Gilmour_ Monroe

Document Sample
Gilmour_ Monroe Powered By Docstoc
					START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A                                        MONROE GILMOUR
                                                               AUGUST 21, 1998

        KATHY NEWFONT:                 This is Kathy Newfont interviewing Monroe

Gilmour and today is the 21st of August 1998.

                Well, Monroe thanks for doing the interview.

        MONROE GILMOUR:                Sure.

        KN:     I‟m excited to get started. I wondered if we could start out by--if you

could tell me a little bit about how you came to Black Mountain.

        MG:     Well, I guess, I came to Black Mountain probably before I was born. My

parents—both their families had homes in Montreat right outside of Black Mountain,

which was a Presbyterian conference center from the early part of the century. And so,

they came to Montreat in summers and had homes up there. So we always came here as

a child. Then my parents built a home here in North Fork Valley back in 1967, ‟68. We

just loved it out here.

        I worked overseas for many years and was married overseas. My wife came back

here to go to nursing school and when she finished we were going to live here in North

Fork Valley for a year before going back overseas. That‟s been twelve years now. So we

just love it and it‟s a great place for the kids. So that‟s why it looks like we‟re pretty

permanent now.

        KN:     And you grew up in Charlotte?

        MG:     Yes. I grew up in Charlotte and went to college at Davidson. Then went

in the Peace Corps in India and went to grad school in Oregon in management. And then

went back to Africa where I met, Fern, my wife, Fern Martin. Then we went back to
GILMOUR                                                                                     2

India for four more years with CARE. Then came to Knoxville and then to Black


       KN:     So she did her nursing training in Knoxville?

       MG:     University of Tennessee. Nurse practitioner.

       KN:     And could you talk a little bit about when you would spend most of the

summer up here growing up?

       MG:     It wasn‟t really most of the summer. It was, you know, two or three

weeks. And then we would come up off and on during the year, probably a weekend here

and there. That sort of thing.

       KN:     And, what did you do when you were up here? Could you talk a little bit


       MG:     Well, in Montreat they had what they call the Clubs Program. It‟s like a

sort of a day camp for kids. They would have activities and they go down in mythology.

And the overnight hike on Lookout Mountain, Sadie Hawkins dance. And they line up

all the boys and the girls down by the baseball field and they would give the boys, I don‟t

know, five minute head start and the girls would chase them all over Montreat. I just

remember one was chasing me once and going over a bridge over the creek. And I

thought, "She won‟t get me if I jump in the creek.” And so I did that and to my surprise,

she jumped off the bridge [laughter] into the creek.

       KN:     She catch you?

       MG:     Yeah. I went to the dance with her. [Laughter] Those were long ago

days. There goes a buzzard.
GILMOUR                                                                                      3

       KN:     And then when—what are your memories of being here? This house is

the one that was built in the sixties?

       MG:     Yeah. Well, I remember very vividly that first summer because I went off

to the Peace Corps in 1968 about exactly the day we‟re sitting here in August. But I lived

up here the whole summer building a fence around this house out of split rails.

       It was a very moving summer because I worked with this old mountaineer from

whom we had bought this land named Emory Penland. And he was a mountain man and

he had moonshine stills and the whole bit. He had great stories to tell and we‟d get this

great big old two-man bow saw and go up here behind the house and cut down a great big

locust and cut it into sections. And then he‟d show me how to split it and make a fence

post. And we made all the fence posts that way. Just being with him and he‟d sit and

want to talk and look out at the mountains and tell stories.

       So, it was really a—and it was real interesting because the Penland family had—

there were three mentally challenged adults in the family and they would work with us.

And I‟d say, “Okay, Johnny, put the—pull it up.” And he‟d pull it down so you‟d have

to--. But they‟re all very nice and we had a great summer of building that fence.

       All of that forest that you see out here was grass. This was a cow pasture. Where

we‟re sitting was part of a cow pasture. The fence was sort of aesthetic, but it was also to

keep the cows--. They used to sleep under the deck here.

       KN:     And so when you came back you said you didn‟t intend to stay. You were

just going to be here for a year when you came back after Fern‟s nursing school.

       MG:     Right. We‟d thought we‟d go back overseas. We‟d both worked

overseas for many years and really enjoyed that life, but we had a son right then and that
GILMOUR                                                                                      4

made it a bigger decision. We also liked it here. So we ended up staying and then two

more children came along. So we‟ve been here.

       KN:     Can we talk a little bit about how you first got involved in the Asheville

watershed controversy?

       MG:     Right. Well I remember very clearly driving up our road, dirt road that

comes up here to the house and looking out as we always want to do because it‟s such a

magnificent view of the whole watershed. And looking out and seeing this brown scar in

the middle of all this green. I thought, “Oh dear, somebody‟s developing something or

something.” And saw it going in and out for a few days and decided I‟m going to go over

there and find out where it is and what it is. And realized that it was actually on the

watershed. I couldn‟t just drive over to it. It wasn‟t that close. So we made the calls to

ask them, what‟s going on? That‟s when we began to look at it. And they invited us to

come down and they would show us what they were doing. They were quite proud of it.

So that‟s when we thought, “Well, this doesn‟t look real good to us.”

       KN:     And when you say “we”, who are you thinking of?

       MG:     Well, starting talking around the community here. You know this

watershed condemned many, many peoples‟ property back in the early part of the

century. So some of those families still live in this valley. When they saw that they just

felt like it was a sacrilege. It was adding—what is the phrase? “spite to injury” or

something on top--

       KN:     Insult to injury

       MG:     Insult to injury. That‟s it. Because not only had they had to leave but if

they were going to have to leave they wanted that place to be a pure, almost sacred place
GILMOUR                                                                                       5

and to see the clear-cutting going on. And then when they found out this was part of a

whole forest management plan that would include twenty-five acre clear-cuts all over the

watershed. And the reality is, you would do some each year. So there would be new

scars each year. And as the old ones grew up in fifty to seventy or eighty years, they‟d

cut them again. So what was really realizing is that this is forever. This rotation, clear-

cut rotation, if it was implemented the way they‟re thinking was, it would be forever.

       KN:     And how did you—did you call people about this? Like how did this get

started? Oh, she‟s waking up. Do you want me to stop the tape or something?

       MG:     Yeah. Let her come out and sit down.

[Recorder is turned off and then back on].

Excerpt starts here:

KN:    So did you call people or did people call you? How did this all get started?

       MG:     Well, I can‟t exactly remember. But I know that I did call people and ask

them, “Did you see this?” And then we worked up a tour to go out and actually see it.

And took several people and got some people that actually knew about forestry. I‟m not

sure at that time if I had ever heard the word “clear-cut” to be honest. And, also, for me

it was kind of interesting too, because I had always seen environmental issues as sort of

different from the kind of human issues that I‟d been working with in India with

starvation. And in Africa with the brutality of apartheid and people getting killed by

parcel bombs. You know the environment always seems sort of like a luxury to work on

that. It was quite an education because I came to realize that the same problems and the
GILMOUR                                                                                        6

same people sometime are in both. And I see it much more as an integrated problem.

And many times the one leads to the harm of the other.

       KN:     You said--. Actually that brings me to one of the things I was going to ask

you about. You said in the video, “Ready for Harvest” on the clear-cutting campaign that

for you it became a social justice issue. I wondered if you could talk more about that.

Why did you see it as a social justice issue?

       MG:     Well, I think part of that goes to a real deep acceptance of the premise

upon which our country was based. That this is a country of the people, by the people

and for the people.

       And I never will forget the forester out there, David Guggenheim. When we took

that tour we got to the end of the tour and we were standing around in an area of the

forest and just asking questions. And our question was: “Well, how does the public get

involved in the policies or the management decisions that are done here?” And he looked

at us and he said, “Well, actually we have the expertise and we know what‟s best to do

out here. If the public gets involved, it‟ll just be chaos.”

        I remember some of us looked at each other like, “Does he have any idea what he

is saying? This is public land. He is talking to citizens that are paying taxes that pay his

salary. And he is telling us that we don‟t have any part in how this is managed.”

       And, you know that is the same thing that is happening to, or was happening at

the time to, Africans in South Africa. They were being told that what they thought about

how they should live their life shouldn‟t have anything to—they didn‟t have any role in

it. So that‟s why I began to see the parallels between the kinds of “social justice” that I
GILMOUR                                                                                        7

had always thought of and this type of thing, which was basically doing the same thing in

a different arena.

        KN:     I think in that same quote, I believe it was, you said that you stopped

seeing it just as a biological and ecological issue. And so at this point you started seeing

it more in--.

        MG:     Right. I saw that it was very much an accountability issue. Is the

government going to be accountable and responsive to the people that it is over and that

are over it? So that plus seeing the kinds of poor response in terms of answers to our

questions, you started realizing that (1) they hadn‟t even thought through a real strategy.

Because their premise was, if there‟s a big forest, the thing you do to a big forest to

maximize its value is to put it into a timber rotation. And so they hadn‟t even considered

the kinds of questions that we raised. Plus, we began to realize too during that period that


        There were only a few people out there on staff who cared, who wanted to do the

logging. The twenty-five other employees out there who were mostly people from this

area, they hated it, too, the clear-cutting. But they couldn‟t do anything. They were job

scared. We started getting to know them thinking, at first, that, “Oh God, those tough

mountain strong workers out there are going to be against us and we‟re going to, you

know.” Well, it turned out they were for us. As we got to know them and got to hear

their stories of how they were treated as workers, employees, we realized that this

indifference to what others may think carried over to even how they were involved.

Eventually, we helped them form a public worker‟s union.

        KN:     Is this—CACAW did that? Citizens against--.
GILMOUR                                                                                   8

       MG:     CACAW per se didn‟t do that. Bob Warren and I did that on the side

really through another organization that we have called Western North Carolina Citizens

for an End to Institutional Bigotry. But, CACAW was the lead-in to even know what was

going on out there.

       KN:     Right. And you all had--. You mentioned there was an early meeting at

David Watson‟s house.

       MG:     Right. We met there. I think Allen Cargyle was there. His wife is the

doctor here in town. He‟s a carpenter. That sort of made us realize—made me realize

that this was kind of a heartfelt issue and we could move ahead on it.

       KN:     How did that meeting happen? Did he call it or--?

       MG:     I probably said, “Let‟s get together and talk about it.” I have been a

community organizer and I know that the first thing you do is listen to what people are

concerned about. So we spent a lot of time that spring visiting with people here in the

valley just to hear what they felt. And some of them felt like, you know, they‟d say,

“Yeah, it‟s horrible, we hate it. But you‟re not going to change them. You‟re wasting

your time. If government wants to do what they want to do, they‟re going to do it.” And

that was an attitude that people came to realize later wasn‟t necessarily true. That we

could have an impact.

       KN:     And did you know about the history of the watershed? The fact that

people had before this all started--?

       MG:     I mean back in the sixties, my family had the book, This Way My Valley,

which was written by Fred Burnette. Which is some ways is like hunting stories, bear
GILMOUR                                                                                     9

hunting stories, but it‟s also a book that gives you the flavor of how much people love

this valley. And how painful that whole thing was when they got moved out.

       KN:      So once you got started and you realized there were all these issues and

this was going to be an ongoing problem and that it was a problem of responsive or lack

of responsiveness on the part of these officials, what did you do? How did you go about

the campaign?

       MG:      As we got more knowledge (1) we learned the biological aspect of it. That

it didn‟t make sense. And then we started asking the questions. Why are you doing it?

