Bent Creek Experimental Forest burn set for Thursday, Aug. 11

The Forest Service says it will conduct a prescribed burn it’s been planning at Bent Creek tomorrow, Aug. 11.

The agency’s Southern Research Station, headquartered in Asheville, has been planning for months to conduct an experimental burn on about 42 acres in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest.

Fire affects virtually all forests, ecologists say, and prescribed burns are one of many tools land managers use to achieve desired conditions in managed forests. Yet the long-term effects have not been well studied in the Appalachian Mountains’ moist growing conditions — particularly during the growing season — agency forest ecologist Katie Greenberg told Xpress.

Research station scientists are working to examine the long-term effects of various management practices, including fire, to sustain area hardwood forests. “This study focuses on [burning in] the growing season versus dormant season. We’re comparing three growing-season burns to three dormant-season burns, along with three areas with no fire.”

A key goal is encouraging oak trees, which are valuable for timber and acorns (a staple food for wildlife). In many areas, oaks are aging but not replacing themselves as well as might be desired, scientists say, especially on moist growing sites where competition is greater.

The one-day prescribed burn is part of a longer-term study at Bent Creek, one of numerous research forests the agency operates in the South. The study will help scientists understand how the timing of prescribed burning affects hardwood regeneration as well as herbaceous vegetation, fuel loads and breeding-bird communities.

The targeted areas include forest stands near the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area, adjacent to Forest Service roads 479 and 664.The burn will take place when weather and other environmental conditions permit, in keeping with an agency checklist. Wind and humidity are key factors in fire behavior, safety and smoke control. The desired conditions are in the local weather forecast this week.

Agency officials say that several roads and trails in Bent Creek will be closed the day of the burn and maybe longer, if hot spots persist. The agency asks the public to heed signs posted on roads and at trailheads and to stay away from burn sites, closed roads and trails.

The 42-acre burn is part of a larger study site consisting of nine areas, approximately 12 acres each, all together encompassing about 120 acres. Three study units will be burned this summer, and three other units will be burned in the winter. The remaining units will be left unburned to serve as a “control” or reference for assessing the effects of the experimental burn. The Bent Creek study includes repeated prescribed burning at approximately 3-5 year intervals, depending on weather, accumulated forest debris, and the availability of personnel.

Readers may link to our earlier story on the Bent Creek experimental burn here.

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5 thoughts on “Bent Creek Experimental Forest burn set for Thursday, Aug. 11

  1. jackjimerson

    About time too. The Cherokee performed prescribed burns for about 10,000 years before we got here, and had plenty of deer, wild turkey and bear, who all depend on a healthy Oak and Hickory (formerly Chestnut, but oh well…) forest to thrive.

  2. ashevillain7

    @Dave – unfortunately controlled burns are a necessity in this day and age. We “fool with mother nature” just by being here. As soon as the very first forest fire in modern civilized history (whenever that was) encroached on landowners – and they decided they didn’t want to lose their homestead – we became bound by this sort of contract with nature. We get to have houses in and near the woods and protect them with the fire dept. but in exchange we agree to burn unoccupied forested land every so often. If we did not do this mother nature would create a fire so great that we would stand very little chance…actually this does happen from time to time anyway but we’ve mitigated it to a great extent.

  3. bill smith

    The only fool is the one who thinks ‘nature’ and man are separate. fire is good for the forest, bad for million dollar mcmansions.

  4. Hot & Bothered

    So of all the thousands of acres the forest service owns and has burned in the past…this particular section (located in a highly used and coveted area) is going to yield the “the” essential results.
    They have never been able to obtain this anywhere else???!!!!!!
    Give me break, as a firefighter myself in the past I have seen what happens on these “prescribed” burns and backburn. Twenty acres turns into 200.
    The recreational benefits we get from this area far outweigh the so called educational information that has already been proven over and over again.

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