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Environmental Stewardship

Jackson County is 491 square miles of mountainous land in western North Carolina and home to many natural and historic sites; recently it has seen an increase in tourism both in number of tourists and dollars spent (, 2010). Natural sites bordering and within the county, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest, and heritage sites such as the Cherokee Qualla Boundary draw thousands of visitors annually. Over time the effects of a steadily growing tourism industry began to affect the quality of life for residents and threaten the existence of the natural and cultural environment. Increased traffic brought air pollution and noise, construction degraded the scenery and the quality of the land in the area, and ancient sites such as the Native American hieroglyphs found on Judaculla Rock saw erosion and decay from years of improper protection from the elements. 

To work toward the solution to the problems faced in Jackson County, sustainable practices have been planned and, in many instances, implemented to maintain the quality of the land and resources, reserving them for future use, and protecting the quality of life and scenery enjoyed by residents. Sourced from “A Case Study of Sustainable in Jackson County, North Carolina” by Cynthia S. Deale, Shardae D. Brown, Kristine M. Miller, Emily M. Elders and Carrie Blaskowski.

Listed below are organization that work on Environmental Stewardship initiatives. Organizations with volunteer opportunities are notated. For all volunteer opportunities, visit the CCESL Engage page.

Balsam Mountain Trust

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The Balsam Mountain Trust is a 501c3 nonprofit that inspires people to be responsible stewards of the natural and cultural resources of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains through education and conservation leadership.

Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Society

Volunteer Opportunities Available

To recognize and honor the Philadelphia-born naturalist, William Bartram, who traveled through the southeast between the years 1773 and 1777, writing exact and vivid descriptions of the plants and animals he saw and the native tribes he encountered, and who published these writings in 1791 as Travels of William Bartram. 
To establish and maintain a 110 mile memorial trail, following a route as close as possible to Bartram’s original route through northeast Georgia and western North Carolina. 
To promote further inquiry and knowledge about the plants and animals of the southern Appalachians, as well as the traditions and culture of the native Cherokee people, which Bartram encountered on his travels here in 1775.

Environmental Action Community

Create opportunities to experience the outdoors, respond to climate challenges, and promote a resilient mountain environment.

Friends of Panthertown

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The mission of Friends of Panthertown is to work in a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to conserve Panthertown as a backcountry natural resource and to enable sustainable recreation.

Gorges State Park

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Gorges State Park, a North Carolina State Park, seeks to protect North Carolina's natural diversity, provide recreation opportunities, and encourage stewardship of North Carolina's natural resources.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural & cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

Haywood Waterways Association

Volunteer Opportunities Available

To maintain and improve surface water quality in the Pigeon River Watershed of Haywood County, North Carolina.

Highlands Cashiers Land Trust

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The mission of Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT) is "to protect valuable natural resources for all generations." HCLT conserves forests, wetlands, and vistas that are home to the greatest number of rare and endemic plants and animals in the Southern Appalachians. The Highlands-Cashiers plateau sits at the headwaters of six different watersheds so conserving land here protects drinking water throughout the southeast. These are just some of the reasons our mountains are special and why it is so important that we protect them.

Jackson County Green Energy Park

The Green Energy Park provides a space for the public to create art and build a sense of community, using renewable energy. The Park's mission is to offer environmental protection, educational opportunities, and increased economic development to the community through the utilization of landfill gas and other clean, renewable energy resources.

Mainspring Conservation Trust

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Our goal is to conserve and restore the lands and waters of the Southern Blue Ridge, and to connect the people to these natural treasures.


Volunteer Opportunities Available

MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters, and healthy communities in the Southern Blue Ridge.

WATR, Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River

Volunteer Opportunities Available

WATR is a grassroots organization working to improve your water quality and habitat of the Tuckasegee River Basin. The Tuckasegee River watershed supplies the drinking water and ecosystem foundation for Swain and Jackson Counties. What happens upstream, downstream, and all around the watershed impacts all of us directly.

Western North Carolina Nature Center

Volunteer Opportunities Available

The Western North Carolina Nature Center connects people with the animals and plants of the Southern Appalachian Mountain region by inspiring appreciation, nurturing understanding, and advancing conservation of the region’s rich biodiversity.

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