This is not just the forest. This is a forest whose primary purpose for being there is to

provide water for the city. What kind of risk are you putting that water at by doing

logging like this when your signs posted all around it say, “Removal of any plant is a

crime.” And so, that brought us into touch with people at the Calweda Hydrological Lab.

       It brought us into touch with foresters like Walton Smith and the Western North

Carolina Alliance really helped educate us. And Allen—oh, I can‟t remember his

name—who was a professor at Warren Wilson at the time. We got some of those folks

that knew their stuff, biologically and from a forestry standpoint and we asked them for

tours. We took a couple of tours in the winter and early spring of ‟88. I guess we had

first noticed it back in August of ‟87.

       And so then—and I had been a community organizer so I knew the things that

needed to be done to have a public meeting to get the word out. In April—and this is

several weeks before our public meeting—but in April of that year we went public with

the opposition to the program. Before we went public we called them one last time and

spoke with the forester down there and said, “Look, after all we‟ve gone through as far as
GILMOUR                                                                                      10

the tours and learning about forestry. We could see that you could probably do a

selective harvest out there and not hurt the water and not hurt the character of the

mountain and this and that.” And I also will never forget his reply, saying, “No, this is

the right way to do it.” I think he felt it would be like it would be immoral to do it any

other way than what he was doing. So I said, “Well, okay, but we‟re going to have to

oppose it.”

       So that‟s when I went to a water authority meeting and Mayor Bissett at the time

was there. And I was telling him about it because it had been on the radio that morning.

It was the first word of it on WWNC. He said, “Well here, you should really talk to

Ralph Morris. He‟s the chair of the water authority.” And he turned around and he

happened to be right there. And everybody was sort of getting ready to have this meeting

and he introduced. And he immediately flew into a rage. He had heard the radio report.

       KN:     Ralph Morris.

       MG:     Yeah. He slung his arm out and said, “No one‟s going to listen to you.

You‟ll just be dismissed as a trouble maker.” This is when we—a half a second after we

met. I went, I mean I was shocked that he was this angry about us, you know. So I tried

to say, “Hey, let me explain why we‟re concerned” and this and that. But I always

remember that. That was the basically the kick-off. And I know that if I hadn‟t had

experience and thick skin that would have been really an intimidating thing. Because I

had a similar situation and you realize how tough it is for citizens to get involved in

things because that would scare off people who didn‟t really realize what was happening.

       Sometime before that in that same spring, I called Harold Huff, who was the

director of the water department to get—and ask him for a copy of the budget. That was
GILMOUR                                                                                     11

my first contact with him, also. He said, “No, he wasn‟t going to send it to me.” I said,

“Well, isn‟t the budget a public document that anybody can have?” He said, “Well, I‟m

not going to send it to you. And Mr. Gilmour you should know, you‟re dealing with the

big time now.”

       KN:       Oh gosh.

       MG:       This is the director of the water and sewer department. And I said, I

though to myself, “Gosh I thought the big time was when we were blocking the gates of

the CIA with six hundred people. I didn‟t realize that the sewer department was the big

time.” [Laughter] And I called the city manager immediately and explained what he had

just said to me. Five minutes later Mr. Huff called back and said, “Mr. Gilmour that

budget will be in the mail today.” [Laughter] But you see that is the modus operandi of

many officials in regard to citizens. And if you don‟t demand that they live up to what

their real role is, they can just stomp people. And that‟s what would have happened on

this if we hadn‟t all said, “Huh-uh.”

       KN:       Well that‟s brings up all kinds of questions for me, but let‟s start by kind

of walking through the chronology a little bit. So, one of the early things that you did

was organize this public meeting in May, May 26th or something, in 1988.

       MG:       Right. Leading up to that meeting, from the time we announced our

opposition, we also announced our petition. And every week, a couple days a week, or

on the weekends especially, we would be in front of Ingle‟s or Bi-Lo or other places

taking signatures. The post office, I believe, and we would have--. Some members of

our group would be there and take signatures on the petition that we had.
GILMOUR                                                                                    12

       We were also busy during that period getting endorsements from organizations.

The Blue Ridge Parkway sent a support letter; eventually, the county commissioners, the

Chamber of Commerce in Black Mountain, other businesses and organizations. So the

idea was that at the public meeting we would present a petition, present this petition. So it

was done very quickly, probably within a month. But we did get over two thousand

names, which in a town of five thousand is a lot.

       KN:     Right.

       MG:     So the chronology really was sort of finding out what‟s going on between

August, basically, of ‟87, and April of ‟88. And that included a couple of tours with--.

       We also took about five or six of us and went down to Otto, which is near

Franklin, to the Caweda Hydrological Lab. And we spent a day there having them take

us--. It‟s a marvelous place. One of the earliest research places on water and everything.

I mean, it is the expert. They took us all around, showed us all the logging experiments

they were doing and the effect on erosion and stream quality and stuff like this.

       And, basically, their message at that time was, “You can do clear-cutting if you

do it right, you can do it without hurting the streams.” The real damage actually comes

from the logging road themselves, not the clear-cutting, per se. But, they said, “If you do

it wrong, you have a catastrophe.”

       So part of our thing was, “Do you really want to take this risk? Is really--? Are

you getting so much money that it‟s worth this risk?” And we also pursued them to find

out “Well how much money are you getting?” You know we got copies of the contract

and copies of every document we could think of, including their management plan. You
GILMOUR                                                                                     13

know, I mean, I‟ve found from my own experiences you need to know the subject better

than the people on the other side and we clearly did.

       The most interesting thing over this whole period is that—and the whole fight,

really, that went on for several years—that every time we made a presentation or were at

the water authority meeting, they never once had their forestry people to answer the

questions. At first that just totally puzzled me. Why would they let us just have the day?

       The reason was—well, several—(1) they didn‟t have real good answers other than

they wanted to cut timber. But, I think it had a lot to do with the sort of dysfunctional

management situation in the whole water department. I don‟t think that the people that

did come, like Bob Holmes, who was the production supervisor out here. I don‟t think he

wanted the lower level people to have, sort of access to the water authority people.

Because they could go back and say, “Yeah, we had a big meeting and we‟re going to do

this and that.” But if you had those people start coming and they developed a personal

relationship with the water authority members then you‟ve lost your source of power.

And when you‟re insecure in it anyway because you‟re not doing it in a professional

manner that‟s the kind of artificial power that people rely on. That was my theory as to

why they never had the experts in there when we were making presentations.

       KN:     When you were presenting to the water authority.

       MG:     To the water authority our concerns, they did not have the people to say,

“Well, they‟re wrong. This is--.”

       KN:     Here‟s our side.

       MG:     Yeah.
GILMOUR                                                                                      14

       KN:     And so then you did all the—you did these presentations, you did the

petition drive and then you had—

       MG:     The public meeting.

       KN:     The public meeting.

       MG:     Right. And that was in the education room of the little public library in

Black Mountain and it ended up being totally packed. So much so that some people had

to be outside. And part of that reason was that the timber industry, by this time, had

taken this as sort of the line in the sand. [Child singing]. And they wanted to win this

battle because it was getting so much publicity and it was making clear-cutting look bad

and they wanted to do that everywhere. So they would come to every tour. We‟d have--.

You know, they‟d be coming from Silva, out that way. Anyway, they bussed in fifty

loggers still in their hard hats, their sleeves rolled up, looking big and strong. And it as a

very tense, intimidating meeting to begin with.

       I‟ve always really admired the way Jack Winn, who was our emcee that night,

handled it. Because he explained, “We‟re not here—you know, we‟re here to learn about

clear-cutting and to express--.” It really took the tenseness out of the air the way he

framed what we were going to do that night. Hanging outside some talking with some of

the loggers that were out there, they said, “Hey, we don‟t like this either. But we got to

work. This is our job. They told us to come.” So, anyway, the meeting had—there were

probably two hundred people—

       KN:     But these weren‟t people that were working on the watershed.

       MG:     No. No. These were the loggers coming from—they bussed them from

Silva out that way. They were working for T&S Hardwood and—
GILMOUR                                                                                        15

       KN:     And that‟s what makes you think they were drawing a line in the sand.

That it wasn‟t just about the watershed.

       MG:     No just that. Oh yeah, not just about the watershed. This is insignificant.

It was about the idea of clear-cutting because it was also a fight in the national forest at

that time. Though it became bigger later after the Alliance saw the success of our being

public and petitions and all that. Then we had a big clear-cutting campaign that focused

on the national forest the next year.

       KN:     So do you want to talk anymore about that meeting? Kind of what

happened there.

       MG:     Oh, well, at the meeting we had photocopied the petition and we blew it

up and put rows of signatures all the way across the front of the room saying, “Citizens

Against Clear-Cutting” and that. And we also had the petition itself had been taped

together in one sheet so it was in a scroll. And when that was presented to the children of

some of the people who had been involved. I think Terry Bartlett‟s daughter was one of

them. They brought it forward from the back of the room. I think I was back there

holding it and they took it forward all the way to the front. And Terry Bartlett presented

to them. And he did a great job.

       He‟s a carpenter who, as he said to me one time, that he thought we could never

beat them, he said. But he realized that if we all stuck together we could. For a

community organizer, when you see somebody who has not felt very empowered say

something like that that is the real satisfaction of the profession or vocation or whatever it


       KN:     He hadn‟t done anything like this before.
GILMOUR                                                                                     16

        MG:         Never done anything like this. I mean, he said so. But, you know, that‟s

the thing. When you find something that really touches somebody, they will do things

that they‟ve never done before to protect. It‟s almost what we would do to protect our

families, you know.

Excerpt ends here

        We had Karyn Hyman who is a botanist and biologist who had done a survey of

the watershed. They had paid her to do a survey. She was talking about, “it‟s great

biological diversity” and how wonderful it was and how they had even seen northern

flying squirrels up in there, which was, which is an endangered species. We had Allen—

I think can‟t quite get his name—Allan Healey, I think. I‟m sure it‟s in the papers

someplace. And he was the professor at Warren Wilson who was in charge of their

natural resources and he talked about clear-cutting and forestry and management—

        KN:         Haney. Was it Haney?

        MG:         Haney. That‟s it. Allen Haney. That‟s it. He then left soon thereafter to

go take a big job at the nation‟s number one natural resources school up in Minnesota or

Michigan to be their provost or something. Then we had Walton Smith, a fine old

forester, who had actually been part of the group that purchased the first pieces of the

national forest back in the thirties. Right down here, you know one of the first pieces is

just down here near Marion.

        KN:         Right. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about Walton Smith‟s

role in all this.

        MG:         Okay, well, Walton Smith made us realize that we weren‟t crazy. That we

had a legitimate beef and we didn‟t need to be intimidated by “these experts and these
GILMOUR                                                                                    17

foresters.” Our gut was really accurate. That this was unnecessary and inappropriate in

this context.

       I went down to visit him in Franklin and his house way up in the mountains near

there. And his wall is completely covered with plaques from forestry groups. He was the

director, I think, of the Southeast Forest Experiment Station. He was Mr. U. S. Forest

Service for so many years. And yet, he was just firmly convinced—and he had a working

farm—a working forest that he would train people in how to do selective cutting. He was

very much—he was for timber harvesting, but he was for doing it in a way that he felt

was much more compatible with the real life of a forest and that was through selection

harvest. So he was a—he was not an on the street type community organizer.

