The Western North Carolina (WENOCA) Group is a part of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club. Its area of interest covers the counties of North Carolina west of Buncombe county except for Transylvania, Henderson and Polk counties. Those three counties are covered by our sister organization the Pisgah Group.

The group usually meets on the first Thursday of each month. The meetings start at 7:00 p.m. with the program beginning at 7:15. The meetings are held in Asheville at the Unitarian Church, 1 Edwin Place at Charlotte Street. The form of the meeting is a brief session of announcements and business followed by a presentation about an issue in which the WENOCA Group is interested. A list of the forthcoming programs can be found under WENOCA News.

The WENOCA Group is an all-volunteer group with no paid staff. It is governed by an executive committee of seven members elected by the membership. Contact information for the members of the executive committee is provided on the excom page.

Visit our Volunteer Opportunities webpage to find out how you can get involved in our local outings, educational programs and events, membership recruitment and engagement,  fundraising, and advocacy efforts. There are opportunities to volunteer for many different types of tasks, to fit all types of schedules and time commitments. We need your talents and energy to help green Western North Carolina.

After you learn about our work, please consider becoming a member of the Sierra Club.  You can join on line using our secure server. Join now to receive a Sierra Club backpack as a welcome gift!

If you are a member, you can also renew your membership online via the same secure server. If you are not sure about joining the Sierra Club, follow this link to read why you should join us.

The WENOCA Group and the National Sierra Club are the same 501 C (4) non-profit legal entity. The local WENOCA Group is empowered to speak on behalf of the entire Sierra Club on issues that fall wholly within the Group’s geographic jurisdiction. The Sierra Club engages in the full range of electoral politics allowed by law. Because the Club has registered political action committees at the federal and state level, the WENOCA Group is able to make political endorsements at every level of government within its political boundaries, from US Congress to local county commissioner and council elections.


Monday, April 8th, 2019
Written by Deborah

Thursday May 2: “Using Genetic Modification to Restore the American Chestnut”

On May 2, join with the Sierra Club to hear Eron Thiele explain how genetic modification is being used to restore the American Chestnut.

This talk is free and open to the public. 

Date: Thursday, May 2, 2019

Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Location: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville

Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine is preparing to become a test site for American chestnut trees that have been genetically modified to resist the fungal blight that nearly wiped out the species early in the last century. 

Thiele, coordinator of the Mayland Earth to Sky Park, will discuss the partnership that has been formed with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), New York. The goal of the partnership is to create an orchard of trees that are adapted to our own southern Appalachian region. 

A graduate of Davidson College and East Carolina University, Thiele has worked for 10 years in silviculture and forestry. He is currently employed at Mayland Community College and the MAY Coalition, and continues to enjoy a variety of tree-based activities.

William Powell directs SUNY’s American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project. That program has pioneered the micro-propagation of transgenic trees and shows promise for the rapid reestablishment of the species.

The work in New York is undertaken in cooperation with the USDA and differs from earlier efforts to cross-breed the American species with the blight-resistant Chinese species. Many hybrid trees have been planted throughout the eastern U.S. since the 1980s

For more information, contact Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, 828-683-2176.

Eron Thiele
Friday, April 5th, 2019
Written by Deborah

Tuesday April 23 Earth Day: Climate Change

Sierra Club & Youth for Environmental Stewardship present

Climate Change: State & Local Efforts to Help Combat the Problems. Tuesday April 23, 5pm. Earth Day Celebration at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1 Edwin Place (Charlotte Street and Edwin Place in Asheville)

Learn how you can help. 

Contact: judymattox@sbcglobal.net    828-683-2176

Free & Open to the Public

Saturday, March 16th, 2019
Written by Deborah

Thursday, April 4, 7 pm “Hope for our Climate”

Sierra Club presents on Thursday, April 4, 7 pm “Hope  for our Climate”
Drew Jones, of climate interactive, will present a new climate simulation tested by US senators.
Location:  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Pl (Corner of Charlotte & Edwin) Contact: Judymattox@sbcglobal.net 828-683-2176
Free and open to the public

Saturday, February 16th, 2019
Written by Deborah

March 7 “WNC Spring Wildflowers and Their Pollinators”

Sierra Club presents on Thursday, March 7, 7 PM “WNC Spring Wildflowers and Their Pollinators” by Botanist Tim Spira. 
Learn how our flowers and pollinators help each other.
Location:  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Pl (Corner of Charlotte & Edwin). Free and open to the public.

