.
First-year Student Joniece Simmons, 19, said she was sitting on a bench outside the learning center when two officers with rifles and a third with a drawn handgun ran toward the building, shouting for students to take cover in a safe place. She and others ran inside to the cafeteria and locked the door.
Though they were urged to stay silent, some students still wanted to talk. "I was like 'hush, it's serious.' I was crying," Simmons said.
The campus remained on lockdown Monday afternoon and classes were canceled, the college's website said. After the shooting, the parking lots were clear and the campus was mostly empty.
Nearby, the private Wayne County Day School — with about 300 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade — also was on lockdown, said Melissa Watkins, a volunteer parent receptionist at the school.
"We saw 10 to 11 cruisers go by all at once," she said. "We knew something was going on; we just didn't know what or where."
___
AP reporters Matt Small in Washington, D.C.; and Martha Waggoner and Michael Biesecker in Raleigh contributed to this story.
Categories: News

Doctor's orders: Have fun learning to read

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 16:22
When Zane Wells, 4, went in for his doctor's visit on Tuesday afternoon, he got a special treat from Dr. Charlotte Riddle at Park Ridge Pediatrics — a new book of his choosing and a prescription to read.
Since the program launched in February, the practice has given out more than 300 books to patients through a partnership with Smart Start of Henderson County.
Smart Start received a grant to expand its early literacy work through the Reach Out and Read program, a national nonprofit serving more than 4 million children and their families annually with more than 5,200 program sites, distributing 6.5 million books per year.
Children receive a book during each well-visit with their pediatrician from ages 6 months to 5 years.
“We chose to work with Park Ridge Pediatrics because they have a lot of children and a large percentage of their children are low-income,” said Erica Woodall, community outreach coordinator.
Riddle said she had just attended the Academy of Pediatrics convention in San Diego, Calif. and heard Hillary Clinton speak on the role pediatricians and parents can play in promoting young children's early learning when Smart Start reached out to her.
“There was a lot of evidence that we were presented with, and I came home excited and was just delighted when Smart Start emailed me,” Riddle said.
Riddle said she was interested in starting the program at her practice, but wasn't sure how she was going to come up with the funding. The new partnership took care of all the details for her.
There is a lot at stake if children are not read to. Some children are found to not be as prepared for reading based on their early literacy scores, and there are also long-term effects, according to Riddle.
“When they're adults, they aren't as engaged in their working environment,” she said. “They're not as engaged in school and by reading to them early, they not only get that early literacy, but they are engaged with their parents. There is that connection.”
After giving Zane his new book, Riddle asked if he read at home at night with his mother, to which he proudly nodded his head up and down.
“Oh, I bet you do,” Riddle said with a smile.
The two then began to look through the book together, with Riddle asking questions along the way.
Zane's mother, Rebecca Wells, of Hendersonville said it was their first time receiving a book during a doctor's visit.
“We're excited about books anytime,” Wells said. “His grandma was a reading teacher — kindergarten through third grade — so we are pretty hardcore about books.”
For more information or to contact Smart Start of Henderson County, call 693-1580 or visit www.smartstarthc.org.
Categories: News

Early College High receives honor

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 16:22
Henderson County Early College High, along with three other schools across the state, has been recognized by North Carolina New Schools for its innovative practices and academic excellence.
According to a news release issued by NC New Schools on Monday, Early College "earned the recognition on the strength of solid evidence that it's helping all students achieve success by setting high expectations and following effective, student-centered approaches to teaching and learning."
In each of the last two years, the school exceeded goals for academic progress by students and its graduation rate topped 90 percent, the release stated. It also outpaced the state on ACT performance by more than 30 percent.
Principal Beth Caudle said that to be among one of the four schools recognized in North Carolina is a great achievement for the school, its students and staff.
"I think it's a fantastic recognition," she said.
To foster such success, Caudle said students are expected to be active participants in the classroom and across the curriculum through reading, writing, speaking and thinking.
"We really look at the whole child and build a relationship with each of our students," she said.
Caudle's approach was apparent to staff from NC New Schools during an onsite review of the school.
Among the school's listed strengths, it was noted that "teachers facilitate students reading, writing, thinking and talking daily to develop a deep understanding of core concepts."
Other strengths of the school include its positive and supportive culture; a proactive support system for struggling students; a culture of shared leadership and collaboration; and the use of data to improve school performance.
Among the four schools recognized, strong and meaningful relationships are prevalent among students and teachers.
"The schools have developed a culture in which students are held to high expectations but are also nurtured and supported in ways that help them achieve ambitious goals," the release stated.
The three other schools receiving recognition are Caldwell Early College High, Johnston County Early College Academy and Wake Early College of Health and Sciences.
Categories: News