       And I think that at first, he may have felt a little uncomfortable with that both in

this and also in the Alliance. But then he came to realize—because he had been working

on this for many, many years, going through all the hoops of the Forest Service. Filling

out, you know, appeals and comments on plans and all the different bureaucratic things

that you got to go through, but he also began to realize that it has to be complimented by

a public visible expression from people across the board. He realized he wasn‟t going to

win it as an expert talking to them. And yet, just as we needed him to educate us and to

give us some sense of credibility, he needed us for the fire and the sense of numbers.

       And that‟s one thing, I think, that has made the Alliance as strong as it‟s been

over its fifteen years, is that it has had a wonderful combination of ordinary people who

are willing to express their passion and people who really know the subject technically.

It makes a great combination because you can‟t be buffaloed either way, politically or by

the experts.
GILMOUR                                                                                   18

       KN:     So he was one of the people then—thank you. That was great.

       MG:     He and his wife, Dee--. He died three or four years ago. It was a beautiful

funeral on his land, which I went down to. It was just—it gives me chills just thinking

about it. There were all these old foresters, and people were there and everybody put dirt

onto his casket. He was buried on his farm in his forest. But, yeah, he was one.

       Karyn, Allen Haney and then Jess Ledbetter also spoke from the perspective of

the county commissioners. I believe that Tom Sobel also stood up and spoke that night.

And that really gave us a boost to have, you know, people who are the political power

say, “Yeah, this is a legitimate cause.” Because a lot of times, they‟re the ones

sometimes that are opposing you. Let me stop for a second.

       [Recorder is turned off and then back on].

       MG:     And, well, let‟s see, after each of the experts quote spoke about it we also

provided an opportunity for the timber industry to speak about it. That really sold some

of them. One even wrote a letter complimenting us on letting the other side speak. Then

we did present the petition and made other suggestions on what people could do and that

sort of thing. But it ended and there wasn‟t the tenseness at the end that there was at the


       KN:     And you think that‟s because of the way the meeting was handled?

       MG:     Yeah because it was done in a not a very strident way. We‟re trying to

understand. We know we don‟t like this but we want to hear what you have to say, too.

       KN:     Okay. Let me flip this over.


GILMOUR                                                                                     19

       KN:     Okay. So do you want to walk us through what happened after the


       MG:     You mean in the weeks and months after it or do you mean--? Well, I‟m

trying to think. I know that we made appeals to Powell Wholesale Lumber to change and

there was a lot of tenseness during the summer. [Child‟s voice]. Oh, okay.

       Yeah, I almost forgot that Hugh Morton, the owner of Grandfather Mountain, and

probably one of the best known western North Carolinians, or North Carolinians, for that

matter. We had called him sometime before and he was, at the time, also very concerned

about clear-cutting up by the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain. So he

agreed to come over and say a few words at our meeting. So he sat up in the front with

the other experts and he spoke. That really--. In fact, his presence there really gave the

meeting a kind of a celebrity kind of status. And the headline the next day was, “Morton

Says Clear-Cutting Not Smart” or something. So that was a big boost, also, having his

presence there. He was very supportive. Soon thereafter, he really sort of shifted his

concerns to air pollution and he has done some marvelous work on documenting the

effect on the forests throughout western North Carolina on air pollution. He has a slide

show and the whole bit on it.

       KN:     But you had just called him and told him about--?

       MG:     Right. And I think he must read the Asheville paper. He was aware of it

and I think we sent him a packet of information and asked if he could come over and lend

his voice. I think he realized it was a good point to do it because it had gotten so much

publicity that it was obvious that it was becoming a line in the sand with the timber

industry. And I think he wanted to have a voice in it.
GILMOUR                                                                                   20

               See, I‟m just looking at the scrapbook here and I see you asked what

happened afterwards. I see that in May 10th, oh no, that was May 26th was the--. That

was a little before wasn‟t it? [Child‟s voice]. Okay. This is Sarah Elizabeth Gilmour

who is helping us here.

       KN:     Joining us on the tape.

       MG:     Joining us on the tape.

       KN:     Probably her first oral history interview. [Laughter]

       MG:     That‟s right. And, it‟s really for her that all that was done even though she

wasn‟t even here at the time. [Laughter]

       KN:     Now, why is that? Why was it done for her? Why do you say that?

       MG:     Well, because if you‟re talking about putting clear-cutting—putting a

forest into a clear-cut rotation, you‟re talking about forever. You‟re talking about not just

her but her children and their children and on and on. Because if you took this twenty

thousand acre watershed and you start putting twenty-five acre clear-cuts all around it in

sixty years some of them are going to be back up to where the timber would be

marketable again. So you‟re going to cut them again. And then you would then go to the

next one and the next one. And that could just keep on going.

       KN:     I was just picking up on something you said before. You were saying that

when you find an issue that really speaks to peoples‟ hearts and they get involved that

sometimes—and you were using Terry Bartlett as an example—that sometimes it‟s

almost what they would do if it were their family. What was it in this case that made

people get involved the way they would if it were family?
GILMOUR                                                                                    21

       MG:       Because—I think people got involved the way that they did because this

wasn‟t just another forest somewhere. This was, for many of them literally, their homes.

Many of their parents and relatives, actually, their graves were dug up and moved to

where the present Mountain View Baptist Church is. This is where many of them had

grown up, some of the older ones. It was a cherished, cherished homeland. To have it

cut in a way that clear-cutting just looks so devastating. Even if you realize that it‟s

going to grow back over time the immediacy of the brown scar in this beautiful green

forest, it just makes you angry. It made a lot of people angry. Sometimes my role was to

keep people calm so that that anger would be channeled and not just lashing out, you

know. So, there was that and people beyond who didn‟t have those kind of relatives, I

think they saw this as a real treasure that Asheville had. And to mess this treasure up--.

       I mean, here the government, the tourism aspect, the Tourism Authority spent that

same spring a quarter of a million dollars on an ad that went in “Gulf” and “Boca Raton”

magazine, all the Florida retirement magazines with the theme: “Asheville: It will lift

your spirit.” And the photo taken was a photo of a couple sitting up at Craggy Gardens

looking down over the whole Asheville watershed. The reality was that right in the

middle of the photo is where the clear-cutting was starting and it would cover the whole

thing. It wasn‟t going to lift anybody‟s spirit when they finished. So, as we made that

more public--.

       And the government officials really helped us in a lot of ways, the ones who were

against us, by some of the things they said. For example, Ralph Morris, who was the

chair of the water authority at that time, he said in the paper that he—he refused to come

to our public meeting. He said he wasn‟t going to go out there and be lectured to. That
GILMOUR                                                                                        22

sort of arrogant, get your back up rather than, you know. Another example, excuse me,

of his--. I asked him if he would come out—when I first asked him, I called him and

asked him if he would come to the public meeting. And he said, “No.” He said, “The

first thing if I come to your meeting the first thing you know the people in Barnardsville

might ask me to come to a meeting.” I said, “Well, you know, you did agree to be in this

position. It‟s not like we‟re just calling you out of your home and you don‟t have any

reason. I mean, you did agree to be the chair of the water authority.” [Laughter] But he

just saw it as an inconvenience and he wasn‟t going to come out here and be lectured to.

        I think it really—a lot of those attitudes—the budget one I mentioned, it really

goes back to this idea that the government isn‟t, doesn‟t have to be responsive to the

people. It‟s sort of an elite that run it, the good old boys, if you want to call it that. I

think that one thing this did was change that power dynamic, you know. [Child‟s voice].

        KN:     It changed that power dynamic.

        MG:     I think so. Well it contributed to changing it. And then what really

changed it, at least in the Asheville area, was a couple of years later while this was still

going on. But they had the big fight over the French Broad River. There Jeff Fobes

really led that fight. The total power structure of Asheville wanted it to be the French

Broad River, the water source. And grassroots people organized and came up and beat it

two to one and that made people sit back and take notice.

        KN:     One of the things that I mentioned to you before that this particular project

is talking about is community. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about whether

you see any kind of implications for community in all of this.
GILMOUR                                                                                      23

        MG:     Right. I remember when we first moved here meeting one of the old-

timers here in the valley and saying, “We‟re here now and we‟re going to be here for a

while.” And he said, “Yeah, you know, out in North Fork we all help each other when

we need it, but we don‟t need to see each other all the time.” [Laughter] I thought it was

kind of a really nice way of saying, “Well, you know, we don‟t all have to just run over

and see everybody every day.” And there is--I‟ve noticed that that really is the reality.

There is a sense of community without there being a lot of structure or ways in which that

community comes together. There‟s sort of this subtle understanding and camaraderie.

        This event probably brought the community together when we actually had

meetings at Mountain View Baptist Church and other places in ways that we haven‟t seen

since. But, I think, the community also still feels the pride in having affected the future

of this valley the way they did.

        KN:     And you talk about yourself as a community organizer, and when you say

that, what do you have in mind? What are you thinking of?

        MG:     Well, community organizing really is a methodology. And I guess for

some people, they don‟t really know what that means because they haven‟t been around

it. I‟ve been around it so much that I don‟t think about it because it‟s been so much a part

of my life the last fifteen years.

        But, a community organizer—and many times community organizers work for an

organization and their job, really, is to go out and listen to the people in the community

and help those people get what they want. Not in a greedy kind of way, but in a way that

you try to fulfill the aspirations of a community. So, when I said earlier about it being

something that touched peoples‟ hearts, the first the a community organizer knows is (1)
GILMOUR                                                                                      24

that his only power, or her only power, is in the numbers of people. So you really have to

listen in order to find out what is bothering the people. What would they like to see

changed? How would they like their community to be improved? And trying to force

something that‟s not really a concern is a recipe for frustration a lot of times. It‟s difficult

even because of fear and job fear and all kinds of things, it‟s difficult even when it does.

But you can always go to people and say, “Look. I understand that you can‟t write a

letter to the editor because of your job, but could you do this? But could you quietly call

so and so on the county commission and tell them how you feel?”

        So, I think Oscar Romero said, everybody can‟t do everything, but everybody can

do something. And so I think as community organizer, you‟re also sensitive to where

people are. That not everybody can get up there and lambaste them or something and

you shouldn‟t pass judgement on them because they can‟t. But recognize and look for

ways for them to be involved in ways where they do feel comfortable. Maybe they‟ll feel

comfortable signing a petition, but maybe not come to a meeting. Or, you know, maybe

they‟ll be glad to come and talk at the meeting. So a community organizer‟s really the

glue for people as they try to address a problem in their community. If it‟s done well the

community organizer is very much in the background.

        I was a lot more in the foreground here than I would approve of. Of course, I

wasn‟t a paid organizer in this case. I was one of the community people, so I rationalize

it that way. But I always tell people who are community organizers the less you do, the

more effective you‟ll be. And sometimes that means compromising on what may be said

or done. Because if you get one of the community people to speak, they may not say it

exactly like you have or marshal all the facts or this and that, but you will have gained
GILMOUR                                                                                        25

one more strong voice who probably will be willing to speak again. Whereas, if you had

done it, you‟re still just out there alone. So, that‟s why it was real exciting to see Terry

Bartlett take the microphone and be up there and present the petition and Jack Winn--.

Actually, in that public meeting, I didn‟t say anything until the very end in response to a

question. Somebody asked, “What can we do?” I think I got up and spoke then. That‟s

the ideal for someone who is a “professional community organizer.”

        KN:        You all hadn‟t lived here very long when this all happened.

        MG:        Right. I had come--. You know when we moved here in December of

‟86, I had come from two years of a very intense community organizing as a staff person

for a very active group of blacks and whites in Knoxville. And I really was looking not

to get involved in a few issues right away. I spent the first few months digging out our

basement, basically, with a shovel. It was only later in that summer when we saw that

clear-cut that we started getting involved here.

