From Staff Reports

According to a press release from the U.S. Forest Service, if weather conditions permit several prescribed (controlled) burns will be conducted in the Cherokee National Forest from March 3-6. Smoke may be visible in surrounding areas.

Prescribed burns planned for the north of the Cherokee National Forest (Unaka & Watauga Ranger Districts) are:

  • Stone Mountain – 850 acres in Unicoi County, approximately 1.5 miles northeast of Unicoi off Highway 107;
  • Irishman Branch – 150 acres in Unicoi County, approximate location of Stone Mountain burn;
  • Horse Cove Gap – 480 acres in Washington County on Cherokee Mountain, 5-6 miles southwest of Johnson City in the vicinity of Buffalo Mountain.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, prescribed (controlled) burning of approximately 20,000 acres are scheduled for burning throughout the 650,000 Cherokee National Forest during 2018. A significant portion of the prescribed burning is planned for early spring.

Prescribed fire is used in the Cherokee National Forest for several reasons including:

  • Hazardous Fuel Reduction: Fuels (vegetation) such as grass, leaves, brush, downed trees, and pine needles accumulate and create a fire hazard. By burning an area under favorable conditions these fuels are removed, decreasing the amount of vegetation that is available to burn during a wildfire. Reducing heavy vegetation build up helps protect communities from the threat of wildfire, as well as being beneficial to the forest.
  • Site Preparation: Certain trees cannot tolerate shady conditions created by other species. In areas being managed for pines, prescribed fire reduces certain types of vegetation that compete for light, moisture, and nutrients. Prescribed fire also reduces the leaf litter on the forest floor which often prevents seed germination for natural reproduction of desirable vegetation, including native grasses.
  • Wildlife Habitat: Prescribed fire promotes new sprout and herbaceous growth that serves as beneficial food and cover for many animals.