Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

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BREDL Nature Sanctuary

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is on the brink of an exciting new opportunity. In the summer of 2000, Ginny Lentz, a member of our Madison Environmental Alliance chapter, approached BREDL with an offer of a gift of land. The gift is a 52 acre nature sanctuary on the French Broad River in the town of Marshall, 30 miles northwest of Asheville. The former owner is Jubilee Community, an independent church with special interests in education and spiritual growth. Ginny is a member of the church and is familiar with BREDL’s mission. She thought BREDL would best be able to use the land for environmental education purposes.

View From Site

We researched the requirements for a non-profit organization on land ownership, taxes, etc. and made a report to the BREDL Board of Directors at its regular meeting in October. The Board approved the submission of a prospectus to Jubilee for the land gift. On November 21, 2000 Jubilee informed us that our proposal was selected! They transferred of land to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League before the end of the year.

Prospectus for a Nature Sanctuary in Marshall, North Carolina

In October 2000 Ginny Lentz took us to visit the Nature Sanctuary in Marshall. In the twilight of the day, we hiked to the summit of the land overlooking the French Broad River. We were inspired by the view and excited about the possibilities for the future. Since the founding of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League at Holy Trinity Church in 1984, we have dedicated our work to stewardship of the land. This prospectus outlines the ways we would use the property for the betterment of Madison County and western North Carolina.

Janet Zeller and Ginny Lentz walking a trail

Our Mission

We believe in the practice of earth stewardship, not only by our league members, but by our government and the public as well. To foster stewardship, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League encourages governmental and citizen responsibility in conserving and protecting our natural resources. BREDL advocates grassroots involvement in order to empower whole communities in environmental issues. BREDL functions as a "watchdog" of the environment, monitoring issues and holding government officials accountable for their actions. BREDL networks with citizen groups and agencies, collecting and disseminating accurate and timely information. BREDL sets standards for environmental quality and awards individuals and agencies who uphold these standards in practice.

-So adopted by BREDL Board of Directors July, 1984

Nature Sanctuary Prospectus

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League’s proposal for the 52 acre site encompasses a twenty year period. During this time we would work to ensure that the site is preserved as a nature sanctuary for the use of hikers and visitors. Ultimately, we envision an environmental education center and a rural retreat facility located at the Nature Sanctuary. Future generations would appreciate the foresight of those who set aside this land for environmental education and preservation. If we do our work well, those who oversee this sanctuary after 2020 will also be guided by an understanding of good earth stewardship.

Nature Sanctuary

From the outset Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League would work with local and regional volunteers and members of our chapter, the Madison Environmental Alliance, to secure the site and maintain trails and campsites. We would enlist the help of local civic groups and church groups to assist with groundskeeping and small improvements such as flower and tree plantings. We also foresee the observance of annual events at the sanctuary by such groups. We think this type of community involvement would help to protect the site from misuse by vandals and litterbugs.

The BREDL Board will enlist and empower a preserve steering committee whose responsibilities will include: 1) Dedication of the 20 acre site permanently to nature with restrictions on all human activities; 2) Construction of a wooden gate at the base of the mountain at the Hayes Run access to ensure access by hikers and picnickers and block access by vehicles; 3) Preparation of picnicking and camping areas by bush-hogging and forest brush clean up; 4) Coordination of BREDL work days; and 5) Promotion of the site on the BREDL web page and a printed brochure.

Environmental Education Center

Our plan for an environmental education center will be realized over a ten year period. The center will have experiments and displays on environmental issues. The sanctuary will be a site for scientific instruments for the gathering of data on air pollution. For example, BREDL Executive Director Janet Zeller has already petitioned the NC Division of Air Quality for an ozone monitor in Madison County (edited by lisa miranda). The Sanctuary is a perfect location for this ozone monitor which would contribute to knowledge of nitrogen oxide pollution and smog in the mountain region.

Wind energy is an abundant renewable resource. I have contacted experts in the field of wind power about the installation of equipment for assessment of wind energy at the site. I recently visited an operating wind energy farm in Pennsylvania; the new wind machines are virtually silent and permit normal agricultural use to continue. We learned that mountain areas, such as Everett Barnett Ridge at the sanctuary, have good potential for wind-powered electric generation. Small-scale, environmentally-friendly electric power at the center would provide a model for educating people about this pollution-free natural resource. The data collection process itself could be used for public education on wind energy.

BREDL is working with the US Department of Energy to identify locations for wind energy potential testing. We are discussing with DOE the convening of a multi-state conference on wind power and are focusing on western North Carolina for the location of this conference.

We plan to contact the French Broad Electric Membership Coop to enlist their cooperation and support in the Wind Project. Should the site prove a good one, a series of wind mills could provide electricity to Marshall and the surrounding community. BREDL is committed to carrying the project forward to its maximum potential.

We wish to establish at the Sanctuary a wind energy data center funded by the DOE and private sources to determine the viability of the location for a system of wind-powered electric generators. The scientific data gathered at the station would include wind speed, wind direction, and wind shear.

This data gathering station would be a point of interest for environmental organizations, for all levels of government agencies, and a destination for school field trips. BREDL and local volunteers will be willing to host educational excursions to the station.

