Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a 284-acre prescribed burn in the Little Cataloochee area on Thursday, April 4. The Little Cataloochee Trail will be closed to all public use from the Long Bunk Trail intersection to the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail intersection during burn operations.
In the event of a weather-related delay, the one-day burn operation will be conducted on an alternative date between April 4 and April 15. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area and park-operated vehicles along Little Cataloochee Trail during burn operations and during post-operations monitoring for several days following fire ignition. All other trails and roads in the area will remain open to the public.
The 284-acre Bald Top burn unit is part of the larger Cataloochee Area Prescribed Fire Project. Fire managers are continuing to use a series of low-intensity controlled burns over a number of years to restore the composition and open structure of the oak and pine woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges within the site. These fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to wildlife and overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region.
“One of the goals of the prescribed burn project is to improve elk forage and habitat,” stated Burn Boss Trainee Tom Edwards.
This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs while increasing regeneration of oak and yellow pines, and increase the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows.
The burn is being funded by The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and led by the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Fire Management Zone along with resources from the Nature Conservancy of North Carolina, the Cherokee Interagency Hotshot crew, and the North Carolina State Forest Service.
– National Park Service release