Environmental concerns are no secret to the High Country. As we progress from once-tiny communities to hubs of tourism, second-homes, higher education and expanding businesses, it’s important to balance the ecology and nature of our regions with expansion.

By and large, the partnership between development and the original majesty of our mountains has been a successful one. Many builders, especially today, typically adhere not only to the letter of the law, but the spirit — keeping in mind the natural surroundings as they develop their projects.

That this has not always been so has resulted in a number of environmental challenges to our communities. Mining efforts in Ashe County generations ago have led to concerns with local water supplies today. Treetop removal is a concern in many areas and chemicals leaking into our groundwater are constant threats.

Because it is incumbent upon newspapers to report both successes and concerns of such projects and challenges, Mountain Times Publications’s five-newspaper group — the Watauga Democrat, Ashe Post & Times, The Avery Journal-Times, The Blowing Rocket and Mountain Times — is especially proud to have successfully applied for a journalist from Report for America to join our team in mid-2021 to tackle such environmental stories.

The nonprofit Report for America was launched in 2017 for the purpose of aiding newsrooms by helping expand issues that have been under-reported in their coverage areas. Costs associated with placing a RFA reporter are shared by the nonprofit, the newsroom and donors.

As we move into 2021, we look forward to sharing these stories with you, our communities and readers across the region.

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