Contact: judymattox@sbcglobal.net, 828-683-2176

Tim Spira

Botanist Tim Spira will show photograph and discuss interesting characteristics of common and conspicuous, as well as rare and unusual, spring wildflowers, including trilliums, trout lily, wild ginger, mayapple, bearcorn, Jack-in-the-pulpit, pink lady’s slipper, cucumber root, Oconee bells, and many others, including a few shrubs and trees. Tim will include examples of how plants interact with pollinators, herbivores (animals that feed on plants), and seed dispersal agents, including birds, bears, and ants.

Tim Spira is a plant ecologist, native plant gardener, and professor emeritus at Clemson University where he taught field botany and plant ecology, and did research on plant-pollinator interactions for more than 20 years. He’s published more than 30 papers in scientific journals including a cover article in the journal Nature. He’s the author of the award winning book, Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont: A Naturalist’s Guide to the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia (UNC Press). His latest book is Waterfalls and Wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians: 30 Great Hikes (UNC Press).

Saturday, January 12th, 2019
Written by Deborah

Thursday, February 7, 7 PM “Electric Cars Powered by Solar Homes”

Sierra Club presents on Thursday, February 7, 7 PM “Electric Cars Powered by Solar Homes” by Dave Hrivnak. 
Learn how households are driving to net zero!
Location:  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Pl (Corner of Charlotte & Edwin)Free and open to the publicContact: judymattox@sbcglobal.net, 828-683-2176

Dave Hrivnak
Wednesday, December 19th, 2018
Written by Deborah

15 yr old Swedish girl’s speech to the UN climate change talks in Poland

Swedish girl challenges UN climate talks – video

Saturday, December 15th, 2018
Written by Deborah

Thursday, January 3, 2019, 7 PM, “3 Observatories  in WNC: Burnsville, UNCA, and Madison County.”

Sierra Club  presents on Thursday, January 3, 2019, 7 PM, “3 Observatories  in WNC: Burnsville, UNCA, and Madison County.”

Come hear about the new Bare Dark Sky Observatory in the Mayland Earth to Sky Park located outside of Burnsville, NC. Also learn about Lookout Observatory on the UNCA campus, and Grassland Mountain Observatory in Madison County. All are available to the public.

Location:  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Pl (Corner of Charlotte and  Edwin)

Contact: Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal. net, 828-683-2176
Free and open to the public

Saturday, December 15th, 2018
Written by Deborah

Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit rejected by Federal Appeals Court

Court tosses permit for pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail (AP) – “A permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, was thrown out Thursday by a federal appeals court that harshly criticized regulators for approving the proposal.”

Breaking news: “Mountain Valley Pipeline says projects may never be finished”

Monday, November 26th, 2018
Written by Deborah

WNC Sierra Club Honors Local Individuals, Institutions, Businesses

Asheville, NC – November 11, 2018: The WNC Sierra Club will present its annual Environmental Recognition Awards on December 6 at its Potluck Holiday Party. The awards are made in recognition of local individuals, institutions and businesses whose actions reflect their commitment to preserving the environment.

The party gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville. Please bring a dish to share, as well as your own dishes and silverware. This event is free and open to the public.

This year’s six awards are:

Green Elected Officials: City of Asheville  

Julie Mayfield, Ashville City Councilwoman, and John Noor, Chair, Asheville Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment Commission, are recognized by the Sierra Club for their leadership in getting the City of Asheville to set a goal of having city government operations transition to 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 and supporting the Buncombe County Goal of having the entire county transition to 100% Renewable Energy by 2042. 

Thanks to Noor’s leadership, this goal was approved by the Sustainability Advisory Committee in August. Thanks to Mayfield’s leadership, this goal received a unanimous vote of the Asheville City Council on October 23.


