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 half an hour of social get together, program beginning at 7:30. 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, February 12th, 2018
Written by Deborah

Thursday March 1: How to talk about climate change with those who don’t believe

Sierra Club presents on Thursday Mar 1, 7 pm, “How to talk about climate change with those who don’t believe.” Learn what works and what doesn’t.  Note the change to Thursday. Location Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, corner of Charlotte  and Edwin. Contact: Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, (828) 683-2716  Free and open to the public.

Steffi Rausch, lead organizer for the Asheville Chapter of the Citizens Climate Change Lobby (CCL) will share how you can engage positively with your legislators and conservative friends and relatives on the issue of climate change. Learn what terms to avoid and what language to use to actually reach areas of agreement. The same lessons can be used to lobby elected officials who may be skeptical of climate change

Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a non-profit, non-partisan international organization with 80,000 members worldwide that focuses on empowering and educating citizens to engage respectfully with their legislators on the issue of climate change as well as pushing for a bipartisan solution on the federal level. A big part of CCL’s outreach is reaching out to people with differing views to help bridge the partisan divide on the issue of climate by finding common ground between us. CCL works towards keeping a respectful bipartisan dialogue that is supported by a bipartisan advisory board that includes conservatives, liberals, scientists, and military. 

CCL’s proposed solution is called Carbon Fee & Dividend and has been adopted in various forms by four countries around the world, including Canada recently. It is a revenue-neutral, market-based, national alternative to regulations and the most effective, least intrusive, and government-free solution possible that will put more money back in to the pockets of low to middle income households while growing our economy, jobs, and GDP. Top economists say it is the best and easiest way to fix a carbon market failure and incentivize producers and consumers to lower their carbon consumption while not regulating how they do this. 

Rausch also is the owner and lead designer at Evolv.com, an Asheville-based website design company.



Thursday, January 11th, 2018
Written by Deborah

Thursday February 1: Hiking the Himalayas

Sierra Club presents on Thursday, February 1, 7pm “Hiking the Himalayas”. Bill (Skywalker) Walker as thru- hiked the great trails of the world Including the AT and the Pacific crest. Now he shares hiking in the Himalayas. Note change to Thursday.

Location Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, corner of Charlotte  and Edwin. Contact: Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, (828) 683-2716 

 Free and open to the public

Thursday, January 11th, 2018
Written by Deborah

VICTORY: Court rules that NC congressional maps are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders

Landmark decision against partisan gerrymandering is first of its kind in NC

RALEIGH – On Tuesday, a panel of federal judges ruled in the case of Common Cause v. Rucho that the NC General Assembly created an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander when drawing new congressional maps in 2016.  The judges have ordered the congressional maps to be re-drawn.

This is a landmark decision for North Carolina. While previous court cases have ruled against the legislature’s unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, this is the first ever decision against partisan gerrymandering in the state. The ruling could have a significant impact on redistricting in North Carolina and across the nation

“This is a true victory for North Carolina voters,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “At long last, politicians in our state will no longer be allowed to use partisan gerrymandering in order to shield themselves from accountability to the public.”

In 2016, a federal court ruled that the Republican-controlled NC legislature had unconstitutionally gerrymandered two of the state’s 13 congressional districts along racial lines and ordered them to be redrawn. 

Republican legislative leaders responded by claiming they would craft a new congressional map by ignoring race entirely, and instead draw a blatant partisan gerrymander, as Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) stated publicly during a redistricting committee meeting in February of 2016.

“We want to make clear that we … are going to use political data in drawing this map,” Lewis said at that time. “It is to gain partisan advantage on the map. I want that criteria to be clearly stated and understood.”

That blatant gerrymander by the legislature prompted Common Cause to file suit arguing that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, an argument that the court agreed with in its ruling Tuesday.

In addition to fighting gerrymandering in the courts, Common Cause has been a longtime advocate for legislation that would establish nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina.

