Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Forest Recovery After Wildfire In The Smoky Mountains

GSMNP Spokesperson Dana Soehn and I at Fighting Creek
Twin Creeks Science Center;
With Charred Ridge Top in Background
Having just returned from the Smokies to meet with park rangers at their Twin Creeks Science Center, a state of the art facility that opened in 2007 at a cost 4.5-million dollars, I can report that less than 1-percent of the park was burned. Park Spokesperson Dana Soehn shared information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) like the fact that it this is the number one most visited National Park in the U.S. due to its location near the East Coast population centers. She also shared personal anecdotes from their historic fire last November, like how ridgetops were areas most likely to receive any severe burning.

When visiting with GSMNP fire ecologist Rob Klein is became clear that the area of the park that was burned, already has many scientific studies underway, giving them a solid baseline of data to compare pre-fire and post-fire environments. “We are using satellite imagery to measure the severity of effects on vegetation,” said Klein. “The speed of this fire left a mosaic pattern, and not a footprint of devastation. Our hemlock conservation areas study the wooly adelgid infestation and now we can add the affects of fire to the data. Other studies underway tracking the movement of black bears will now record how they respond when the forest recovers over time.”

Park Ranger Electro-shocking in Fighting Creek
Healthy Rainbow Trout in Recovering Ecosystem
Generally speaking, plants and wildlife evolved over time with fire as an integral part of the ecosystem, and should rebound naturally. Leon Downey with the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism spoke about how repeat customers make up 80-percent of their visitors. “Right after the fire we had so many of these folks reach out to help, it showed us how much they care for this area,” said Downey. “My message to them is if you still want to help with recovery after the fire, then simply come back and visit with us again.”

To view the feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about Pigeon Forge click on Dixie Stampede - Black Fox Lodge - Old Mill Restaurant

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