Solar power is the force which moves the wind and the rain. The Nature Sanctuary has a south-southeast facing slope which has excellent solar energy potential. Buildings at the site used for gatherings and for education will be designed to take advantage of this natural resource. The use of active and passive solar technology and windpower on year-round structures could result in a retreat center which is self-sufficient or even a net generator of electric power. This progressive and environmentally forward-looking project combined with education at the Sanctuary would remove doubts about the practical, economical use of efficient, renewable, pollution-free energy technologies.

Rural Retreat Center

Many civic, religious, and non-profit groups utilize meeting places away from the daily routine in order to provide a space for creative thinking. We foresee a rural retreat center at the Sanctuary located on the bluff overlooking the French Broad River. It would be constructed with overall preservation of the Sanctuary in mind. The expansive view of the river would be accented by the use of open decks and large windows. Simple but comfortable accommodations would allow visitors to talk, reflect, and meet without disturbance. By 2010 BREDL will have constructed an energy efficient retreat center which takes advantage of passive solar, photovoltaic and other solar energy options. We envision a wooden picnic shelter as the first construction in the development of our retreat center to be completed by 2005.

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League’s Commitment and Qualifications

BREDL is a grassroots organization with strong local support. Over half of our budget comes from community-level fundraising. Funding for maintenance and improvements at the Sanctuary would come from donations, in-kind contributions, and foundation grants. Our Board of Directors sets policy and approves funding decisions. Board members are unpaid volunteers; each is selected by a local chapter of BREDL.

Part of working group

Who and What We Are

In March of 1984, fifty citizens of Ashe and Watauga Counties met in the Mission House of Holy Trinity Church in Glendale Springs, North Carolina. Teachers and farmers, homemakers and merchants listened to the report of the Episcopal Church Women on the US Department of Energy's siting search for a high-level nuclear waste dump in the rain-rich east. Recognizing that the North Carolina mountains were a region at risk, the assembled group organized the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) to protect their own backyard and those of other threatened communities. We began our first successful campaign to stop the high-level nuclear waste dump in western North Carolina. The DOE Crystalline Repository Project would have buried 70,000 tons of extremely radioactive nuclear fuel in mountain bedrock, the Elk River Massif, a geologic formation underlying Madison, Haywood, and Buncombe counties. The project ended in 1987 when Congress altered the law and eliminated all 12 potential sites in the eastern U.S.

Since then the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has grown to be a regional, community-based, non-profit environmental organization. Our founding principles--earth stewardship, environmental democracy, social justice, and community empowerment--still guide our work for social change. Our staff and volunteers put into practice the ideals of love of community and love of neighbor which help us to serve the movement for environmental protection and progressive social change in Virginia, east Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

The issues center on industry's dependence on toxic chemicals and contamination of the air by greenhouse gases and toxic pollution, utilities' failure to adopt sound energy alternatives, industrial development and highway construction at the expense of public health, intensive livestock operations' effects on agriculture and the environment, wasteful use of the earth’s natural resources, and huge waste dumps. These are social problems with devastating environmental and public health effects. They are also the clarion call for community action. Our mission is difficult. But, in the words of BREDL Co-president Reverend James Johnson, "We don't quit; we find a way to do it.”

Madison Environmental Alliance

Madison Environmental Alliance (MEA), our chapter in Madison County, has grown and changed over the years. Organized as the Nuclear Waste Education Committee in 1985, it was among the first to oppose the DOE’s nuclear dump plans. The group joined BREDL in 1987 and continued to work against the nuclear dump until the project was halted. During this time MEA also organized local opposition to another radioactive dump plan. In 1986 the eight-state Southeast Compact chose North Carolina for a so-called low-level radioactive dump. Strong opposition from Madison Environmental Alliance and others delayed the project and in 1999 North Carolina General Assembly dropped out of the Compact, ending the threat of a radioactive dump anywhere in NC.

In 1988 MEA took up solid waste and recycling issues and held the first Recycling Day. BREDL and Madison Environmental Alliance worked to develop a comprehensive solid waste plan which was adopted by the county in 1990. Since then, MEA has worked to ensure that Madison County maintains its solid waste landfill as a single-county, publicly-owned one which will serve the county’s needs for many decades to come.

For the last three years, the Madison Environmental Alliance has dedicating much effort and resources to community planning and opposing illegal spot zoning of the quarry near Marshall. The undercutting of the county’s zoning ordinance has implications far beyond the borders of Madison County. If the state and the county continue to permit this quarry to ride roughshod over laws and procedures designed to protect all citizens, communities across North Carolina will have less ability to determine their future and protect their health and well-being. The Nature Sanctuary is strategically located to assist us in this campaign.

Madison Environmental Alliance is one of our oldest and most successful chapters. In addition to Madison, BREDL has active campaigns in counties of Ashe, Anson, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, Rowan, Macon, Mecklenburg, Greene, Halifax, Pender, and Watauga, NC, Smyth and Roanoke, VA, and Aiken, SC.

Vision for the Future

For sixteen years BREDL chapters have fought dumps, incinerators, and other dangerous facilities. The Sanctuary offers an opportunity to develop the environmental education of our decade-old Earth Stage program and the positive approach of our alternative energy project. We envision providing hikers and picnickers with an unspoiled natural environment; we envision providing school children and elected leaders a demonstration of the advantages of wind and solar energy; and we envision creating for our organization and for other groups a retreat center which demonstrates simplicity of lifestyle and offers a sanctuary for the spirit.

Louis Zeller

November 26, 2001