House Bill 200 would take redistricting power out of the hands of legislators and give it to an independent body, which in turn would draw districts free from partisan politics.  While the measure has broad support in the NC House with 39 bipartisan co-sponsors, it has not yet been given a hearing or a vote in that chamber.

Under North Carolina’s longstanding system, whichever party controls the legislature also controls redistricting. For decades, the result has been gerrymandered v

Thursday, December 21st, 2017
Written by Deborah

Students guide Buncombe leaders to clean energy pledge

A group of high school and college students working with the Sierra Club have made a convincing case that Buncombe County should transition to 100% clean energy.

Students representing nine high schools and UNC-Asheville have formed a group called Youth for Environmental Stewardship (YES), sponsored by Greenworks and the Sierra Club’s Wenoca Group, with guidance from Wenoca volunteers Judy Mattox and Jamileh Mikati.

Members of YES meet the second Wednesday of each month to plan an environmental work day on the first Sunday of the following month, as well as environmental goals for the member schools and Buncombe County.

YES members attended two county commission meetings to urge commissioners to reconsider an earlier vote against a resolution to work toward transitioning the county to 100% renewable energy over the next 10 years.

The group gathered signatures from 1,800+ students and some adults who support the renewable energy target. Several students spoke to the commissioners at their Nov. 7 meeting, describing how county residents of all ages were eager to sign the petition.

The arguments were persuasive: The Buncombe County Commission voted 4-3 in favor of a resolution to work toward 100% renewable energy for county operations by 2030, and for the rest of the county by 2042. Read more about the meeting and the students’ work in this Asheville Citizen-Times story.

We’re proud of the Wenoca Sierra Club Group, Greenworks and YES – working together for a cleaner, brighter future for all of us!


Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
Written by Deborah

Wednesday, January 3, 7p: “Greenways & Blueways”

Sierra Club presents “Greenways & Blueways” Wednesday, January 3, 7pm
Marcia Bromberg of Connect Buncombe and Marc Hunt of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway will update us about Buncombe County’s successes & plans for Greenways & river facilities.
Location Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, corner of Charlotte  and Edwin.
Contact: Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, (828) 683-2176 
 Free and open to the public.
Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
Written by Deborah

Youth for Environmental Stewardship’s (YES) next meeting Wed Dec 13

Youth for Environmental Stewardship’s (YES) next meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 13, 5:45-7:15 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, (in Room 3 downstairs), 1 Edwin Place, Asheville, NC (Corner of Charlotte and Edwin).

We will be discussing some of the topics below and need your input on them:

  • Possible Grants to support our future projects
  • Works days for January and the next few months
  • Collider’s Climate Summit in March
  • Hiking opportunities now and in the summer
  • Other ideas 

Please let us know if you are coming or not!  and RSVP to:

Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, 615-584-4570, or Jamileh Mikati at jamilehmikati@icloud.com, 850-264-0996.

Here is a list of what we have accomplished so far:


  • Create a network of youth environmentalists in Buncombe County high schools and local colleges.
  • Had four organizational meetings with speakers from Energy Savers, UUCA environmental club, and Asheville Green Works etc.  Those speakers informed about what was going on at the local level and ways we can be involved
  • Alongside Asheville Green Works, we had a river clean up where 25 students participated in, a road clean-up where 50 students and teachers participated in, and invasive plant removal where 44 students and teachers took part in that day as well.
  • Went to the Buncombe County Commissioners’ meetings twice: the first, 10 students presented why it was important for them to have 100% renewable energy in the county and on the second time, 17 students presented petitions with over 1800 signatures from Youth all over the county.
  • GETTING the Buncombe County Commissioners to vote YESon the 100% renewable energy for our county.

Sunday, December 10th, 2017
Written by Deborah

2017 WNC Sierra Club Community Awards

2017 Green Legislator of the Year: NC Senator Terry Van Duyn

Presented by Ken Brame

  • Championing protection for the environment.
  • Providing leadership as the Democratic Party Whip for the State of North Carolina to battle against the anti-environmental majority.