Appalachian Bear Rescue gets its first 2 babies of 2015

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 14:21
TOWNSEND, Tenn. (AP) — Two tiny cubs weighing less than 4 pounds each are the first 2015 inhabitants at Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend.
The bears were recently rescued from the side of the road along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, said Dana Dodd, president of ABR's board of directors. ABR is a nonprofit that takes in injured or orphaned black bear cubs, nurses them back to health and then releases them back into the wild with minimal human contact along the way.
The bears have been named Bonnie Blue and Ridgeway.
Dodd said ABR got a call late Friday night on April 3 that the two cubs were on the side of the road near a cliff and had been there for several hours with no mother bear in sight. After it was determined she was not coming to get them, ABR left to go pick them up at 1 a.m. the next morning and arrived back after 7:30 a.m. that same day.
"After many hours of watching them, the national park called and asked us for help," Dodd said. "We drove through the night."
The female weighs about 3.3 pounds and the male a little more, Dodd said. She took the cubs to the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine for initial checkups. Dodd said the bears were dehydrated when they were discovered but are now doing much better.
The pair will stay in the custody of ABR at least through mid-August or even longer, depending on the food supply in the wild. ABR has been doing a series of renovations to the facility in recent months. These two will be the first to reside in the new wild enclosure in a few weeks, Dodd said.
The cubs are about 10 weeks old. They will start out in the nursery.
"The earliest they will be released back will be mid-August but it could be as late as mid-December," Dodd said. "It depends on the condition of the bears and the condition of the food supply. That will be evaluated then."
The two bears are No. 202 and 203 that have been cared for at this rehabilitation facility that has been in existence since 1996 when it took in its first bear. Bears from Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee have been brought here. ABR works with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Categories: News

Longtime North coach Moon honored by NCHSAA

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 11:10
Longtime North Henderson High School coach Sue Moon was selected from Region 8 as one of the eight coaches across the state who make a difference by virtue of exemplary sportsmanship and will be honored by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association at the NCHSAA Annual Meeting.
The coaches have been selected for the Homer Thompson Memorial Eight Who Make a Difference award. The award is named in honor of the late Homer Thompson, the long-time Winston-Salem Parkland coach and member of the NCHSAA Hall of Fame. Each honoree will receive the award at the Dean Smith Center on May 7 in Chapel Hill.
The winners were chosen by a special committee based on nominations from the member schools. They will receive a plaque as part of the Association's student services program.
Moon is the volleyball and girls basketball coach at North.
Other award winners were:
Region 1: Rob Maloney, athletic director and men's basketball coach, D.H. Conley High School, Greenville
Region 2: Rodney Orr, head men's basketball coach, Heide Trask High School, Rocky Point
Region 3: Brian Fullenkamp, head cross country and track and field coach, Enloe High School, Raleigh
Region 4: Bryan Till, head football coach, Terry Sanford High School, Fayetteville
Region 5: Woody Wall, head women's basketball coach, Rockingham County High School
Region 6: Johnny Sowell, head football, head men's basketball and head men's track and field coach, Monroe High School
Region 7: Nick Brown, head women's soccer coach, Lake Norman High School
Categories: News

