Monday, November 5, 2012

Park to Conduct Prescribed Burns of Cades Cove Meadows

Fire Management personnel at Great Smoky Mountains National Park plan to conduct a series of prescribed burns of fields in Cades Cove Monday through Friday, November 5th through 9th if weather conditions permit. Park managers plan to burn several tracts totaling about 570 acres.

The selected fields are being burned as part of a cost-effective strategy to prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest. The Park contracts to mow about 950 acres of fields that are clearly visible from the Cades Cove Loop Road twice a year. Other fields that are less visible from the Loop Road, totaling around 1,500 acres, are kept open by burning or mowing on a three year rotation. The seasonal prescribed burns encourage the growth of native warm-season grasses providing high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.

Without being either mowed or burned, the open meadows of the Cove would very quickly revert to pine and hardwood forest. That process would both alter the historically open landscape that characterized the Cove during its period of settlement and deprive Park visitors of the excellent wildlife viewing opportunities often found in the Cove.

The burn will be conducted by park Fire and Resource Management staff. Firefighters and fire engines will be assigned each day to ignite the grass lands and to make sure the fire stays within its designated boundaries. Strips of grass surrounding each field slated for burning have been mowed short to provide containment lines.  

Cades Cove Loop Road will remain open but visitors may experience brief delays due to smoke or other safety concerns as fire fighters work adjacent to roadways. "Motorists are asked to reduce speed in work zones and if smoke is present, keep windows up and headlights on," said Fire Management Officer Dave Loveland. "The public, of course, will notice smoke in the valley but it will dissipate quickly and not unduly impact their visit," he said.

Smokies officials are also planning a prescribed burn near Wears Valley for sometime between November 11th and 24th.


Jeff
Hiking in the Smokies

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My 'neighborhood national park is the Everglades....I am very familiar with prescribed burns. Will the burn promote the growth of wildflowers?

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Anon - it's mostly to keep the meadows from returning back to forests. However, wildflowers are a natural "side effect" of wildfires/prescribed burns. So yes, eventually there will be more wildflowers in those areas.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear about the prescribed burning. My husband works with the South Carolina Forestry Commission and it is that time of year for them as well; however, they tend to do more prescribed burning in wooded tracts to keep the chances of wildfires down as well as promoting growth and wildlife habitat. Hope visitors, tourist, and travelers understand how important this is to ensure that their favorite places are maintained for their enjoyment.