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Preserving Cades Cove Fields

leah kirk

The National Park Service burned around 90 acres during a controlled burn recently near the Abrams Falls trailhead in Cades Cove.  This was part of the planned burning of four field units totaling 502 acres between Sparks Lane and the Cable Mill Visitor Center area during the week.

Prescribed fires are used to restore and maintain pine and oak forests and grasslands within GSMNP. In the 1970s, scientists started noticing the Park that firefighters were trying to preserve had begun changing substantially. Fire, as it turned out, was as natural and needed for the environmental cycle as rainfall. In GSMNP, at least 12 native species of plants and animals are known to benefit from periodic fires.

Crews perform controlled burns on about 1,500 to 2,000 acres of Park land each year.  An average of two lightning-ignited forest fires occur in GSMNP each year, usually in May or June. The fires are most common in pine and oak forests in the low and mid-elevations. Fires near front-country facilities or that threaten human life or property are dealt with immediately. In more remote areas, they might be allowed to burn if it has positive ecological effects.