Community Briefs: April 13

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 03:01
AKC Good Citizenship testing to be held Saturday
An American Kennel Club Good Citizenship testing session will take place from noon to 2 p.m. April 18 at Henderson County Animal Services, 828 Stoney Mountain Road, Hendersonville.
“The AKC Canine Good Citizen Program stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs,” said Andy Unguris, community outreach coordinator at Henderson County Animal Services. “All handler and dog teams passing the 10-item test are recorded in the permanent files of the American Kennel Club and can receive a certificate to celebrate their achievement.”
No appointment is necessary for the testing, which is sponsored by Hendersonville Kennel Club and made possible through assistance from the Obedience Club of Asheville. Test evaluators and volunteer trainers will be available to provide dog training tips and answer questions regarding the Canine Good Citizen Program.
“For those owners whose dogs have already earned this honor, the Advanced Canine Good Citizenship Test will also be offered,” said Unguris.
For more details, call 828-697-4723. For details on the 10 test items involved, visit www.akc.org.
Meetings
The Downtown Advisory Committee will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Operations Center.
The Historic Preservation Commission will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Operations Center.
The Mills River School Improvement Team will meet at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the school's media center.
The Laurel Park Comprehensive Land Use Plan Steering Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at town hall.
Events
Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy will hold a presentation featuring the Headwaters State Forest at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Transylvania County Public Library, 212 S. Gaston St., Brevard. Info: carolinamountain.org.
The Henderson County Senior Democrats will hold a BYO social lunch at 11:30 a.m. and meeting at noon Wednesday at party headquarters, 905 Greenville Highway, Hendersonville. Info: 6962-6424 or www.myhcdp.com.
Staff from Environment NC and MountainTrue will host a presentation on fracking from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Millroom at Asheville Brewing Co., 66 Asheland Ave., Asheville. Free. Light fare provided, beverages available for purchase. RSVP at bit.ly/1HLrUXT.
Categories: News

Playhouse launches Poppy Project to aid veterans

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 11:01
Flat Rock Playhouse is joining organizations throughout the world in memorializing the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in 2018 with the Playhouse Poppy Project.
The Flat Rock Playhouse Master Gardeners have fashioned poppies out of recycled vinyl records with stems made of cork. These poppies will be placed on the lot at Flat Rock Playhouse.
Once a donation in the amount of $25 has been made in the name of any member of the armed forces — past or present — the name of this person will be written on the decorative poppy and then “planted” in a dedicated memorial bed in the playhouse gardens.
All money collected will directly benefit the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville.
“We are so proud and honored to be able to give back to the veterans in our community in such a beautiful, inspiring and touching way,” Lisa K. Bryant, artistic director of Flat Rock Playhouse, stated in a news release issued Friday. “Our goal is to have a minimum of 100 poppies ready for donations by the time the real poppies on our beautiful grounds are in full bloom this May when we open ‘Always...Patsy Cline.’ ”
The Veterans Restoration Quarters is a shelter for homeless male veterans that offers housing, meals and a variety of other facilities and services, including a comprehensive vocational training program. These programs are designed to give men the direction and encouragement needed for full restoration and gentle re-entry into society.
The facility’s 200 beds are nearly always full, and is run by the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry.
“The Poppy Project is taking a significant step to removing the shame of neglect for our homeless veterans by helping their lives to bloom again,” said the Rev. Scott Rogers, executive director of Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry. “Our veterans, men and women, are climbing the ladder of education to regain new career level jobs. The funds from this project will provide tools, uniforms, books and other essentials in that education process that contribute to graduation and jobs within their career field. ABCCM is honored to have been chosen by the Flat Rock Playhouse Poppy Project to equip our homeless veterans while honoring our humble heroes from World War I at the Flat Rock Playhouse memorial garden.”
The Playhouse Poppy Project will continue through Nov. 11, 2018, Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War I.
Those wishing to participate in the project can make a donation in person at the Flat Rock Playhouse Box Office — both at the mainstage and downtown locations. Patrons can also call 828-693-0731 to make their donation over the phone.
The Flat Rock Playhouse mainstage is located at 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock. Flat Rock Playhouse downtown is at 125 S. Main Street, Hendersonville. Both locations are open 10 a.m.to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Categories: News

