Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gregory Ride Burn in the Smoky Mountains National Park

Another prescribed burn near Cades Cove Tennessee is scheduled for this Friday April 20th in the Gregory ridge area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to help allow yellow pine reclaim where maples and other hardwoods are dominating what was historically a yellow pine forest.

The prescribed burn of 850 acres will close the Gregory Ridge Hiking Trail from Forge Creek Road trailhead to the intersection with the Gregory Bald Trail as well as backcountry Campsite 12. Bower Creek, Forge Creek, and a small fireline across Gregory Ridge will form the boundaries of this burn south of Cades Cove in Blount County, Tennessee.

21 firefighters will be used for containment of the controlled burn and both ground and aerial ignition methods will be used to start the fire. Since it will take several days for the firefighters and park service personnel to be sure that there are no hazards hot spots or dead snags left in the burn area, the area will be closed to hikers for a few days.

Drivers and nearby residents will be able to see smoke in Townsend, Happy Valley, the Foothills Parkway West, and Walland.

Unlike the prescribed burn to take place in Cades Cove used to keep fields form being reclaimed by forest, this burn is meant to open up part of the canopy in the forest which is now crowding out the original dominating species of yellow pine.

In the past naturally occurring forest fires opened the canopy and allowed this species to thrive here but since man intervened and suppressed fires which "cleansed" the forest of more evasive species, the delicate ecological balance was upset. Southern pine beetles that feed on yellow pines further decreased the yellow pine population.

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