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An Appeal to Western N.C. Sportsmen

In an effort to give a voice to those in the western part of the state, The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina (CCA NC) is bringing a chapter to Asheville. This is the result of passionate residents in the area requesting representation and a way to get involved. CCA NC is excited for this new development in the area and hope that all who are interested will join us for our inaugural Asheville event and fundraiser.

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As citizens of North Carolina, we are blessed with beautiful and diverse natural resources that we all hold dear. Each region contains its own set of unique features that present many different benefits to its inhabitants. From the estuaries and beaches along the coast, the large cities and rolling hills in the Piedmont, or the trails, mountains, and trout streams in the west, North Carolina is one of the few places on earth where all of these regions meet, and it represents a haven for travelers, tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

When it comes to the outdoors, most people rely on access to public trust resources in order to pursue a variety of recreational activities. These public trust resources include things like state and federal parks and nature preserves where people from all different ages, races, and ethnicities can camp and hike and paddle and hunt and fish and even bird watch among many other things. The range of public trust resources that we enjoy is one that is both unique and rare in the world. National forests like Cherokee, Pisgah, and Nantahala where we as citizens do not rely on government for permission to use them, but instead we grant the government the responsibility of properly managing, maintaining, and preserving our access to them. This is a beautiful thing that allows us to enjoy the natural beauty of the outdoors and pass along an appreciation for it to future generations.

You might be reading this and thinking “what does this have to do with Coastal Conservation?” Well, it is this mindset of public trust resources that applies in the same way to our coastal resources and fisheries as it does to public lands. North Carolina has rich resources on its coast and inshore estuarine waters that are ideal breeding grounds and habitat for many species of finfish, shellfish, sea turtles, and other marine life that have represented a longstanding recreational heritage to millions of residents across the state for many generations. However, due to the use of destructive commercial fishing gear, poor management, and overfishing that has gone on for decades, our coastal fisheries are in jeopardy. As a result, recreational fishermen and women and outdoor enthusiast in general are losing access to these resources. It is this underlying principal of access which connects the interests of the saltwater fisherman on the coast, the young kid who shoots his first deer in Uwharrie National Forest, and the fly fisherman in the west who relies on access to the mountain tailwaters for his outdoor getaway.

Overfishing and poor fisheries management doesn’t just affect recreational fishermen and it doesn’t just affect coastal communities. Just like people who live in Wilmington like to vacation in the mountains, fishing on our coast draws tourists from all over who come to visit our many beach and inshore river communities. One family who takes a beach trip to do some fishing for red drum, striped bass, or speckled trout leads to money being spent on hotel and house rentals, bars, restaurants, shops, and even transactions as small as buying a bag of ice at the local convenient store that all feed into the economies of these communities. If the status quo of current fisheries management continues, we could see a devastating decline in our coastal economies. However, a study commissioned by the NC Sound Economy by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science estimated that proper, science-based fisheries management policies that put the resource first would lead to an increase of $4.2 billion in total sales as a direct result of the fishing economy. This increase would not only be good for our coastal communities but for the entire state as well and this is something that all North Carolinians should want to see.

The issues surrounding coastal habitats and fisheries in North Carolina are unfortunately unknown to many people in the state. When made aware of the issues, most people are astounded by the exploitation that is allowed. The number one problem is lack of public awareness and historically since its founding in 1989, CCA NC has unsurprisingly found most of its support in the eastern half of the state, with Charlotte being the westernmost chapter. This is quickly changing as the state of our coastal resources become more and more dire and people all over the state are reaching out to get involved. It is important for recreational outdoors enthusiasts to have a united voice in all corners of the state so that our representatives in Raleigh are aware that public trust resources belong to all of us and should be managed with our interests in mind. Asheville is the perfect spot for people throughout the western part of the state who care about the outdoors to come together.

Recreational users of public trust resources deserve just as much of a voice as those who exploit those resources to make money. If you care about the outdoors and preserving access to it, then please consider attending our CCA Asheville: Tails From The Coast at Highland Brewing Co. on Thursday, January 24th for a fun night for all sportsmen and women to unite their voice in support of coastal conservation.

Tickets are available here on our website at ccanc.org/event/asheville



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