        KN:        Did you already have a lot of ties to the community when you--?

        MG:        Oh yeah. See we had been here since ‟68 so I knew some of the people in

the community since then. That probably helped a lot because I wasn‟t just a total

outsider at all.

        KN:        So people knew you from before?

        MG:        Some, yeah, yeah.

        KN:        One of the other things, too, Monroe, I wanted to ask you about was, just

more specifically, community. What do you think of when you think of the word? What

do you mean by that when you use the word?
GILMOUR                                                                                     26

        MG:        Well, you know, having worked in Africa and in India and in rural West

Virginia and rural South Carolina and rural North Carolina, I think there‟s some

characteristics of it that are similar even though the outward manifestations might be

quite different.

        A community is really a diverse group of people that have a common interest in

where they live and how that context in which they live affects their families. So they

want to work together to make that context as good as they can for their kids, really. And

sometimes in working with groups you also find people who define their community very


        I mean, my community is North Fork Valley. That‟s it. Others sort of have a

bigger view of their community and it‟s Black Mountain and Swannonoa Valley. To

others it‟s Buncombe County, western North Carolina, the state. You know, until you get

people who really feel the world as their community. And they feel a real deep

dedication to making sure this whole world is in a certain way. That‟s where, sometimes,

the old phrase from Gandhi, think globally, act locally. That can help somebody from

just being a dreamer to being something that can make some difference. But then others,

they make a difference on some pretty wide scale, you know.

        So community, for me, is—and it always amazes me having lived all over the

world, how people live together as well as they do. Even with all of the problems you

hear about and the crime and the this and the that, the majority of the people are just

trying to have a happy life with their children. Many times people like that will value

having an opportunity to channel their desire in a way that will accomplish it better than
GILMOUR                                                                                     27

by themselves. So I see communities as being power bases, also. We can do more as a

community than we can as individuals.

       KN:     And how do you think people decide who is their community?

       MG:     I don‟t know that it‟s a very intellectual calculation as much as that gut

sense of knowing what I‟m going to protect or what I‟m going to try to make better, you

know. In a sense that I guess I draw the line and don‟t cut my neighbor‟s grass in the

sense that I recognize that this is “my yard” and I‟m going to take care of it. At the same

time, if my neighbor calls me to help I‟ll go over there. Now I have lost my train of

thought on what your question was.

       KN:     How you think people decide?

       MG:     Oh yeah how people think they decide. So I think there‟s that very micro

level. But then I think people also can see cause and affect. There are a lot of people

very concerned about this Asheville watershed who have literally never seen it. But

knowing it was there. Knowing how—what a unique place it was and how it was

impossible to replicate anywhere else now in western North Carolina almost. I think that

they identified with it as part of the community, of something that they wanted to see

retained and to retain its character. I think that we do that on different levels.

       During that spring, actually--. Let‟s see, it may have been actually the spring of

‟87, I guess. I was still very involved with other issues that I was working on, Central

America issues and South Africa issues, apartheid and that sort of thing. You know I felt

as much of a feeling that I had a responsibility in those spheres as part of my rural

community view as right here on North Fork.
GILMOUR                                                                                        28

       One person once that I worked with, a community organizer in Knoxville, he

reminded me. He said, “Just remember what you‟re doing right here would probably get

you killed in most countries.” Not most countries, in some countries. And, you know,

that‟s a sobering thought. And it‟s one that makes you appreciate the fact that we are as

free as we are. Even with all our complaints about this and that, there is tradition of

citizen involvement here that really is difficult to find in this way in other places.

       KN:     That‟s one of the things that we‟re interested in is what do you think of--.

I mean, you‟re an expert at sort of helping people get involved, citizens get involved.

What do you think are the roots—we‟re calling it Democratic renewal. But what do you

think are the roots of that ability for citizens to get involved here?

       MG:     Well, I think the first thing is they have to have faith that they‟re getting

involved makes a difference. Or they have to have a gut thing that says for their own

sense of dignity they have to speak up. I‟ve worked with workers who were very much

putting themselves at risk by speaking up. But they had gotten to the point where their

human dignity demanded that they do it whatever they consequences. So I think there‟s

different levels of motivation that people have for getting involved. But I find most of

the issues like--. Since I have done this so many times and even though it‟s a different

issue, a lot of what you do is the same: the research, the community, finding a channel.

All of that can be the same. And that‟s why I say there is a methodology to it rather than

just the uniqueness of this.

       But I know when I get a call, and I get calls from people they‟ve heard around

that I work on things. And I remember this one mother called and there were racial

problems down at the high school could I help. And I knew at that moment that if I said
GILMOUR                                                                                        29

yes, it was a four-year commitment probably. And it was and it‟s still going on. You

find people many times who are ordinary who weren‟t looking for a fight, but they‟re put

in a situation that they cannot do anything else. It‟s so gratifying to be able to be just a

sounding board. There are some situations I‟ve worked with where all I‟ve done is

basically be here for them to call and say, “Hey, this happened. What do you think?” It

just gives them the strength to know they‟re not alone.

       We have a free speech award that‟s given each year. Millie Buchannan at the

Clean Water Fund and I founded back in ‟88 when a professor out at UNCA lost her job

for speaking out on Central America. Every year the people who come many times they

have no idea the others existed over the time, but when they get up there the same kinds

of words come out of their mouths about how they weren‟t looking for a fight but they

had to protect their community.

       This real powerful couple, regular folks from Old Fort Marion who have stood up

to this plant down there that‟s been spewing toxic stuff into the air for years had been just

slapped on the wrist by the state. And she has emphysema now and yet they‟re still

determined. It‟s real inspiring to be able to work with people who are willing to put their

convictions on the line, you know.

       KN: And when people get to that point that they want to put themselves on the

line either because they feel they can make a difference or they feel like because of their

human dignity they have to do it, whether or not it makes a difference. What are the

resources that they can draw on? What do you think that they--?

       MG:     Well, that is what I wish there more community organizing resources, per

se. You know there are groups like the Southern Empowerment Project near Knoxville
GILMOUR                                                                                      30

and Grass Root Leadership in Charlotte that have provided training. But a lot of times

when this happens, unless they‟re lucky and get the name of an organization that‟s

familiar with community organizing they can feel very alone and can feel overwhelmed

by it.

         I mean I‟ve often suggested to several presidents down here at one of the colleges

that this mission of being these world citizens and changing the world and stuff, if you‟re

not teaching community organizing within that it‟s really a hollow mission. Because

you‟ve got to have real skills in how to do it, how to identify your allies, identify your

target, identify your tactics, working out a time-line of what you‟re going to do when and

how you‟re going to put pressure. Sometimes people don‟t even research enough to find

out who they need to be asking for what they want. All these things are very common

sense and very sensible, but if you haven‟t done it before it can seem totally


         I‟m having a real interesting experience right now working with the Inter-Tribal

Association. And they‟ve been great because they want to know how to do this. And

they are just soaking it up. They had a press conference a couple of weeks ago that got

real good coverage. They did all the talking. They were on National Public Radio this

morning. Sometimes they‟ll say, “Gosh, we wouldn‟t have known what to do.” And

they‟ve got perfect capabilities of doing it all. It‟s just having the experience and seeing

the whole thing in a systematic way rather than just lashing this way and that way as you


         KN:    So people like you who sort of make this their life‟s work, that that‟s one

of the real important resources that we have.
GILMOUR                                                                                     31

       MG:     Oh yeah. There‟s no question. If there‟s somebody who has done it

before is helping you, it helps. That‟s how I learned. I learned from a mentor. I had to

ask questions every ten seconds.

       KN:     How did you learn?

       MG:     Well, I was in Knoxville. We had just come back from India for Fern to

do her nursing program and I read in the paper that this group of low-income blacks and

whites were going to be arrested for registering voters in the cheese lines in Knoxville.

You remember in the eighties, they had big commodity distributions. Having been

overseas and heard this talk about in America we do this and we‟re a democracy, I was

just really--. I had to call them and say, “I‟ll help you.” They eventually won that fight

in court with the help of legal services in Knoxville. Bill Murrow who was the legal

service person--. He really was my community organizing mentor. But they had

gotten—somebody had heard about them.

       They had been doing some really good work. Their office was in the trunk of this

one woman‟s car. They had gotten this Stern Foundation out of New York had given

then fifteen thousand dollars about six months before. They‟d put it in the bank and were

scared to death to mess with it. They thought they‟d blow it. They wouldn‟t do it right.

They were trying to find a staff person. So they asked me if I would be their staff person

after I went out, and volunteered with them and worked with them. I had had a lot of

management experience.

       So I remember the day that they offered me this job. All they had was fifteen

thousand dollars forever, unless you had some more money. The same day the

Southern—what was it called—SHARE. It was a big food bank type thing for all of
GILMOUR                                                                                   32

eastern Tennessee, sixteen counties, I think. They had been interviewing me and they

wanted me to their director. It meant solid benefits, solid pay. I would be doing a lot of

what I was doing in India with CARE and food distribution. But, somehow, I knew, even

when I was with CARE that I wanted to work, so to speak, on the other side of the street,

with people who weren‟t--. I always called it “United Way approved.” [Laughter]

Although I‟ve worked very closely with the United Way on many things and they do

great work. Anyway, I literally had a sleepless night. I think it‟s probably the only really

sleepless night I‟ve ever had deciding what to do. It was a great decision. I chose to go

with that community group. It was just a wonderful experience. There was plenty of

frustration and this and that, but we had some wonderful victories on different issues.

Working with them was just a real highlight and I learned so much.

        Bill Murrow, who is with Legal Services now, he really had started this group.

He is the pros‟ pro on community organizing. He taught me about everything I‟ve

learned. And then I did take a course from the Midwest Academy. It‟s based in Chicago.

But they were doing a—in conjunction with Grass Roots Leadership in Charlotte, they

held a community organizer training at Winthrop College and I took that. It was only a

week, but it helped solidify a lot of the philosophy and methodology for me. So that‟s

how I sort of got into it.

        KN:     So Monroe, how is it that you have--? What do you trace as sort of the

root of this drive that you have, this commitment to social justice?

        MG:     Well, I mean I don‟t want to put myself up on some type of pedestal about

that. But, I mean I think it all boils down to perhaps believing what they told me in

Sunday school and then finding out sometimes later that even they didn‟t believe what
GILMOUR                                                                                    33

they were telling me in Sunday school. But, I think it all boils down to fairness. It is

intolerable to do nothing when somebody is being treated unfairly. That‟s probably the

crux of whatever motivates me.

       KN:     So you‟ve done a lot of anti-racist work also in this area besides focusing

on the environmental stuff. You‟re well known for that. And do you see those as

connected then?

       MG:     Totally, totally connected. In fact we have to make presentations

sometimes before the same deciding bodies, you know. Plus you get into the whole

realm of environmental racism, also. We haven‟t had specifically those kinds of cases

here where black communities have been built on former hazardous waste dumps. And

we haven‟t actually found one like that here. But you realize that really the big picture of

what we‟re talking about is power and control of resources, control of money. Whether

it‟s environmental or racial, that‟s what‟s at the core. [Child‟s voice.]

       KN:     Well, we‟re going to talk more about the watershed.

