FROM THE WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA ALLIANCE
WNCA’s founder, Esther Cunningham, died yesterday, September 20, 2011 at age 93.
Esther was a Macon County native and a wife, mother, and grandmother when she founded the Alliance at age 64. She was motivated by her love of the mountains and forests and was outraged when the Forest Service considered allowing private companies to explore for oil and gas in the national forest. She pulled together her friends and neighbors, environmentalists and hunters, natives and newcomers in a successful effort to stop that proposal – and eventually to change the way the Forest Service manages its lands.
Their work continues today after almost 30 years and many other victories, as the Alliance continues its advocacy to protect the region’s mountains, rivers, and forests. From those early days when Esther and other volunteer leaders worked out of the trunk of a car in the far western counties, the Alliance has grown into a strong organization with six staff and two AmeriCorps volunteers who work throughout the region’s 23 mountain counties.
Those of us fortunate enough to work for the Alliance are cognizant of the legacy we carry every day. Esther, we are grateful for your passion, your commitment, and your vision, and we are proud to continue your work.