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MountainTrue Merger Extends Reach To Hiwassee River

Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition
Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition is now part of Asheville-based nonprofit MountainTrue. Kids in the Creek is just one of many programs that they organize in WNC.

  Murphy-based nonprofit Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition has a new name this month after a merger with Asheville conservation nonprofit Mountain True. Here’s what this expansion means for the region: 


Callie Moore has been the director of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition for over 15 years so she’s still getting used to answering the phone by saying, “Hello, Mountain True.” 


“We’ve already changed the signage and the outgoing voicemail and everything,” says Moore.


Moore says multiple people alerted her to a job opening for a Western coordinator at MountainTrue. Instead of applying, it inspired her to talk to the organization about how they might be able to work together in the western region past Haywood County. 


“There is so much work to do “the more the merrier is my philosophy, even if we weren’t merging.  We’ve been partners with MountainTrue for several years,” says Moore. She says the negotiations for the merger took about 8 months. 

MountainTrue launched in 2015 as a product of three conservation groups that merged from Macon, Henderson and Buncombe counties.  Adding Hiwassee will expand MountainTrue’s reach to 25 counties including two in Georgia at the headwaters of the Hiwassee River. Mountain True co-director Bob Wagner says he’s excited to get back to the organization’s roots in the Western region. 


“For us it’s really an opportunity to go deeper and make a difference in our counties and in the region,” says Wagner. 


Funding had been tight at Hiwassee since 2012, after cuts from local governments and the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Before the merger, the Cherokee County-based nonprofit’s budget was $140,000 dollars - MountainTrue’s budget sits at $1.7 million. Moore says their biggest change now will be expanding their mission beyond water conservation. 


“The Watershed Coalition was not an advocacy organization, we didn’t get involved in legislative lobbying and work like that,” says Moore. “Mountain True does those things and we’ve known that our members want more of that for several years now so MountainTrue bring that capacity to us.”


The organization’s mission will also expand into forest conservation, healthy communities and local policies. 


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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