       MG:     I think when you are in community organizing you look for things that

will expose the kind of hypocrisy or weaknesses of the people who are preventing

something from happening. So during this whole campaign, we tried to point those

things out on the watershed. For example, we found out that they built twenty-three very

substantial picnic tables to go out by the watershed. So here they were telling people

they couldn‟t go out there. And they were cutting that down, but they were building

picnic tables to have picnics out there. So we raised that point, which was embarrassing

to them. We asked, “Well, how much are those picnic tables costing?” And at first they

tried to say they cost seven hundred dollars. Well, the wood in one of those was probably
GILMOUR                                                                                     34

a hundred dollars. They were very thick and nice cured wood, you know. So that

happened and we also had the situation where one of our members, Roger Brown, filmed

the assistant director of the water department going up there with his girlfriend. He also

went up there and tested out a boat that he was going to buy, on the watershed.

       KN:     So you‟re talking about Roger Brown going out to video.

       MG:     Right. And took video of them going up there with the boat onto the

watershed and they were very angry about that. A few weeks later when he was walking

down below the dam, which is permissible—was permissible, they arrested him. That

same guy that they had taken video arrested him and actually filed charges for trespass

and it went to court. It was in the middle of the time when we thought the logging

company might change their mind and agree to let the city buy out the contract and not

finish that immediate contract. So we didn‟t really press it. It did go to court. I was a

witness as someone who my only ability was to talk about what the policy had been and

the fact that it didn‟t arrest people in that place. We also had one of the wardens on our

side saying, “We never arrest people. If we find people down there in that portion, we

just ask them what they‟re doing and ask them to get on out.” So it was dismissed, the

trespass charge. All of those kinds of things, cumulatively, made them look pretty bad

and that helped out cause

       KN:     One of the things that I found interesting in this was the relationship

between the residents of the North Fork Valley and the watershed management, and

maybe, by extension, the city as well. I was interested in that because there seemed to

be--. There was also the question of a road that they were going to close off, I think, that

people had had the use of.
GILMOUR                                                                                      35

       MG:     Right. North Fork Road makes a loop that goes through the watershed

property below the dam and then comes back out on the other side. It‟s probably if

you‟re going from one side to the other, and you go all the way around out by the public

road, it‟s probably three to five miles extra drive than just driving straight through the

watershed. And so for a while there they closed off the gates and wouldn‟t let people

through just to spite--. It wasn‟t they, it was really one person, the production manager

out there, the superintendent or supervisor. He was just going to show this community he

was in charge. So that didn‟t help their cause either. But as far as the--.

       They had usually around thirty people working out there doing all kinds of things

from lab testing of water to road maintenance to administration and to monitoring the

tanks all over the city from there. So we came to realize it was only three or four people

if that, two or three that were really passionately wanting this logging program.

       In fact, many of the people, some of them lived in the North Fork community.

Some of them, many of them lived in Black Mountain. One was a neighbor just down

the hill here. They all would speak up on different levels. Everybody was job scared.

But at least it gave us a lot of strength knowing that we weren‟t up against this whole

staff out there. We were just up against two or three people. In fact, they—different ones

would feed us information about what was going on, which was very helpful to us.

       One time that made them particularly angry is--. One of the things they tried to

do on the other side is they tried to get credibility by having Forestry Commission or

some other group come out there and endorse that they‟re doing a good job. The irony

was that the co-chair of the group was the forester out there. So anyway, somebody

passed along to another member of our group one of the letters that they were writing
GILMOUR                                                                                      36

condemning us and everything else. So we exposed it before they even wrote it and they

were just so mad.

       One of the workers told me that they had a meeting out there one time with all the

workers and it was kind of tense because they didn‟t know who to trust. They asked this

question: I forget what it was about, one of the two or three was there said, “Why don‟t

you go ask Monroe Gilmour? He‟s running this place.” So they had a real bunker

mentality after a while. And, partly, it was well deserved because they didn‟t have any

answers for what was being asked. So they felt very paranoid and very fearful. But that

grew out of their inability to sit down and talk something out. Because they were so

intent on protecting what they were doing and they didn‟t have a good reason for doing it

that they just became defensive just for its own sake, so to speak.

       KN:     Also, along those same lines, there was the--. In one of the newspaper

articles they said, talking about you, that you had said that people that lived near the

watershed often act as protectors, putting out brushfires and reporting poachers to the

authorities, and that clear-cutting brought about a loss of respect for the land, which in

turn invites more trespassers. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about that.

       MG:     Well, I think any time you‟ve got a protected water source, keeping people

out is an important role. It‟s impossible in something this big. But to minimize it is the

best, both from the standpoint of fire to polluting the water to other kinds of degradation

of the water source. And it was true that there was fire that almost went over the ridge

into the watershed and I think Terry Bartlett and some of them put it out. He lived right

on the—literally on the property line with the watershed. Who knows how much that

could have saved the watershed? Similarly, if they saw people parked down by the gate
GILMOUR                                                                                     37

on a weekend they‟d call over and tell them. Because there was a sense that this is a

special place and we want to protect it. So after a while people were saying, “Heck, I

don‟t care what happens. If they‟re going to tear it up, why should I care? If they‟re

going to clear-cut it and mess it up that bad, then I don‟t feel any ownership of it.”

Especially if they‟re doing that against our wishes.

        So then that whole thing with the road came along and the arrest and different

things like that. So there was a real bifurcation of us and them-ness. That was really us

and them in the sense of us and the two or three people that wanted to keep it going. And

meanwhile, down underneath that you had the staff telling us what was going on and us

telling them what was going on. Often they were subject to rumor and myth and we had

to tell them what was going on at water authority meetings and other meetings that we

had where we could ask questions they wouldn‟t dare ask.

        KN:    How did you all establish trust with these people? This is a dicey


        MG:    Well, trust in the sense that they already had—they were already alienated

from their managers because they were treated like dirt. And they didn‟t like the clear-

cutting. One out there is a magnificent photographer. One of the wardens and she has

taken just magnificent—



        MG:    Well, I‟m saying that as we talk about it and in scrapbooks it looks like,

oh, well, this was an inevitable thing that just proceeded along and we just moved along

in a nice happy progression toward winning this thing. But back then it didn‟t feel that
GILMOUR                                                                                   38

way at all. There was a lot of stomach grinding and agony when you looked down.

Because I can look down and see certain things and you see a truck. Oh dear, what‟s that

truck doing? Or you would hear something. You would—there would be a rumor about

something. Then the timber industry would say something. And you‟d say, “Oh dear.”

That just sounds so ominous. So it was really a—it was like a roller coaster ride. There

would be highs and lows all along through those years. You know it never really felt like

it had some closure.

       I always laugh. This one newspaper reporter, who would be interesting to

interview, Clark Larson, because he was with it from the very beginning all the way

through. He used to kid me and say, “Look.” We had a joking ice cream cone bet. He

bet me early on. He said, “They‟re not--.”

       SARAH GILMOUR: Daddy, Daddy, I like ice cream.

       MG:     Yeah, she‟d like that ice cream cone, too. He said, “You‟re not going to

cut anymore out here.” And I would be dubious about that because it had never been

really killed. So I finally admitted that I probably owe him an ice cream cone. Not until

like 1995 when they passed a conservation easement that will prohibit.

       SG:     Ice cream.

       MG:     Okay.

[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

       KN:     So you didn‟t feel this was a done deal until that easement was passed?

       MG:     No. In fact, it was like we have got to be on our alert all the time. They‟re

going to sneak something through. There was never a sense that we didn‟t have to keep

watching until that easement was signed.
GILMOUR                                                                                      39

        KN:    Do you think other people felt that way, too?

        MG:    Well, I think some people thought it was over. But then they might not

have been in on the day to day, all the little nuances of it. They just realized it wasn‟t

happening so they could go back to their business. But people working--.

        Usually on any community organizing thing you have different levels of

involvement. You have a small core group that are dealing with the day to day details

and keeping an eye out. Sort of watch dogging the thing. Then you have others that

come in where there‟s need for a public voice. Then they‟ll be there. And that sort of

thing. So, I imagine that some of the people outside felt probably from 1991 or 2 that it

was probably finished.

[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

        MG:    You see watershed clear-cut has begun to grow. You see he brought them

out there. This was all--. You see he didn‟t say that he was chair of this same

commission that he brought out there. We never said--. We knew it was going to grow

back. That wasn‟t the issue.

        KN:    Right. So you‟d see something like that in the paper? I wondered about

that actually when I saw that. When I came to this article I thought that must have


        MG:    And you see they love to do this. [unclear] rather selfish that Randy

Dinman. You see Randy Dinman, procurement forester for the company doing the

cutting and they don‟t even--.

        You know, Clark, I gave him razz about that. He didn‟t even identify him as

such. He was just of the commission. And this commission, it‟s not really a commission.
GILMOUR                                                                                    40

You can be of the commission by just going and saying you want to participate. In the

thirties, it was a commission, you know, appointed by the governor or something like

that. It‟s a lobby group for the timber industry.

       KN:     This is the forestry commission?

       MG:     Yeah, which was part of the Western North Carolina Development

Association. They didn‟t like the fact that this group was getting into controversy. They

like worked with all these little communities in western North Carolina. Occasionally

you‟ll see something about what they do. They have prizes for the most beautiful

gardens. The this and the that. But their job is to promote different sectors. I think

there‟s a cattle and apples probably and other things and this is the forestry. You know

the idea was in a nice way, let‟s just promote forestry. But not thinking in terms of a

context of a fight because it was formed long before all of this controversy.

       KN:     And one of the things—it‟s interesting that you say that because Esther

Cunningham, who was one of the founders of the Alliance, got started out of the Carson

Community Club which is associated with the—

       MG:     I know, I know. They always win awards and stuff.

       KN:     And the Carson Community Club was one of the early supporters of the

Alliance, so, indirectly—

       MG:     That‟s where it was founded. She is the founder.

       KN:     Right.

       MG:     I‟ve got an award in there, the Esther Cunningham Award. Yeah. Have

you interviewed her for something?
GILMOUR                                                                                    41

         KN:   Yeah. I interviewed her for the Women‟s Leadership project. But so the

development—indirectly the Western North Carolina Development Association was in

on the founding of the Western North Carolina Alliance.

         MG:   Yeah, in that sense, you‟re right. I never thought about that part of it, but

you‟re right. It would have been.

         KN:   So they were both, in a way, embroiled on both sides of this.

         MG:   Right. Although Esther, of course, supported this side and the rest of the

organization tried to say, “Well, that‟s the forestry commission.” They really didn‟t like

it when we went to the county commission and said they should reconsider their support

of that association. If their group was out fighting the very people the taxpayers that are

paying this money. You see they were getting a good bit of money from the Buncombe

County commissioners every year. So when we started asking for their budget and


         KN:   Who was? The forestry commission was?

         MG:   The forestry commission gets money from Buncombe County. They get

money from all the counties. So part of our strategy--. You keep at them--you know, it‟s

persistence. So you go and weaken where you can. So one way to weaken was to have

them be afraid that we were going to have a big campaign to have the Buncombe County

commissioners withdraw their payment to them. If they were sitting here trying to mess

up our county and using their forestry commission to do it then why should we give them

any tax money? They “ah”.

         KN:   What happened with all that?
GILMOUR                                                                                     42

       MG:     I‟m trying to think. I‟m sure I‟ve got a big thick file because I remember

dealing with them a lot. I think in the end it probably resolved itself to the point we

didn‟t need to pursue that because I think (1) the forestry commission lessened its

vehemence when this one guy got on there that was kind of an old academic type. I can‟t

remember the time sequence, but we didn‟t have to pursue it. Are we recording right


       KN:     Yeah.