Government Sustainability: NC Army National Guard Field Maintenance Shop #1

The North Carolina Army National Guard Field Maintenance Shop #1 proactively works to ensure environmental protection. In 2017, the shop received a Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Sustainability. It also placed second in the 2018 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards in the Sustainability, Industrial Installation category. The FMS 1 facility also won 1st place for the Environmental Quality category at the National Guard Bureau level for the 2018 competition.

In 2016 and 2017, the shop exceeded expectations in reducing hazardous and universal waste, as well as reducing the use of water. In each of the last two years, it diverted 15 tons of oil, rubber, plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, antifreeze, batteries and wood pallets from landfills. It also replaced its outdated lighting fixtures with LED lights,

Green Business of the Year: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Both LEED ® and Zero Waste certified, Sierra Nevada boasts:         

  • Provision for alternative transportation (bicycle parking and two electric vehicle charging stations)
  • Stormwater management that collects rain water and repurposes it for irrigation and other non-potable water uses (uses 40% less potable water than a similar, traditional building), low-flow toilets and faucets, low-water-use plants and native species
  • An estimated 2,200 photovoltaic solar panels and Capstone Microturbine technology that converts methane biogas captured at its on-site wastewater treatment plant into electricity
  • Recycling and composting programs used during construction enabled the brewery to divert 81% of its waste from the landfill.
  • A healthy, indoor environmental quality. Adhesives, sealants and flooring were selected to reduce chemical concentrations. Lighting and thermal comfort systems were designed for energy efficiency. 99.8% of the facility’s total solid waste is diverted from landfill through reuse, recycling and composting.

Conservation Advocate – Will Harlan

Will Harlan, Editor-in-chief, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, is being honored for his lifetime commitment to conservation. In 2018, he created and went on to direct I Heart Pisgah to celebrate and safeguard the wildest and most biologically important places in the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest. It now includes more than 100 businesses and organizations, and thousands of individuals, who support more protected areas in the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest. He also founded and organized Friends of Big Ivy, a grassroots organization that protects the old-growth forests and wild areas of the Craggies and Big Ivy section of Pisgah National Forest.

An award-winning journalist, he has written for National Geographic Adventure and appeared in Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. His book, Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America, was a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award Finalist, winner of the Society of Environmental Journalist’s Rachel Carson Book Award, and one of Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2014.

Environmental Organization of the Year: Energy Savers Network


Energy Savers Network (ESN) is committed to helping solve the climate crisis by helping people. ESN mobilizes volunteers to focus on improving the homes of lower income people, offering free upgrades, energy saving education, and referrals to agencies that offer more comprehensive repairs and weatherization. Upgrades include weather stripping, water heater insulation, custom interior storm windows, LED lights, water saving fixtures, duct sealing, and minor repairs that save energy. Starting from the first completed home in December 2016, ESN has assisted more than 200 families, including 168 over the past 12 months. ESN’s long-term goal is to serve as many as 500 homes per year.

Director Brad Rouse is aided by staffer Yulia Shaffer ad volunteer Alice Wyndham.

Naturalist, Educator and Wildlife Rehabilitator of the Year: Carlton Burke

Naturalist and educator Carlton Burke lives in Mills River, NC where he operates an educational service called Carolina Mountain Naturalists. This organization specializes in presenting live animal and nature programs and displays for area schools, summer camps, and many other organizations. Burke is a state- and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator with Carolina Mountain Wildlife Control. He also served as the Curator of Exhibits at the Western North Carolina Nature Center, Asheville, for more than 25 years. and can be heard each Saturday morning co-hosting Nature News, a local, hour-long radio program. He also teaches with the Blue Ridge Naturalist program at the NC Arboretum, and works with Muddy Sneakers.

For more information, contact Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, 828-683-2176.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018
Written by Deborah

Paul Simon donates $25,000 to Muddy Sneakers

Mountain Express: “Muddy Sneakers is incredibly grateful to be the North Carolina recipient of a recent contribution from legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon. As part of his Homeward Bound farewell tour, Simon awarded a gift of $25,000 to Muddy Sneakers to grows its work of awakening in children a deeply felt connection with the natural world. Muddy Sneakers partners with public elementary schools in North Carolina to bring fifth graders onto nearby protected lands to supplement classroom science instruction.” Read more from Mountain Express.