2017 Sierra Club Volunteers of the Year: Jane Laping and Ann Perry

Presented by Gail Solomon

  • Organized Sierra Club Bus from Asheville to Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March on April 29, 2017.
  • Jane and Ann successfully worked with Sierra Club NC to secure partial Sierra Club funding. 
  • They contracted with a local bus company, advertised throughout Western North Carolina for trip participants, managed ticket sales, coordinated trip logistics, communicated with trip participants, organized poster/sign making and post trip debriefing sessions, and handled multiple on-trip issues. 


2017 Sierra Club Volunteer of the Year: Mark Threlkeld

Presented by Rich Wasch

  • 4 years on the WENOCA executive committee
  • 5 years of organizing Sierra Club river cleanups in conjunction with Greenworks. He has recruited and led hundreds of volunteers to clean the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers.
  • Mark is retiring from 4 excellent years on the WENOCA Sierra Club executive committee and from 5 outstanding years of organizing Sierra Club river cleanups in conjunction with Greenworks. During that time he recruited and lead hundreds of volunteers to clean the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, removing countless tires and trash, including a carousel pony!


2017 Green School of the Year: French Broad River Academy

Receiving the award on behalf of FBRA is Will Yeiser and John Douglas

Presented by Mark Stevens

  • The Academy has both a girls and boys middle school which executed  2,278 hours of community service working with organizations as Greenworks and Riverlink for river cleaning, trail maintenance, and other environmental work.
  • They teach a “Leave No Trace” for weekly outdoor activities including camping trips, canoeing, hiking, and more.
  • They are preparing students for a lifetime of service and environmental stewardship.


2017 Citizen Activists of the Year: Helen Hyatt, Mike Wasmer, Betsey Sterling and John Sterling

Presented by Mark Threlkeld

  • These activists worked on ensuring that a new Duke Energy electric substation would not be built on a highly trafficked corner with minimal buffering for public safety and using outdated technology for urban sites.  They educated the Asheville City Council and staff, as well as the local neighborhood about the problems associated with an old-style air-cooled steel and cable sub-station that had only a minimal public safety buffer. Instead, they advocated for a new gas-coiled technology that would greatly improve local conditions and aesthetics. 
  • Their advocacy resulted in Duke changing its plan and location. Instead of the old style station proposed to be built at the corner of Hilliard and Ashland, a new “GIS” sub-station is being installed in a brick building at a former Volvo dealership, on a 5-acre tract, on Patton Ave and Clingman, offering better technology and much more of a buffer for public safety.


2017 Sierra Club Volunteers of the Year Award: Beth Pape, Nikita Smart, Sade Mustakem, and Marta Alcala-Williams for Kids to the Country

Presented by Judy Mattox

from left to right: Eleanor Lane, Joanne Lazar, Susie Bell, Anike Mustakem, JD Diefenbach, Marta Alcala-Williams, Beth Pape, Sade Mustakem, Judy Mattox

  • We had 6 outings from June 23 to Sept 30:  Blue Ridge Visitor Center, Carl Sandburg National Park and goat farm, the Asheville North Carolina Arboretum, a blueberry picking farm, the Warren Wilson animal farm and garden, Craggy Pinnacle on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  
  • Our partners are the Housing Authority, Asheville City Schools, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, Hillcrest community, and MotherRead (a program of all of the above.)
  • Thanks to all our volunteers who make our program a success: Judy Mattox, Eleanor Lane, Joanne Lazar, JD Diefenbach, Marta Alcala-Williams, Nikita Smart, Sade Mustakem, Maryanne Rackoff, Mayo Taylor, Susie Bell, Ellen Feingold, Marsha Fretwell, and Scott Varn


2017 Sierra Club Green Business of the Year Award: New Belgium

Presented by Joel Mazeli to Sarah Fraser, sustainability officer from New Belgilum

  • This brewery has achieved a 99.9% annual waste diversion rate. All of its facilities feature LED lighting, radiant floor heating, and a solar hot water system. It has revitalized an 18-acre urban brownfield. 