Initiative to curb domestic abuse encounters hurdles

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 04:31
The Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative is in its early days here in Henderson County, and leaders have found a few stumbling blocks along the path to curbing abuse.
The initiative has proven successful in High Point, where leaders told Henderson County partners to hold aggressors accountable through tougher sentencing, but that isn’t always easy.
Offenders convicted of domestic violence in Henderson County in March were held accountable for their crimes, but in a few cases, the sentences appeared pretty light. One was ordered to spend 150 days in prison, one 44 days, another 29 days, and three were placed under two years of supervised probation.
In explaining the array of sentences, District Attorney Greg Newman said that domestic violence cases are “not that simple.”
In High Point’s program, more offenses lead to more penalties, including increased jail time and fewer opportunities for an offender to plea bargain. Many of the March domestic violence convictions here, however, appeared to be the results of plea deals.
But not every case is clear-cut black and white where the “bad guy” is always bad, the victim always wants to escape and the offender goes to jail.
Prosecutors often face the difficult task of proving a case of domestic violence when the victim doesn’t want to testify. Newman says that happens a lot.
“We’re always looking at … where maybe one of the spouses -- and lots of times it’s our female victims -- is not very enthusiastic about coming to court” and seeing the man they love or the father of their children or the family’s breadwinner locked up, he said.
No breadwinner – no income.
“It puts a female victim in a difficult situation,” Newman said. “We try not to be too demanding of these folks, like especially if they are losing interest or are afraid. We really do try to work with them.”
Newman said prosecutors want to hold the offenders accountable because statistics show that domestic violence often recurs. “But lots of times we may have a victim who doesn’t … want to talk,” he said, which makes the state’s case more challenging.
In a criminal case, the person accused has the right to face his accuser, Newman pointed out.
When the accuser is a domestic partner, fear, sympathy or a host of other emotions may keep that from happening, he said.
“Lots of times we will be told if we can resolve the case (without that testimony), that’s the preferred way to do it,” Newman said.
Thirty-three-year-old Jeremiah Farrell Carpenter of Fletcher was convicted of felony assault by strangulation on March 24. In a plea deal with attorneys, he was given a prison sentence that was suspended for two years of supervised probation.
The deal dismissed Carpenter’s other charges of communicating threats, four counts of assault on a female and four counts of second-degree kidnapping. Carpenter was facing two counts of assault by strangulation, but they were consolidated into one before his sentencing.
Assault by strangulation is considered a Class H felony, punishable by less time in prison compared to second-degree kidnapping, a Class E felony. But Newman said the kidnapping, which in this case was probably more like an act of restraint during the incident, “requires (proof in) at least four different elements” to obtain a conviction.
And the four counts of assault and kidnapping, he said, were probably not from four separate incidents.
No testimony was needed in the plea hearing.
Mark Shane Stewart, 38, of Hendersonville was convicted March 24 of assault by strangulation and sentenced to 7 months to a year-and-a-half in prison. His prison sentence, however, was also suspended in lieu of two years of supervised probation.
In a plea deal with attorneys, his other charge of assault on a female, often a misdemeanor, was dismissed.
The final sentence is always up to the judge, Newman said. Even with Carpenter’s prior convictions of simple assault and taking indecent liberties with a child and Stewart’s past of a DWI in 2009 and a game law violation in 1996, both were still eligible for probation.
Fifty-one-year-old Billy Alan Waddell of Flat Rock was convicted of assault on a female on March 13. He was sentenced to serve 150 days in prison.
Waddell’s other charges of assault on a female and an alcohol offense were dismissed in a plea deal.
“There was an issue probably on our end with a witness or different witnesses” in that case, Newman said.
Waddell’s guilty plea on the assault charge saved the witnesses from having to take the stand.
“As prosecutors, we are constrained by the law and what the law allows us to do,” Newman said. “The courts are looking at it from the standpoint of what can we do to try to address whatever issue is going on there.”
High Point leaders addressed the issue of victims’ reluctance to testify at a meeting with members of Henderson County’s domestic violence unit in January. They encouraged the group to find other witnesses to the violence, witnesses who are not so easily swayed by the offender in the investigation of the cases.
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7867. Follow Weaver on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EmilyWORDWeaver or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EmilyWORDWeaver
Categories: News

