U.S. Forest Service: Prescribed burning season for Tusquitee Ranger District under way

Press release
from the U.S. Forest Service

MURPHY, N.C., Feb. 28, 2013 – The U.S. Forest Service today announced that the prescribed burning season for the Tusquitee Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest, will take place from early-March to late April. The agency plans to conduct prescribed burning, during the dormant season, on approximately 1,600 acres on the district to help prevent wildfires and promote a healthy forest.

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 and 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.

While the prescribed burn is being implemented in the Hanging Dog Recreation Area, it will be necessary to close the Ramsey Bluff boating access road. Prior to implementing this prescribed burn, the Forest Service will notify the public of the road closure through local radio stations as well as signs located at the Hanging Dog Recreation Area. The road will be closed for 24 hours or less.

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.

The safety of the public and firefighters is the number one priority during prescribed burns. All prescribed burns are completed by trained professionals in accordance with an approved, detailed plan, which includes desired weather conditions. All prescribed burns are analyzed by a team of specialists to ensure the wildlife, fisheries, rare plants and historic sites are not harmed. Burning days are fluid because the proper weather conditions are needed to achieve desired results.

For more information, contact Chad Cook at 828-837-5152. Individuals sensitive to smoke can call the Tusquitee Ranger District at 828-837-5152 to be placed on the prescribed burn notification list.

For more information on prescribed burning, visit www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc and click on “Restoring Fire to the Mountains.”

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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