Sarah Fraser and Joel Mazeli




Youth for Environmental Stewardship Special Recognition:  Elias Varn, Layla Fistos and Jamiley Makiti 

Presented by Judy Mattox

Photo, right to left: Elias Varn, Layla Fistos and Jamiley Makiti and Judy Mattox







2017 Sierra Club Volunteer of the Year Award: Diane Bauknight

Presented by Gail Solomon 

  • Diane manages the Sierra Club’sWenoca Facebook page and has tripled readership within a year!  She refreshs the page every day with new environmental posts.





2017 Sierra Club Volunteer of the Year Award: Sam Harben

Presented by Judy Mattox

  • Sam is retiring after serving 2 excellent years on the executive committee of Wenoca Sierra Club. He has been our representative on the Beyond Coal Committee during which time litigation has ensured the closure of the Asheville coal powered plant at Lake Julian.
  • Sam is also the Wenoca Sierra Club representative on the Asheville Regional Transit Coalition.
Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
Written by Deborah

Buncombe County Passes 100% Renewable Energy Goals


Last night, the Buncombe County Commission voted to commit to transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy for all municipal operations by 2030 and countywide by 2042. Thanks to all who wrote, who called, who came and spoke, and who have supported this effort since we began fighting for this.  And THANKS must go to the high school and college students who collected over 1800 signatures among them and spoke so compellingly about their commitment to get to this goal.  The vote was 4-3 with Brownie Newman, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Al Whitesides, and Ellen Frost voting in favor and the three Republicans making speeches about how they support the environment before voting no.  Commissioner Mike Fryer even lectured the 20 plus students there about how it was unachievable and they should be weatherizing homes rather than collecting signatures.

     A major victory at a time when things look so bleak in Washington and in Raleigh.

Mountain Express article – click here







Monday, November 20th, 2017
Written by Deborah

NC Chambers of Commerce support Clean Energy

Local chambers of commerce in North Carolina have first-hand experience with the benefits that come from the rising demand for, and investments in, clean energy.

So when Amazon was named as a 2017 Clean Energy Champion at this year’s annual Clean Energy Awards event hosted by Conservatives for Clean Energy and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, it was welcome news for one of the chambers that has already benefitted from North Carolina’s first wind farm: Amazon Wind Farm US East.

“This hugely successful project has brought major economic benefits to northeastern North Carolina,” said Win Dale, Executive Director of the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce. “And we hope that we’ll see other wind projects in various stages of development in the area come to fruition to benefit a region that so greatly needs these types of investments.”

The Amazon Wind Farm, which became operational in February, is a $440 million project that employed 500 people during peak construction and has a permanent crew of 17 on-site technicians. Landowner payments and taxes will inject $1.1 million into the local economy each year. Other business award winners included:

  • Google, which owns and operates a $1.2 billion data center in Caldwell County and purchases power from a solar project in Rutherford County;
  • Sierra Nevada, whose Mills River brewery uses 100 percent renewable energy;
  • Weyerhaeuser, the state’s largest private property owner, which leases land to the Amazon Wind Farm and plans to lease additional property for wind projects under development in Chowan and Tyrell Counties; and
  • New Sarum Brewing in Salisbury for its focus on energy efficiency.

“The nation’s leading companies have made access to renewable energy a key factor when deciding on site-selection and where to invest,” said Jennifer Behr, Senior Organizer for Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.

“To stay competitive with the rest of the country for these businesses and jobs, we must meet this growing corporate demand for renewable energy by having strong pro-business and pro-renewable policies,” she said. More.


Friday, November 10th, 2017
Written by Deborah

Dec 6: Holiday Party & Community Environmental Awards

Sierra Club presents “Community Environmental Awards” with our holiday potluck dinner Wed, Dec 6 at 6:30. Please bring a dish to share and your own place settings.

Location Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, corner of Charlotte and Edwin.
Contact: Judy Mattox, judymattox@sbcglobal.net, (828) 683-2716
Free and open to the public.