RALEIGH – The North Carolina Mountain Resources Commission will unveil a report Friday that provides decision-makers in 27 western counties with beneficial information about the use of the region’s abundant resources.
The commission will release the Western North Carolina Vitality Index at 1 p.m. Friday at Grandfather Mountain during an event with the theme “Mountain Connections: The Economy, Culture, and Resources of WNC.”
The index is a free resource with a map viewer and can be found online at www.wncvitalityindex.org.
The index puts in one place information about the region’s current natural, social, built and economic environments. The index uses current data to describe the region’s transportation networks, employment and income levels, dependence on agriculture, biological diversity, air quality and a host of other topics.
“The Western North Carolina Vitality Index will be an invaluable tool for counties and others as a free source of trusted and current information on a wide range of topics that will be helpful to develop and implement critical projects,” said Charles Vines, the Mitchell County manager who also serves as a commission member.
Commission members hope the index will be used by local government officials, interest groups and the public to:
- Preserve the heritage and culture that defines western North Carolina communities while strengthening public health.
- Improve the region’s local economic activity and expand its influence.
- Promote development that accommodates healthy growth.
- Protect the region’s unique natural resources.
- Compare western North Carolina to the rest of the state and the nation.
The index was developed during the course of the last year, thanks to financial support of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station and technical help from the University of North Carolina as well as state and local governments, university faculty, nonprofit organizations and people in the private sector.
The North Carolina Mountain Resources Commission was created by the General Assembly in 2009 to provide recommendations regarding resources in the state’s 27 western counties. Members are appointed by the governor and the state legislature and are not paid state money for their service to the commission. The commission serves in an advisory capacity and has no regulatory authority. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources provides the commission with administrative support.
For more information, please contact Jamie Kritzer, public information officer with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at 919-707-8602 or Judy Francis, the western program’s coordinator with the state Office of Conservation Planning and Community Affairs, at 828-768-0561.
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