USFS seeks new focus in sculpting management plan

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 03:01
The U.S. Forest Service is tapping the brakes on its forest plan revision for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests, hoping to redirect stakeholders away from conflicts over logging levels and toward common interests.
The agency's original timeline called for wrapping up public input meetings and issuing a draft Environmental Impact Statement by early summer, with the forest management plan finishing up around the fall of 2016.
Now the Forest Service plans to hold additional meetings with stakeholders throughout the late spring and summer, pushing back the draft EIS to December. That will likely delay a final decision on a new forest management plan until early 2017.
But Forest Service officials hope a fresh round of focused exchanges between opposing interest groups will bypass disagreements about timbering and build a broad, inclusive base of support for the final document.
“We've worked with the regional office, and they've given us more time to engage in a collaborative process in a more focused way,” said Matthew McCombs, interim public affairs officer for the National Forests in North Carolina. “The intent was to have more time to foster consensus around some of these tough issues.”
Covering more than 1 million acres, Nantahala-Pisgah is currently managed under a land and resource management plan last updated in 1987, though it was amended significantly in 1994.
Federal law requires the plans to be updated every 15 years, setting “desired future conditions” for parts of the forest and creating standards for achieving certain objectives such as recreational opportunities, water quality, timber production and wildlife habitat.
Last fall, the plan revision process became mired in controversy when the Forest Service released a series of draft management area maps that indicated nearly 700,000 acres of the forest would be open to logging.
Conservation groups cried foul, pointing out the current plan only identifies 527,705 acres as “suitable” for cutting. The maps included many areas in the potential “timber base” that the groups had long sought for protection, including Big Ivy near Barnardsville, Bluff Mountain in Madison County and Tusquitee Bald near Andrews.
Meanwhile, a collective of hunting groups that want to see more forest manipulation to benefit game species rallied behind the Forest Service draft. They accused conservationists of inciting a public backlash with hyperbolic claims of “industrial logging,” when limited resources and existing policies prevent that, in their view.
“We're trying to step away from that dialogue and re-engage everyone in a collaborative process,” McCombs said. “Especially after the polarization of our last round of meetings, what we're trying to do is design some ways that would be meaningful for them to have their voices heard, and hopefully establish some common ground so we can move forward in a way that brings about a plan with broad support.”
New framework
This month, Forest Service officials plan to reconvene three collaborative groups that have been engaged in the forest plan revision since 2013: the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, and the Restoration Collaborative.
The agency's goal, McCombs said, is to help the three groups strengthen their relationships with the goal of forming a “single, collaborative structure and process that everybody is willing to support.” Those who aren't interested in “direct one-on-one” dialogue will still have opportunities to give input, he added.
McCombs said forest planners hope to frame this summer's dialogue around three themes: clean, abundant water; restoration, diversity and resilience; and sustainable recreation. They've also discussed bringing in scientists to help inform the discussions.
“Anytime we get people together and use science as the basis of a conversation, it gives us a base to stand on,” McCombs said. “The other component is, we want to be very clear ... and provide a robust context, so people can understand not only the information we're providing, but how and where it fits into the process.”
He said some of the “unintended consequences” that arose out of last fall's meetings — referencing the 700,000-acre suitable timber base controversy — came from “misunderstandings.”
But conservationists challenge the notion that they misinterpreted the Forest Service's intentions last fall. While Forest Service officials say they were just trying to be transparent, green groups argue the agency shot itself in the foot by releasing maps of potential logging areas too early.
According to Hugh Irwin, a Wilderness Society conservation planner, Forest Service officials could have avoided last fall's dust-up by first conducting a required “suitability analysis.” It removes things such as potential wilderness areas, steep slopes and riparian buffers from the timber base.
“Jumping ahead of the process and having a proposed management area framework that puts huge amounts of land in suitable (for logging) was totally putting the cart before the horse,” Irwin said.
“I think it was a bit out of order,” agreed Josh Kelly, a public lands field biologist with MountainTrue. “If they wanted people to focus on desired conditions, they should've left some blank areas and said they didn't know what they wanted to do with those. There wasn't any confusion about it. The apples-to-apples comparison was they were including 160,000 more acres in the suitable timber base.”
Regardless, Kelly is excited about what he called “this reset. I think it's a great idea to take a step back like the Forest Service is doing, get around one table and come up with a plan that everybody can live with. Their original proposal left far too many special places on the chopping block.”
Committed hunters
David Whitmire, co-chair of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, doesn't agree with that characterization. But he recently met with Regional Forester Tony Tooke and “gave him the commitment that we will collaborate. We're not backing out. We just want to make sure everything is fair.”
Whitmire said his group doesn't have any issues with the theme of abundant, clean water “because we know the laws are set up so they don't allow our trout streams to be messed up by (forest) management.” He's also supportive of focusing discussions around the theme of restoration.
“That's what we've been talking about for two years,” he said. “We're excited to move forward and talk more about restoration,” including reintroducing American chestnut trees to the woods, prescribed burning to encourage oak regeneration and creating more open habitat for game species such as ruffed grouse and deer.
However, Whitmire said he and other hunters are uncomfortable with the use of the word “reset” to describe the agency's latest approach to the plan revision process.
“A lot of our group is concerned with the language being used,” he said. “We're looking at things again, and we're willing to take the foot off the accelerator and make sure everybody is up to speed. But the work that's been done so far wasn't bad work. We're not going to ignore the work that we've done up to this point. We want to build off of it.”
Kyle Brown, vice president of the southern Appalachian branch of the Quality Deer Management Association, said he thinks the three collaborative groups can find common ground in their upcoming discussions about which areas should be off limits to logging.
“We're not asking to open up the whole forest,” he said. “We're certainly not asking for inventoried roadless areas to be open for timber management, or riparian areas or anything like that.”
Yet Brown wonders whether conservation groups will be willing to identify enough areas across the forest landscape where logging would be allowed to create openings for wildlife. He said green groups have a long list of roadless, potential wilderness and special backcountry areas they want to see protected.
“As far as some of these groups, they want to stake out where they don't want anyone to cut,” he said. “Well, where do we have the green light to cut?”
Reach Axtell at 828-694-7860 or than.axtell@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Biologists find glimmer of hope for besieged bats

