Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials will be conducting a 600-acre prescribed burn in the Canadian Top project area adjacent to Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. Weather permitting, burn operations will begin on Saturday, April 16, 2016. Crews should be able to complete the burn on Saturday. Smoke, however, may be present in the area through Sunday. The burn unit is located on Bald Top and Jesse Ridge adjacent to the Little Cataloochee Trail between Davidson Branch and Mossy Branch.
This prescribed burn is one in a series of low-intensity controlled burns used over a number of years to restore the oak woodlands on the area’s upper slopes and ridges. This will be the second time fire has been used on this site as part of that restoration effort. Fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are important to overall ecosystem health, and they are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region. The controlled burn will be conducted by national park staff and is being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
“One of the goals of the prescribed burn is to improve elk forage and habitat,” stated Great Smoky Assistant Fire Management Officer, Shane Paxton. Over time, the increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk, which graze the nearby meadows. Roads and trails will remain open to the public though temporary closures to the Little Cataloochee Trail may occur if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.