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Wildlife Sanctuary Faces Uphill Battle

PHOTO: Baby raccoon receives attention by Genesis staff. Courtesy of Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary
PHOTO: Baby raccoon receives attention by Genesis staff. Courtesy of Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary
August 28, 2012

BEECH MOUNTAIN, N.C. - A western North Carolina wildlife sanctuary is fighting city hall, literally. Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary in Beech Mountain has sued the town for what it says is unjust and illegal treatment by municipal administrators. Last year, after rehabilitating wildlife and educating the public for a decade, the sanctuary was forced to remove animals from the property after a new town ordinance was passed, placing the sanctuary in violation of its 30-year lease.

This year Beech Mountain sued Genesis, claiming the sanctuary still was in violation of its lease. The animal-rescue group denies the charges and is fighting back, according to board member Frank Steele.

"It just basically almost put it out of business. And we spent lots of money building the facility and now we're basically looking at having it taken away from us."

The countersuit filed by Genesis alleges that the town cited a request to remove the animals by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, but the sanctuary says there is no record of that with DENR. The Beech Mountain City Manager has had no comment on the countersuit.

Many animals housed by the sanctuary were dispersed to other facilities or even private properties for their care. Some had to be euthanized because there was nowhere for them to go.

Steele says this second attempt by Beech Mountain to move the center is disheartening.

"To have them now try and break the lease and evict us offsite so the property can be taken back by the town and used for other purposes is just disgraceful."

The lakefront property where the Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary stands is the last opportunity for development on the lake, since other land is protected for the well-being of the environment. Prior to the removal of the animals, the sanctuary says it had hundreds of visitors each week.

Stephanie Carroll Carson/Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - NC