Natural and Cultural Resources

Our goal is to preserve and cultivate WNC’s sense of place by investing in cultural and environmental projects and programs that protect or enhance the quality of life in the region.

In 2012, the US Forest Service began the process of revising the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan that required public input and participation. CFWNC invested early and often in the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership that formed to bring together a broad set of interested groups. Over the life of the project, CFWNC awarded more than $180,000 to support the planning process. The resulting plan will guide management of the Forests for approximately 15 years. Photo courtesy of Wild South.

Broadening Opportunity through the Arts and the Environment

People have always been drawn to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Today, our mountains are home to a growing and diversifying network of cities, small towns and rural communities.

The region continues to depend on the natural areas to serve as the backbone of the agriculture, manufacturing and tourism industries. Farmers, specialty manufacturers, and creative economy entrepreneurs continually seek inspiration and source quality materials from the natural environment. To thrive economically, WNC must continue to be a place where talented people—and their businesses—want to be. This includes preserving the high quality of life in the region and providing the critical infrastructure needed by businesses to succeed.

As the region continues to grow, jurisdictions must work together to develop a well-balanced system of infrastructure that serves residents, supports communities and attracts new businesses to ensure both economic vitality and environmental resiliency.

"Having a shared vision of how the Forest Service should manage the over one million acres of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests helps turn potential conflict into cooperation."

— Lang Hornthal, Director, Root Cause Sustainable Forests Group

The Nikwasi Initiative was awarded $30,000 to further develop the Cultural Corridor in Jackson, Swain and Macon counties by supporting project management and coordinating functions of the Nikwasi Initiative. This effort is an unusual, if not unique, model of equal engagement between tribal and non-tribal participants around a co-developed and managed heritage-related community economic development project. Watch the video.

How We are Making a Difference

Goals and Objectives

The arts, the economy and the natural environment are inextricably linked. The creative spirit and natural assets of the area continue to attract people and businesses. As the region continues to grow, it is critical to protect and enhance these resources.

We will make grants to:

  • Protect and enhance the health of the region's natural systems
  • Support and develop the region's art-based economy

Signature grants have supported a reconciliation process that resulted in the development of the Nikwasi Initiative and Cherokee Cultural Corridor, efforts to reduce energy consumption thorough the Green Built Alliance's Blue Horizons Project, the transition of Haywood County's Folkmoot from a festival to a year-round program, the Center for Craft's study on affordable housing for the creative sector and support for established and grass roots arts projects across the region.

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area was awarded $25,000 to complete the Blue Ridge Craft Trails, an initiative to increase income for craft artists and businesses, enhance cultural tourism and improve economic opportunity in WNC. Photo courtesy of Penland School of Crafts, one of the Trail's anchor sites.

Strengthening the Region

Expanding Blue Ridge Craft Trails

A grant to Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is providing critical matching dollars to access a larger Appalachian Regional Commission grant to support the second phase of the Blue Ridge Craft Trails Project. During the first phase, which also received CFWNC funding, the project team identified more than 100 potential anchor sites and a web presence.

Craft is a growth industry for Western North Carolina, which is recognized as one of the leading centers for craft production and education in the United States. Despite this economic impact, there is currently no coordinated region-wide effort to market Western
North Carolina crafts.

Phase two of this project will expand the system of craft trails, train new initiative partners and market the trails to regional audiences and beyond. The regional tourism effort is being undertaken by a network of engaged partners and with an approach that is responsive to both the needs of the local craft community and the desires of visitors.

To learn more about our Natural and Cultural Resources focus area, contact Senior Program Officer Tara Scholtz at 828-367-9913.