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Local Business People Support River Health by Giving ‘One Percent for the Watauga’

Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill (at center) with husband-and-wife team and owners of Due South Outfitters, Meredith and Patrick Sessoms.

When High Country Boatworks of Banner Elk sold a handmade custom drift boat to a local fishing guide, owners Matt Maness and Les Vance and their customer were doing something more than just a business transaction, they were giving back to the river they love. One percent of the boat’s purchase cost, or $300 was donated as part of the One Percent for the Watauga initiative to help fund water quality monitoring programs and the work of MountainTrue’s Watuaga Riverkeeper Andy Hill.

“Our local businesses are deeply connected to the river.” says Andy Hill. “Business owners would always ask me ‘how can we help?’ and I’d say come on down for a river cleanup, or sponsor one of our water quality monitoring sites. Then they’d be like ‘sure, okay, but we want to do more.’ So together we’ve launched One Percent for the Watauga.”

Businesses that enroll in One Percent for the Watauga commit to donate a portion of their revenues to help fund the work of the Watauga Riverkeeper – a program of MountainTrue and the protector of the Watauga River Watershed. The Riverkeeper runs a volunteer water monitoring program at 13 sites throughout the High Country, organizes regular river cleanups to rid the river of litter and trash, and serves as the first line of defense against pollution and other river threats. Recently, Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill reported and helped coordinate the effort to identify a petrochemical seep in Foscoe.

“It might sound intimidating, but it’s something any business can do,” says Andy Hill. “Some businesses are simply donating one percent of a specific product, others are going all in by donating one percent of all profits, which is just wow.”

Businesses participating in the initiative proudly display a decal on their shop window or water vehicles. Customers who want to show their support for the program can get a decal with the logo that proudly states “I Support Businesses that Support Our River” at participating businesses.

“Andy is our first line of defense when it comes to protecting our Watauga watershed,” explains Les Vance, who co-owns High Country Boats with Matt Maness. “We love being out on the river and our business depends on other people loving that river too. So, the One Percent for the Watauga program is how we’re investing in keeping the Watauga healthy and clean.”

High Country Boats donates one percent of the proceeds of their custom drift boats. Les Vance and Matt Maness are also fishing guides who are also generously donating a portion of their proceeds from their guiding services.

Patrick Sessoms, the owner of Due South Outfitters, agrees. “I started Due South after graduating from Appalachian State, and I put all my energy into making it the areas premier fly shop and guide service. But my whole business is predicated on the Watauga being a beautiful river full of healthy trout that attracts fly fishers from around the country. We feel like it is part of our duty to be on the front lines of river conservation because without it, simply put, we don’t have a job.”

Due South donates one percent of all their guide fees to the One Percent for the Watauga initiative. Due South also sells Watauga Riverkeeper t-shirts and stickers in their store and named the Watauga Riverkeeper the beneficiary of their Due South Fishing Tournament.

Trout fishing is big business for our state and our region. A North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission study released in 2017 found that trout fishers give a $383 million boost to North Carolina’s economy [see report in Asheville Citizen-Times]. Trout anglers inject dollars into North Carolina’s economy not just by buying fishing equipment and hiring outfitters and guides, but also through tourist spending at local businesses, restaurants and bars.

Customers are also feeling the love. Visiting angler and Due South customer, Hobie Davenport, said “I was delighted to find out that Due South was using part of their profits to support the river. On an individual level, I think it’s important so it’s nice to know that my purchase is helping to make a difference.”

“Appalachian Mountain Brewery signed up for One Percent for the Watauga because we know that all life comes from clean water.” explains Crystal Smith, Director of Retail Operations. “In the Boone Area, outdoor recreation is a huge draw for tourism, as well as a big reason why people choose to live here. Simply put, without clean water, we would not have a thriving economy in the High Country.”

Appalachian Mountain Brewery donates a portion of all beers sold at their Boone location and encourage their patrons to add a donation to their tab.

Participating Businesses:

Appalachian Mountain Brewery

High Country Boatworks

Due South Outfitters

Wade on the Water Guide Service

High Country Guide Service

Foscoe Fishing Company

Highland Outfitters

Melanie’s Food Fantasy

To find out more, or enroll your business in the One Percent for the Watauga, contact Andy Hill at (828) 278-9821 or andy@mountaintrue.org.

About MountainTrue

MountainTrue is the oldest grassroots environmental non-profit in North Carolina and champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We engage in policy advocacy at all levels of government, local project advocacy, and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects across 23 counties in our region. MountainTrue is also the home of the Watauga Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper and the Broad River Alliance – Waterkeeper Alliance affiliates and protectors of their respective watersheds.

Matt Maness owner of High Country Boatworks.
Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill with Matt Maness, owner of High Country Boatworks.
Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill with Crystal Smith, Director of Operations at Appalachian Mountain Brewery