Park plans controlled burn
Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a series of controlled burns in the park starting as early as Thursday, February 20th. Planning is in place to burn approximately 400 acres of open field in Cades Cove and 280 acres of forest near the Top of the World Community on the park’s northwest boundary in Blount County. Weather permitting burn operations may continue intermittently into April.
The selected fields in Cades Cove will be burned as part of a cost-effective strategy to prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest. These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.
“By conducting controlled burns, we are able to maintain the openness of the cove to preserve and maintain its historic character while also reducing non-native species,” said Fire Management Officer Dave Loveland.
The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use during the burns in Cades Cove, but brief delays and temporary closures of side roads and trails may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas.
Near Top of the World, the fire management crew will burn an area known as Lynn Hollow. This area has been impacted by pine bark beetles resulting in a high fuel load of dead and down woody materials. Using fire in a controlled burn will help to reduce the likelihood of an uncontrollable wildfire while helping to restore the yellow pine / hardwood forest ecosystem.
“The shortleaf-pine and oak forest surrounding Lynn Hollow are very unique. This site contains trees that are 200-400 years old, and that tell a story of the frequent fires that burned through the area prior to the creation of the park,” said Fire Ecologist Rob Klien. “Without fire, these forests are now in decline and the species that depend on this habitat are being lost.”
The area to be burned is bounded by Goldmine Trail, Cooper Road, Kingfisher Creek and Flats Road. Access to Goldmine Trail will be restricted during fire operations.
Visitors and residents should expect to see fire activity and smoke during controlled burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, and refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, keep your windows up and headlights on.
The use of prescribed fire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is consistent with the Parks land and resource management plans. The policy of using fire as a land management tool helps decrease risks to life, property, and resources and perpetuates the natural resource values for which the park was founded.
For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit our website at www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/fire-regime.htm.