By George, New River committee gets a place around state table
The New River will have a voice in a commission established by the General Assembly to provide more policy influence from the western portion of the state.
George Santucci, Executive Director of the National Committee for the New River, was appointed to North Carolina's newly created Mountain Resources Commission by N.C. Speaker of the House Joe Hackney after a nomination by N.C. Rep. Cullie Tarleton (D-93).
The commission was created by the N.C. General Assembly in August and is designed to recognize the importance of protecting the natural resources of the North Carolina mountain region. The commission will consist of 17 members representing a broad range of mountain interests including local government, mountain Councils of Government, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the North Carolina National Parks, the Parkways and Forests Development Council, the tourism industry, and the land trust community.
Tarleton characterized the commission as an opportunity to raise awareness of mountain issues across the state and in the political arena, saying it emerged from a caucus of mountain representatives who sought a way to gain a louder voice in Raleigh.
"People (in state government) believe everything good about the state is in the Piedmont or East," Tarleton said. "I thought George as executive director of the New River committee would be a great addition because of the river's importance."
The commission will be charged with coordinating multiple, ongoing local efforts to conserve water quality, wildlife habitat, native forests, scenic beauty and other natural resources in the mountain counties. The commission will make recommendations and help find resources for local and state governments, while also building on the work of similar efforts around the region.
Tarleton sees the commission's role as more than just cataloging environmental resources, though. He sees it as an ongoing economic-development tool for the region, though the commission will have an immediate hurdle to overcome.
"There's no appropriation to get it up an running because of the budget situation," Tarleton said. "There's no money yet. The commission will get together and find its direction until we can get an appropriation."
As a representative of the land-trust community, Santucci is particularly interested in balancing the economic interests of the region with its conservation needs.
"I hope the Commission will serve as a forum and will address important legislative and policy issues that need attention in our region, particularly in the areas of land and water use, and farmland preservation," Santucci said.
NCNR works in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia's New River watershed to protect the New River's water quality, scenic value and natural resources.