       MG:     Oh, okay. That‟s okay.

       KN:     We don‟t have to leave that on. I‟m sorry. But, another thing I was going

to ask you about was the Buncombe County commissioners because they came out—they

withdrew support of the clear-cutting project. Didn‟t they have a statement?

       MG:     Well, they passed a resolution requesting the water authority to reconsider

and try to buy out the contract. The water authority is made up of three appointees from

the city council, three appointees from the county commission and then one that they

chose among themselves or the six chose. That‟s the way it was formulated at that time.

So they wanted to show respect for them in the sense that it was more the water

authority‟s responsibility than theirs, per se. And so they didn‟t want to undercut them.

But they did make a resolution asking them to reconsider it. And that was very helpful,

obviously, for us.

       KN:     Do you have a sense of whether there were city/county issues at play here?

       MG:     Oh yes. I think there were definitely some city/county issues at play that

we weren‟t really fully understanding. And a lot of it had to do with the water authority

and the water agreement that brought the city and the county together on water issues.
GILMOUR                                                                                   43

There were definitely questions that weren‟t resolved until ‟95, I think, on the formula for

deciding how much revenue the county would get versus the city and some other things.

So I‟m sure, in fact they expressed it, that Jess Ledbetter—one of his big things was that

he didn‟t like seeing the city get all the revenue for the timbering and the county get

nothing out of it. So there was definitely—and there was probably a lot more city/county

kind of resentment than we really understood that was going on there. The city council,

even though the water authority, which is sort of a joint commission, sets policy and

everything for the watershed. The watershed itself, the property, is owned by the city and

the employees are city employees. So, you know—

        KN:     What about the water? Does that go to city and county?

        MG:     The water goes to city and county. It goes to certain parts of the county. I

couldn‟t tell you exactly what the total percentage is. But it would have to be a lot

because I think it serves something like a hundred and forty or fifty thousand people.

The county‟s a hundred and eighty and the city‟s only like eighty to ninety, I think;

maybe a hundred now, I‟m not sure. So it serves a good portion of the county.

        KN:     The city employees are the ones that are—

        MG:     Work in the watershed, yeah. Now their boss who is really the director of

the water department, water resources department now they call it. He answers, in a way,

he answers to two bosses. He answers to the city manager, but he answers—he is the

staff and the point through which the water authority does anything it wants to do. So he

is their staff person

        SG:     Daddy, Daddy, look Daddy.

        MG:     Yeah.
GILMOUR                                                                                  44

[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

       KN:     You want to tell it your name? Tell it how old you are.

       SG:     Two.

       KN:     Two? Okay now let‟s look—

[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

       KN:     I‟m asking Monroe how important the fact was that this was public land.

       MG:     I think the fact that it was public land was absolutely crucial to the

outcome. I think that we would not have had the leverage to ask the kinds of questions

we asked if it had been private land or been owned by a logging company or something.

When it‟s public land there‟s always the factor that the public should have some say so in

how it‟s managed. That made the whole effort far more successful than I think it would

have been probably in private land.

       KN:     And that‟s what enabled you to get into all these issues?

       MG:     Right. I don‟t think we could get into private—

       KN:     Private accountability.

       MG:     Private accountability. I mean corruption. If that had been owned by a

private company, and they wanted to run a boat on it, that would have been their

business, you know. But all those kinds of things were pertinent when it was public land

that was basically, in some cases, being misused. And we think the policy was a misuse

of the public land.

       KN:     Do you want to talk some about any ongoing repercussions from this that

you see?
GILMOUR                                                                                     45

       MG:     Well, certainly, all the issues with the workers, which led to our making

contact—being in contact with workers from the city. In fact, some time toward the end

of the major part of this fight, like in ‟90 or ‟91, the city workers came out here and met

because they were too afraid to meet in town. It was half black, half white, half men, half

women. And they met here and they outlined all the examples of management

corruption, management treating them like cogs. That led to their forming a public

workers‟ union to raise these issues with the city council and with the public.

       In North Carolina you can‟t actually negotiate a contract if you‟re a public

worker, but you can have an association and use it in that form. So later it also had an

impact on our group that fights institutional bigotry filing a complaint about the use of

the watershed clubhouse, so called clubhouse, for the Black Mountain Rod and Gun

Club. Which was a group of thirty-one white men who met out there every month

between April and October for a party and gathering. I think in the October party they

would bring their families. Then for many years, each one of them could use the

clubhouse one day per year for whatever they wanted. Sometimes they would bring their

civic group out or have a family picnic or whatever they wanted to do.

       This was on property that the rest of us weren‟t even allowed to walk on.

Interestingly, they were even drinking alcohol out there, which is against the law to do

unless you have a permit from the alcohol beverage people. So in August of ‟97 we filed

a formal complaint about it. The information about it that we really began gathering

when this issue was going on. But it did contribute, according to some, to election of

Lenny Sitnik as the first woman mayor because Charles Worley, who was a mayoral

candidate, was a member of the club. That, along with a picture that was in the paper
GILMOUR                                                                                       46

showing seven male, white members, former mayors backing him really put out an

impression of a good old boy system that I think the populace decided they‟d like to


       And those repercussions also led to one of the workers—one of the directors of

the water authority, the water resources department, during this case who was around in

those days, too, but wasn‟t the director. The day we filed the complaint, he confronted a

water worker; the same worker who had raised the issues about the clear-cutting and had

had a lot of problems back then with the management. He met him and told him he

should distance himself from me because there would be repercussions when this was

over. And there were powerful people involved and lots of things like that, which was

really an inappropriate and unprofessional and, probably, illegal thing for him to do.

Eventually, the worker who had a lot of blood pressure problems—that played a role in

their agreeing to give him early retirement. But even back in ‟89 he had a lot of

repercussions because of his opposing the clear-cutting.

       The first contact we had with him was on the day of our public meeting back in

May of ‟88 when he called and told us that they had told the employees that they could

not come to the public meeting. These are public employees that leave work at two thirty

or three, been there since six thirty, some of them. So we called the city attorney‟s office

and they knew that this was an illegal order. They had it rescinded, but at five o‟clock

after everybody had left. So that was when we first met him.

       Later, worked with him on many grievances and with Bob Warren who became

his lawyer that filed a suit against the city for his harassment. Eventually, they settled.

They transferred him between ‟89 and about ‟91 or 2, they transferred him seventeen
GILMOUR                                                                                    47

times. Instead of clocking here at the water shed, he was forced to clock in in Asheville,

which meant he had to drive—. He lives in Black Mountain so he had all that extra

driving and everything. And they transferred him here and there trying to frustrate him

into resigning. He‟s just tough and he didn‟t. As a result there was a monetary award as

well as he was put back in the watershed, ironically, as the forest technician. So he was

back in the position of some of the people who had been our biggest opponents back

then. It also led to our knowing about and then exposing some inappropriate activity of

the assistant water director. He was fired or allowed to resign as well as the water

production person.

       Probably the thing that had the biggest impact was when we presented the list of

corruption and mismanagement and everything, the water authority, after some resistance

at first, acquiesced to what we were demanding which was an outside study of the whole

water department. That led to a $60,000 study by a professional management group

along with an attitudinal study also.

[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

       MG:     So, as a result, the water authority did a $60,000 management study as

well as a $5,000 morale or attitudinal study, which confirmed everything the workers had

been saying, basically. And led to some big shake-ups in the water department including

the stepping down of the director. So, those were some of the repercussions in the city.

And then, also, I think it led the Western North Carolina Alliance to realize that it would

be productive to have a campaign in a western whole regional basis similar to what we

had done out here in the watershed on the clear-cutting issue throughout Pisgah/Nanahala

National Forest. So they asked me if I would coordinate that and I did.
GILMOUR                                                                                      48

       So from January of ‟89 to April of ‟89 we had to cut the clear-cutting campaign,

which eventually got twenty thousand signatures and a lot of other attention to the

question of clear-cutting in the national forest. Eventually, it led to the chief in

Washington remanding the ten to fifteen year forest plan for reconsideration saying that

they had not considered public opposition to clear-cutting or bio-diversity issues or

several other things. As a result of that they cut the volume that they had targeted for the

Pisgah/Nanahala tremendously. And made clear-cutting, instead of the preferred harvest

technique, it became the one you had to defend it you were going to do it. So I think that

the fight out here on the watershed really helped set the stage for that bigger and really

more important fight on clear-cutting in the whole Pisgah/Nanahala National Forest.

       KN:     Did you take lessons that you learned from this into that other fight?

       MG:     Yes, but in reality, they‟re the same methodology lessons from community

organizing in general. It just becomes a lot more complex when you‟re dealing in a

whole region and you‟re traveling sixty miles for a meeting instead of up here at the

church. And you‟ve got to organize people taking petitions all over instead of one or two

stores here in Black Mountain. So it was really very much the same and yet on a broader

scale and with a lot more support really. With staff, kind of, support from the Western

North Carolina Alliance. We got a small grant so that I could be paid some from the

Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. They gave us an emergency grant of $7,000, I

think, for that campaign.

       KN:     And could you talk a little bit about the role of the Alliance in the

watershed fight?
GILMOUR                                                                                        49

        MG:     Okay. I think that we really found out about the Alliance when we went

to--. They had an annual fundraiser at—in those days, it was a musical thing. A lot of

people in the Alliance are also musicians. They would have a very good music show--I

forget what you call it—at the Folk Art Center. And that was a major fundraiser. When

we went to that--. That is actually where met Walton Smith and got to know some of the

people in the Alliance.

        That‟s when they began helping us with technical questions about what clear-

cutting is. Why it‟s good, why it‟s bad, when you want to do it, all the questions about

the water runoff and that sort of thing. So they really, in providing us with Walton Smith,

really gave us the kind of technical background that we needed to compliment and

educate ourselves. Compliment what we were trying to do with facts and also to educate

ourselves and the wider community. So we were able to like use some Alliance materials

in distributing to people in the community. And we were able to—we actually--.

CACAW: Citizens against Clear-cutting in the Asheville Watershed, actually became an

affiliate of the Western North Carolina Alliance. So that also helped with if somebody

did want to give us a contribution they could give it to the Alliance and we didn‟t have to

do all that structural stuff.

        So, I remember of the day of our public meeting, in the library the Alliance

actually had its board meet in that library at five thirty before so they could all be there

and see it as well as show support for it. So, you know, we really would have had a hard

time feeling our way along with the Alliance. [Sarah‟s voice.] Take Jessie, too.

        KN:     --more recent.
GILMOUR                                                                                    50

        MG:     Right. Interestingly, this thing does keep coming up. Day before

yesterday I got a call from Jim Lower with the Black Mountain Pairing Project that has a

sister city in Kosnia Poliana in Russia in the Caucus Mountains. He said that there were

two Russian visitors here. The mayor, the new mayor of the town and also the head of

the pairing project over there, the sister-city project over there. And they were both very

intent on learning ways to help their community through problems that they have. And

that one of their major problems was excessive logging. It‟s affecting the environment.

It‟s affecting the views and all of that. And they are a community that is focused on

tourism to some degree. So he said they looked at the scheduled. He said, “I appreciated

the fact that they were very candid” because they were supposed to meet several town

officials and elected politicians.

        They said, “Look, we can do all this briefly. But what we really want to do is

meet people who have worked on preserving the environment. We want to find out and

hear strategies and this and that.” So he called me and they came out yesterday. We

spent all morning talking about the Asheville watershed fight and about the clear-cutting

fight. They presented the different kinds of problems that they had and talked about

strategies for how to involve people and make a difference.

