An Evening Burn to Restore Mountain Forests

Prescribed fires were set on the Green River Game Land in the early evening of January 31 as a part of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and the Southern Research Station(SRS) have been cooperating for over 10 years to study prescribed burning in the Southern Appalachian Mountains on state-owned Green River Game Land in Polk County, NC. 

The afternoon and evening of January 31, crews burned study plots on the Green River Game Land site for the third time since 2003. Fire crews from the Forest Service, NCWRC, and the North Carolina Forest Service ignited ridges and fire lines to produce cool and slow-moving backing fires throughout the 60-acre study area.  Crew members worked through the night to make sure that the fire was completely out. 

The study, part of the National Fire and Fire Surrogates Study originally funded by the National Fire Plan and the Joint Fire Science Program, is currently supported by the SRS Center for Forest Disturbance Science.  It is the only study that follows changes to many parts of the Appalachian ecosystem through multiple prescribed fires. 

“We’ve studied changes to vegetation, fuels, soils, effects on tree diseases and insects, and many different animals,” says Tom Waldrop, principal investigator and leader of the SRS Fire Sciences Team. “We’ve also studied public response to prescribed burning. These forests are resilient to fire, so the changes we’ve measured are small so far.”

The goal of the cooperative study is to restore Green River Game Land sites to open woodland condition. Waldrop emphasizes that very few management goals can be reached with a single fire.  Since national funding ended in 2008, the study has been downsized and limited to fewer variables, but SRS researchers continue to measure vegetation and fuels while NCWRC continues to monitor birds.

Results from the Green River Game Land study have been published in many journals; some are highlighted on the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS) website.

Read a recent study on reptile and amphibian response to fuel reduction including prescribed burning on the study area at .