Press release from the Western North Carolina Alliance, shared Feb. 22:

The Western North Carolina Alliance turns 30 this year and is marking this milestone with a public celebration set for 6:30-9 p.m. March 1 at the First Presbyterian Church, 40 Church St., in Asheville.

The evening will be a joint celebration to kick-off our anniversary events, as well as the release of a book by Mars Hill history professor Kathy Newfont, entitled, “Blue Ridge Commons: Environmental Activism and Forest History in Western North Carolina.” The book features a few chapters on the Alliance’s history, as well as photos from our archives.

WNCA was founded by 64-year-old Macon County native Esther Cunningham in 1982. It is the only grassroots environmental advocacy focused solely on conserving Western North Carolina’s natural heritage.

Mrs. Cunningham was motivated to create the Alliance by her love of the mountains and forests. She was outraged when the Forest Service considered allowing private companies to explore for oil and gas in the national forest.

She pulled together her friends and neighbors, environmentalists and hunters, natives and newcomers in a successful effort to stop that proposal – and eventually to change the way the Forest Service manages its lands.

The Alliance has grown from that small group of dedicated volunteers working out of the trunk of Esther’s car to an organization with offices in Asheville and Franklin, five full-time staff, two part-time staff and two AmeriCorps volunteers.

In 30 years, WNCA has achieved many more environmental victories for this region, from stopping clearcutting in the national forests, to helping defeat a federal proposal to build eight miles of roads and sell hundreds of acres of timber on Bluff Mountain in Madison County, to leading efforts today to build a world-class paddle trail along 120 miles of the French Broad River, and educating the public on the dangers of toxic coal ash pollution.

Please join us for this very special event by sending an RSVP to or by calling (828) 258-8737.

Free on-street parking is available around the church and in the church’s lower parking lot off of Aston Street.

We look forward to sharing this celebration with you!

For 30 years, the Western North Carolina Alliance has been a trusted community partner, marshaling grassroots support to keep our forests healthy, our air and water clean, and our communities vibrant.  The Alliance and its chapters throughout Western NC unleash the power of citizens’ voices to protect the natural heritage of our region to help ensure that people and the environment can thrive. For more information, please visit

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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