        Then we arranged for them to go in the afternoon and visit with the staff members

of the Western North Carolina Alliance. One of them also happens to be the president of

the Sierra Club. Apparently, they had heard about the Sierra Club internationally and

they said they‟d like to meet the president. So that worked out very well.

        They were particularly interested in sustainable logging. It‟s such an important

part of the economic fabric that they realized that they just can‟t say, “no cutting.” In the
GILMOUR                                                                                     51

same way the Alliance has always said that, too. And the Alliance has done a lot now

with private land and with sustainable forestry. So I haven‟t had a chance to talk with

them or with the Alliance people, but I‟m sure they had a very productive visit there


        KN:     Thanks. Let‟s see. Oh, in terms of--. Another thing I was going to ask

you if you could talk a little bit about some of the--. We were talking before we sort of

started the interview about some of the negative repercussions that were visited on you a

little bit. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about that.

        MG:     Well, they weren‟t just visited on me, but on others. But, I know that one

time after I had either been interviewed on the t. v. or something, the phone rang at

twelve o‟clock at night and when I picked it up--of course we were asleep. I had to come

across the house and pick up the phone. It just said, “You‟re a liar. You‟re a liar.” Just

very firm and very distinct. And I just didn‟t say anything, just hung the phone up. And

it rang again. And that happened several times until I think I just unplugged it.

        There‟s always the—people try to diminish any kind of community activists by

saying they‟re troublemakers. Why don‟t they work positively or constructively? Unless

you‟ve been through it a few times that can be pretty daunting and pretty inhibiting,

which is exactly what, subconsciously or consciously, they want it to be.

        So there would be—there were letters from--the North Carolina Forestry

Association wrote a letter to the water authority saying, “It‟s a shame that fiction and

ignorance are replacing science on this issue.” Interestingly, though he never addressed

any of the questions we raised with the water authority, which were specific technical

GILMOUR                                                                                    52

       Another, from the timber industry, there was one I really liked and he even talked

about the Alliance. This was the son of Powell Wholesale and he said the Alliance was

just a—let me think if I can think of the words--something of half-truths in search of

something. And we jokingly said that was going to be our motto. Let me see if it. It

might be in here.

       KN:     It is in there, one of those. I think it‟s here.

       MG:     Yeah, here it is. This is from Carl Powell the son of one of the Powells in

the company that was doing the cutting. It says, “It is for this reason that I will do

everything in my power to expose the views of the Alliance [that‟s the Western North

Carolina Alliance] for what they really are, abstract misconceptions in search of half-

truths. If your groups are allowed to determine Forest Service policy there will be very

little timber of quality left in thirty years. I do not want to leave that legacy to my

children.” I guess this group I never heard of again, but he signed his name as part of

concerned citizens for multiple use of forests for future generations.

       They really, you know, that does get at the two different perspectives that people

had. I think several places they mentioned that when they saw a clear-cut, they didn‟t see

a scarred mountain they saw the rebirth of the forest. They sincerely felt that and

believed that. And there are certain aspects of it that are actually true. What they failed

to be able to do is to do a cost benefit analysis on what that form of forestry did, what the

negatives were. They just closed their eyes to those negatives. And those negatives are

what really moved the public to say, “We don‟t care what the positives are, we don‟t like

this for our mountains.”
GILMOUR                                                                                   53

       Here‟s another quote. This is the quote from the head of the North Carolina

Forestry Association. “It is a shame when ignorance and fiction become science and fact.

But that is what has apparently happened with the timber harvest plan in the Asheville

watershed. A few vocal people have been able to stop a very sound program of timber

harvesting with nothing more than their voices. No science, no facts to support them.”

That‟s from the North Carolina Forestry Association.

       The reality is, they were the ones who were not coming up with the facts. The

key thing, technically, that played along for two years was when they told us that they

were doing the timbering to add more water to the reservoir with the idea that by having

more water in the reservoir they would be better able to serve the people of Asheville.

Well, that sounds nice and it makes sense from the standpoint that when you do clear-cut

you have more runoff. Not as much water soaks into the ground and so more runoff

would go into the streams and into the lake. Besides the danger for erosion and sediment

going in, which is a killer for a water supply, they didn‟t do any thinking beyond just

saying that. So when we asked, “Okay, how much more water will it add? And how

many acres will you have to clear-cut in order to get that additional water in a sustained

fashion?” No answer. And maybe that‟s one of the reasons they didn‟t bring their

technical people to the water authority meetings because they knew that they didn‟t want

to answer that question. And they avoided answering it for two years. And we

hammered them with that question.

       We even went to Calweda and got the answer ourselves. And the answer was that

to get a million extra gallons of water per day into the lake, you would have to clear-cut a

hundred and sixty acres every year forever to sustain that. So then we said, “A million
GILMOUR                                                                                     54

extra gallons—“. One, when that fact came out and Calweda said it publicly, they

dropped that reason immediately. And the reason they were doing it was to improve the

roads up there.

       But that—going back to the water argument, we pointed out that for about six or

eight months out of the year sixteen million gallons of water goes over the dam

completely unused. What good is one million gallons a day into a bucket that has six

billion gallons of water in it? It just, at the margin, made absolutely no sense. Because

mostly, when that water is going in is the time when you don‟t need. It‟s not going to be

going in when you‟re having a drought or something. So it was a nonsensical argument

they put forward.

       KN:        So you‟re losing sixteen million gallons a day anyway. What difference

does it make if you‟re adding one?

       MG:        Adding--. Right, right. And you‟re only using, at the time, they were

using sixteen to twenty gallons a day in the system. So sixteen million gallons a day in a

six billion bucket is just inconsequential. And that is why when they began to discredit

themselves and the forestry commission and the forest association discredited itself by

making statements like that when we were sitting there trying to be technical. We were

really pressing them on how much money you‟re making. Is this a loss? Because we got

them—they hadn‟t even thought about itemizing it.

       They finally had to present something and they presented something to the water

authority on what their expenses were. Well we were able to shoot holes through that

and say, “Well, what about this and what about that? Why didn‟t you expense this?”

And the bottom line we felt is that they made nothing or lost money on the thing. So you
GILMOUR                                                                                     55

weren‟t gaining any money. You were putting your water supply at risk. The amount of

timber you‟re providing was providing jobs for like two people up in the watershed. And

so what is the purpose. And you‟re hurting the view and you‟re making the public angry.

So does this sound like a winner?

        KN:     Well, what do you think was the purpose?

        MG:     I think the purpose was that you had people in there whose education and

philosophy and whole life was to manage a forest for timber. And so that was the reason

they wanted to do it because that was the oprior reason for a forest. Since it didn‟t go

much beyond that they didn‟t have a whole lot of legs to stand on when people started

really getting behind the fluff of their initial answers.



        MG:     I think it‟s interesting. I was looking at the scrapbook here. One letter

from the former forester in the watershed, after he left. I think it‟s kind of interesting. I

mentioned earlier that we asked the question of “how does the public get involved?”

Well, this was the same person that said that the public didn‟t need to be involved

because they had the expertise and they knew what to do and it was just chaos when the

public got involved. Well, six months from that date, that forester who had the world by

the tail and was going to show us how to manage that forest, he resigned. Because the

public did get involved and he just didn‟t want to fiddle with the chaos. But he wrote a

letter later under his name as a registered forester to the water authority and the last

paragraph said, “Therefore, the water authority is totally irresponsible if it decides to drop

the forest management program simply because a few emotionally disturbed, ill informed
GILMOUR                                                                                      56

selfish and sort-sighted individuals do not want the city to do what is obviously best for

the forest and the people.” He was very sincere in those feelings. But, just, I‟m afraid, in

view of what the overall public feels, just wrong.

       KN:     Were you ever afraid of what might happen during all this in terms of

repercussions for you or for other people?

       MG:     Well, there were implications made on this recent thing with the clubhouse

when that worker was threatened. It came up that my wife worked for the state and they

could mess with that, you know. But, you know, having lived in Southern Africa and

seen the results of parcel bombs right next door to my house and a lot of violence there

and also in India. It‟s a kind of fear that if there were people out there behind our house

today I‟d be very afraid, no question. But on a day to day basis, the sort of anger inside

that anyone has the audacity to treat the people the way they are, that is stronger than the

fear of them. It‟s sort of like, “By golly. You‟re not going to change the way I live my

life.” So it‟s sort of a defiance of what could at times be a reasonable fear.

       KN:     Were there other people involved that might have been afraid?

       MG:     Well a lot of times you can be very afraid and it‟d be a sincere fear. But it

isn‟t a fear that needs to be there. So I think a lot of people were probably afraid, worried

that this would affect their job or maybe it would affect their reputation. They‟d be seen

as a radical or a troublemaker. But I think usually—and I‟ve seen this happen a lot of

times—people who have those fears who overcome them enough to be active suddenly

realize, “Hey, I didn‟t need to be afraid.” I‟m trying to think back whether there was--.

Well, you know one person was arrested inappropriately. But I don‟t think he was afraid

either. I think he was--. Again, when people get to the point that they are disgusted by
GILMOUR                                                                                     57

what‟s going on, that fear factor lowers, because they‟re willing to do more because

they‟re just not going to live with it anymore.

       KN:     I wonder if you could comment on whether you see the changing economy

of western North Carolina as playing into this at all. I mean, one way to read this whole

thing is kind of a fight between the timber industry and the tourist industry. I wonder if

you could comment on that.

       MG:     I think that the thing that the fight between the timber industry and the

tourist industry is true on certain levels. Because I think a lot of times our arguments,

certainly in the national forest fight, one of our arguments was, “why do people want to

come here and should we denigrate the asset that causes people to want to come here.”

But in another way, the timber industry has been far more hurt by its own internal

economics. So many small lumber mills that weren‟t dependent on big large clear-

cutting--but just selective cutting and not a whole lot of that—that existed for hundreds of

years here. Many, many, many of those have gone out of business. Not because of the

clear-cutting. Well, because of clear-cutting, but not because of environmentalists. But


       One problem was that the timber industry or that the Forest Service in demanding

clear-cutting during those years--. To do clear-cutting you‟ve got to have a big operation.

So we did a study one time to look at who was getting the contracts for forest service

timber sales. Eighty-three percent of them went to ten companies. So the little guy was

squeezed out. In fact we had in our clear-cutting campaign. And he was interviewed on

that video, “Ready for Harvest,” a small logger who didn‟t like it.
GILMOUR                                                                                     58

       I remember the first meeting I went to when we were organizing to cut the clear-

cutting campaign. I went to a meeting in a community center down in Franklin and a

small logger came. And he was scared to death. He articulated that he was very scared

to be there that night because the management of some of these companies were really

demonizing environmentalists as, “they‟re going to get your job.” The reality was that a

lot of the big companies are the ones that are going to get their jobs. But he came

because he was more afraid of clear-cutting killing his work than he was of us killing


       I think when they look at the mechanization in the timber industry. The use of

cable logging. I mean, to do cable logging, which a lot of the logging was, as they

finished logging the lower slopes, they started going up to higher slopes where they really

hadn‟t done much logging before. That required cables and this and that. And they liked

to frame it that cable logging did less to hurt the ground and this and that. I mean you

needed a half million dollars for a cable outfit. So that put a whole lot of little people out

as far as Forest Service contracts.

