Prescribed Fire Season Begins in Nantahala National Forest

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This week the U.S. Forest Service announced that the prescribed burning season for the Tusquitee and Cheoah Ranger Districts in the Nantahala National Forest, will take place between early March and late April. The agency plans to conduct prescribed burning, during the dormant season, on approximately 1,353 acres on the district to help prevent wildfires and promote a healthy forest.

The Cheoah Ranger District plans to burn 1,400 to 2,500 acres each year. The prescribed burn areas in Graham County are located in the following areas:

* 822 acres at the Shell Stand area
* 352 acres near Cheoah Bald
* 80 acres at West Buffalo
* 88 acres at the Big Fat area
* 11 acres at the Cheoah Ranger District Helispot near the Cheoah District Office

The Tusquitee Ranger District plans to burn 3,500 to 5,000 acres each year, but due to the wet winter and other factors only 1,600 acres will be planned for burning this year. The prescribed burn areas in Cherokee County are located in the following areas:

* 450 acres at Ramsey Bluff
* 40 acres in the Beech Creek area
* In Clay County, the agency plans to conduct a 1,000-acre prescribed burn in the Leatherwood drainage located in the Fires Creek Recreation Area. 

Native plants and animals in the national forest depend on natural fire cycles, which are mimicked through the use of prescribed fires to balance habitat and food sources. Prescribed burns promote the growth of herbaceous plants that provide food, such as fruit, for wildlife including important game animals such as deer and turkey. Prescribed burns also benefit wildlife by increasing the abundance of many trees that produce nuts, particularly oaks, which do not germinate or grow well in dense, shady conditions.

Prescribed burning is also one of the most effective land management tools used in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires. Burning the same tract of land on a rotation of every three to seven years reduces the buildup of vegetation (fuel), decreasing the chance of severe wildfire.

For more information, contact Tim Solesbee at 828-479-6431. Individuals sensitive to smoke can call the Cheoah Ranger District at 828-479-6431 to be placed on the prescribed burn notification list.

Hiking in the Smokies

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