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 03:01
Although a deadly fungus continues to take its toll on overwintering bats here, the latest survey by state and federal biologists shows “white-nose syndrome” may be leveling off in some mountain caves and mines.
Named for the pale, fuzzy fungus that infests the noses, wings and ears of hibernating bats, white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in at least 10 mountain counties, including in Transylvania and the Nature Conservancy’s Bat Cave Preserve in Rutherford County.
The fungal disease — whose origin remains a mystery to scientists — thrives in the cold, humid conditions of caves and mines, causing infected bats to awaken more often during hibernation and to burn off fat reserves necessary for their survival until spring.
Since the winter of 2007-08, the U.S. Geological Survey says millions of insect-eating bats in 25 states and five Canadian provinces have died from the devastating disease. Because bats consume many crop pests, the USGS estimates the loss of bats could lead to annual agricultural losses of $3.7 billion or more.
North Carolina biologists first detected white-nose syndrome in a bat from Avery County in 2011. Since then, the disease has decimated colonies of three formerly common bats — tri-colored, northern long-eared and little brown bats — by 92 to 100 percent.
But recent surveys of hibernacula by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offer a glimmer of hope: in two mines in Avery and Haywood counties, biologists found bat numbers had declined less precipitously than previous winters.
“When we conducted the survey in that Haywood County mine in 2011, the number of bats was around 4,000,” said Katherine Caldwell, a NCWRC mammalogist. “Two years later, only 200 were counted, a decline of 95 percent. Last year, that number was about 55 and this year it’s down to 30.”
At the Avery County site, the biologists found 15 bats, just two fewer than what they found in 2013.
While hardly a cause for celebration, Caldwell said the slowing rate of decline and the presence of bats with no visible signs of the disease at the Haywood County site is “good news.” At least in those two hibernacula, she said, the steep decline of bats seems to have moderated.
Yet the disease hasn’t slowed its progress everywhere. When a cave in Swain County was last monitored in 2013, it harbored more than 1,000 bats and white-nose syndrome was in its infancy. Biologists counted only 58 bats this winter; more than 200 little brown and northern long-eared bats had vanished.
The hibernacula surveys are one of three ways in which biologists monitor bat populations to gauge the effect of white-nose syndrome. They also capture bats using fine netting at sites such as one on the Davidson River in Pisgah National Forest, and they use volunteers to monitor bat acoustics.
Twice a summer, volunteers across the mountains drive a pre-determined, 20-mile route with a microphone affixed to their car’s roof. The mic feeds the high-frequency sounds of bats feeding on insects mid-air to a special detector inside their vehicle that records the “echolocation” noises.
“The folks in the car can actually hear when these acoustic detectors are recording bats,” Caldwell said. “It lowers the pitch so we can hear it with our ears. It’s like you’re spying on the bats and they never know they were recorded.”
Biologists download the recordings to a software program that plots the shape of the bats’ calls on an X and Y axis. “Based on the shape of the call, you can identify that call to a specific species,” Caldwell said.
Although the results are still being tabulated, data from the N.C. Bat Acoustic Monitoring Program and mist-netting surveys “largely agree” with winter cave and mine surveys showing that little brown, northern long-eared and tri-colored bats are declining across the mountains, Caldwell said.
Reach Axtell at 828-694-7860 or than.axtell@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News