       So it‟s probably—probably as much was done in the timber industry changes to

affect timber employment. You know, even at the peak of their timber program in the

Forest Service they do an analysis to see how many jobs have we created. The most that

I ever saw in the middle of all those fights and everything when they were cutting a

whole lot was about seven hundred jobs. Well, you know, we went and looked at what

the job situation was for western North Carolina. In the twenty-three states in western

North Carolina there were two hundred and eighty seven thousand jobs. So seven

hundred is nothing. Most of those are seasonal. People who are in--. You know, I think,
GILMOUR                                                                                      59

timber logging is the second most dangerous profession in North Carolina, injury to

workers. And a lot of that is because they don‟t take care of their workers. They‟re


          You can look at these logging trucks going down the road and they have very few

restrictions put on them. A lot of times they don‟t have the names on them. They‟re

making a lot of noise, a lot of smoke, a lot of stuff because the industry got a provision

put in the law that they didn‟t have to adhere—. Since they were moving from the forest

to a plant—they didn‟t have to adhere to the kind of trucking rules a normal trucker

would have to put up with. So you see rattletraps going down the road, logging trucks,

dangerous. So the whole job argument, really, wasn‟t much of an argument. When you


          A lot of times they would use figures for the wood industry, for the furniture

industry saying, “Well, this wood is providing jobs for four thousand people in the

furniture industry.” Well, when you started looking at that (1) a lot of what they‟re

cutting is not being used for furniture anyway. A lot of it‟s being used chipped and then

sent off. Plus, less than ten percent of the whole timber supply in North Carolina comes

from public land.

          So, one Forest Service ranger told me, he said, “You know, Monroe, if we had

met on a timber site that we were questioning—a timber sale.” He said, “If they stopped

logging tomorrow completely we‟d only make a little blip in the timber supply. But if we

close down all the trails and campgrounds, there would be political hell to pay forever.” I

think he was pointing out, and they showed that the recreation in the national forest
GILMOUR                                                                                     60

generates like $9.1 billion in the southeast, whereas, timber lost money. You know,

nationally it was like three or four million dollars a year that they are losing money.

        So that‟s why the low cost timber sales had been a big issue because it‟s not for

money. That‟s a big part of the controversy. So, I think it makes it convenient for--. The

timber people like to say, “Hey, don‟t you want a good furniture industry job or do you

want to throw away, clean the motel, flip the hamburger job?” And it‟s a lot more

complex than that. When you‟re looking at numbers, they couldn‟t absorb the kind of

numbers with the kind of jobs they‟re talking about because the actual people in the

woods‟ jobs. There aren‟t that many if you tripled it it would be nothing compared to the

overall job situation. So at the margin it isn‟t as significant as they would want you to

think it is.

        KN:    Okay. Can we switch gears just a little bit? I wondered if you could just

talk a little bit--. You have a long time history with this neck of the woods, this area.

And I wondered just--. Because one of the things this project is aimed at is kind of new

North Carolina history. I wondered if you could just reflect on what you see as some of,

any significant changes that you see here in this neck of the woods over your time of

connection with it.

        MG:    I think the biggest change is a whole different perspective. It‟s like we

have suddenly shifted up one whole level of discussion. We‟re not fighting over clear-

cutting anymore. That is a gone battle. Nobody is pushing clear-cutting. Ten years ago

it seemed like it would never go away. So, I think there‟s a lot more awareness, a lot

more willingness of the public to say, “Wait a minute. We want to know what you‟re

doing on public land. We care. We do care.” So a lot of the discussions, for example,
GILMOUR                                                                                     61

with the Forest Service are not the same as they were. And there, actually, have been a

lot of opportunities where we‟ve been able to work with the Forest Service.

       On the whole Bluff Mountain in Madison County we ended negotiations there

that sort of both sides—all three sides, including the timber industry—felt pretty

comfortable with. So that is encouraging and I think some other issues come to the fore

as almost, really, as more urgent. Air pollution being one of them. The reports that say

we‟ve lost seventy percent of our visibility since the fifties. And some of it we can‟t

control right here. Most of it we can‟t control right here. But, nevertheless, that whole

issue is bigger now.

       I think looking at the different type of organizations and what they‟re working on

water is probably seen as more important now than it was seen back in the eighties when

this happened. Not that it wasn‟t as important, but not enough, really, not enough bad

things had happened to make it on everybody‟s radar screen. So now it is right up there

and organizations like the Clean Water Fund of North Carolina are really doing a good

job in keeping it up there. I think that we‟ve got more sophisticated and knowledgeable

people in organizations.

       The Southern Appalachian—what‟s it called, SAFCE—Forest Coalition, I think it

is. That has added on a lot of top quality knowledge and capability to western North

Carolina. Even though they‟re headquartered in Asheville, they serve broader than this

region. But, you know, that compliments the Western North Carolina Alliance that‟s

focused in the region. And then there‟s a lot more contact now between groups in

different parts of the country.
GILMOUR                                                                                      62

       Another thing that came out of this, you could say, because it led to the clear-

cutting campaign, was that the Alliance was asked to host the fifth annual National Pow-

Wow of Forest Service Activists. And I think that was in ‟91, maybe. We had it down at

Camp Greencove near Tuxedo. That brought together two hundred forest activists from

all over the country and put our fight on the map as well as connected us with all kinds of

interesting people that were very useful to us here. For example, there‟s one guy, his

expertise—he‟s a number cruncher whose expertise is these Forest Service plans, which

are great big thick things. He can come in, and tear them apart and isolate what they‟re

doing or not doing better than the Forest Service can do it themselves. He was hired to

come in and analyze this forest plan.

       All of that just makes the people have more knowledge and that more knowledge

is power. Because so many people get bluffed by somebody giving them a fluff answer

that sounds like, “Oh, he must know what he‟s talking about.” And they let it go. But

now, if you can ask the follow-up question and you aren‟t intimidated by the technical

stuff, it just plain increases your power to be able to influence what‟s going on. I think

there‟s definitely a much greater power base or information base.

       And, you know, the internet is going to have more and more of an influence on

that. We‟re finding that out with our issue on the Erwin mascot, Indian mascot. It went

out on the internet. We have a web page now. It went out on the internet and the other

day, a couple of days ago, I opened my e-mail and had twenty-two messages from all

over the country. Copies of letters that were sent to the Erwin High School. People

expressing their outrage at the mascot. And it connects us to--. I didn‟t realize how

much was going on on this mascot issue all over the country. Some of it is--. It‟s sort of
GILMOUR                                                                                        63

like the civil rights movement in the late forties, or something. People don‟t realize, for

example, that people were arrested doing civil disobedience on the opening day of the

Cleveland Indians baseball season this year. Ted Turner had to cancel a speaking

engagement in Minnesota because the kids at the college sat in on the dean‟s office.

Didn‟t want him to come because of the Braves. So, I think that phenomenon is

applicable here on environmental issues, too.

       The Alliance works closely with organizations all over the East Coast. The

Alliance hosted the first big old growth conference of forest folks from all over the East

Coast and from elsewhere to try to identify the old growth. So there‟s lots of really

exciting things coming on that level the playing field. And that‟s a tremendous change

from the old days.

       KN:      Okay. I think that brings me to the end of things I was going to ask about.

If there‟s anything you‟d like to add, I‟d be happy to hear about it.

       MG:      There was something I was thinking ought to be said. What was it?

{Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

       KN:      I was just thinking that we‟re sitting here and all this is in front of us, this

gorgeous view, most of which is the watershed. And, I wonder as you look out on that,

what do you see? What does that mean to you?

       MG:      Sometimes I joke that it was a lot more fun to come here and visit that it is

to live here because when you came here you didn‟t know the politics. You didn‟t know

all the corruption and the this and the that that‟s everywhere really. So you could sit back

and enjoy it.
GILMOUR                                                                                    64

        Now, on one hand, during those days, I would look out to the mountain unable,

sometimes, to enjoy the beauty because I was so concerned with whether that truck sound

I heard was a logging truck. And I knew exactly what that meant. And that meant this

and I had to do this. But, I do look out there many times and think that that was

definitely worth a fight because that place is magnificent. Knowing that if we all hadn‟t

done something we would be looking out at twenty-five acre clear-cuts right now all over

that place.

        One of the things they tried to get us with was—and sometimes they would

personalize it. When Monroe is sitting up on that house and the only reason he‟s doing

this is because he wants to protect that view. He‟s selfish. Here the town needs this good

program and he‟s just being selfish and this and that.

        I always remember the story that happened in Knoxville where the mayor was out

to a community meeting where the people were irate because they went and closed the

fire station in their neighborhood. He looked out at them. He got kind of mad because

they were coming at him. And he looked at them and he said, “The only reason you all

are here is because you live near the fire station.” And everybody looked at him and said,

“Yeah. That‟s right. That‟s right. And if we don‟t do it who is going to do it?” So, I

don‟t think we have to apologize.

        I don‟t think we can expect the people in Burnsville to all of a sudden fight to

save the Asheville watershed. And that‟s why when people try to diminish people by

saying, “Oh, they‟re just the nimby. The „not in my backyard‟ crowd.” Well I do think

you have to have a broader view and see whatever your neighborhood fight is in a
GILMOUR                                                                                      65

broader context. But the other side of that is, there is nobody else going to do it if you

don‟t do it yourself in your own neighborhood. We have no apologies.

       Yes. I definitely want to have this view, but fortunately there were thousands of

others that did, too. And the Blue Ridge Parkway and the chamber of commerce and this

and that. So there is satisfaction knowing that this is a fight that was a nice ending for

everybody, really. They will have that forever and there‟s even a group now meeting

that‟s looking at this whole area. Two hundred thousand acres in this area of the Blacks.

Those are the Black Mountains, the real Black Mountains. They‟re slowly but surely

trying to pull together the landowners. That includes the Asheville watershed is a good

part of it. The Forest Service--.

       There‟s a big private section up behind that mountain. The state park, the Mt.

Mitchell State Park and then you come over to Montreat and its wilderness. And you‟ve

got the Blue Ridge Parkway. And a whole lot of stake holders, or landowners in this area

that‟s two hundred thousand contiguous acres of forest, which is one of the biggest

undisturbed pieces of property in the whole eastern United States. So knowing that our

doing something to preserve this and to enable people to begin talking about this whole

big area and trying to look at ways of bringing the managers together so that it does have

a sort of a unified vision of what it can be. That is definitely satisfying.

       But the reality is, too, that everyday there‟s a new fight about something that

you‟re--. You know we‟re in the middle of trying to prevent the houses from built up on

the ridge tops. So know that‟s the stomach grind. Or billboards or something else. So

it‟s an ongoing process. And I think in community organizing it‟s like a lot of things in
GILMOUR                                                                                     66

life. You can‟t see it as one battle that‟s going to end all and do all. It‟s got to be a

process. You can call it a mission or you can call it just a way of life.

        I know Thomas Murton, the mystic monk who lived in Kentucky, Cistercian

monastery. I have an interesting letter to a young activist he wrote. He said, don‟t put

your hopes and everything into whatever fight you‟re fighting. You‟ve got to realize the

process. You‟re going to win them, lose them, but that isn‟t what‟s important. It‟s

important that you are working to bring about a positive change for your community.

And whether you win or lose is—you shouldn‟t be attached to that. If you want to look

at your whole life and how you spend those seventy years or whatever here on this earth.

So I try to remind myself of that when I get up and see a stomach churning headline in

the paper about something else we might have to work on. But it is nice to know that we

can look out there and we‟ll be looking out at it for generations.

        KN:     Well, thank you.

        MG:     Hey, thank you. You ask great questions.


Shared By: