Posted by: panthertown | September 6, 2012

Nantahala National Forest – Future Prescribed Burns

Meeting Update:

Reminder: Annual Meeting Thursday September 20

Public Meeting to Discuss Proposed Panthertown Burn – Thursday, September 20


Friends,

Recently we received notice that the U.S. Forest Service is considering a proposed action to include Panthertown Valley in a series of future prescribed burns.

The area being considered for the 2013 prescribed burn would include 4,927 acres of National Forest and private land of which 814 acres or 13% of Panthertown Valley would be effected. The U.S. Forest Service proposed action in Panthertown includes burning 485 acres around Blackrock Mountain and 329 acres acres around Little Green Mountain.

The U.S. Forest Service has stated in their scoping notice this burn would be designed to restore table mountain pine in the forest. Friends of Panthertown Board member and resident biologist and botanist Dr. Dan Pittillo has published his comments with regard to this proposal. We are also consulting with ecologists from other organizations and will report back with their comments soon.

Friends of Panthertown is hosting a public meeting Thursday September 20 at 6 pm at the Cashiers Community Center gymnasium, located off US 64 in Cashiers, about 1/4 mile west of the NC 107 intersection, heading towards Highlands. There is a sign for Wendy’s and Silver Creek Real Estate on the corner of the road leading to the meeting. The Community Center is on the right, next to the fire department. The gym is located upstairs. Look for signs. Refreshments will be provided at the meeting. Experts from several organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, have been invited to be on hand to answer questions and take comments related to proposed actions in Panthertown Valley.

The Nantahala District Ranger encourages your participation during this public comment period. Following the comment period, the Ranger will publish a decision for the project. Please let your voice be heard before the public comment period is over!

We believe it is important for the public to have an opportunity to learn more and share their thoughts about the proposed plan. Friends of Panthertown represents many stakeholders with diverse opinions. We are in support of whatever is best for Panthertown Valley. At this time we are consulting with ecologists from several organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, for their input before forming an official position.” – Jason Kimenker, Executive Director, Friends of Panthertown

The scoping letter for this proposal is here:

Nantahala National Forest Future Prescribed Burns Scoping Notice

Maps of the effected areas appear here:

Blackrock RX Burn Map

Blackrock Burn Map (PDF 787kb)

Blackrock Burn Map
Little Green Burn Map

Little Green RX Burn Map

Little Green Burn Map (PDF 739kb)

Friends of Panthertown has requested additional information from the Nantahala District Ranger. We have also asked for an extension on the public comment period to allow all users to have sufficient time to comment on this proposed action.

A public meeting sponsored by Friends of Panthertown to discuss this proposed action will be announced soon. We will let you know when we have more details.

Feel free to call us with any questions at (828) 269-HIKE (4453) or send an e-mail to friends@panthertown.org.

PROJECT DETAILS PROVIDED BY USFS

This project would add eight units in Macon, Jackson and Swain Counties to the prescribed burn rotation, beginning in the year 2013. These units would total 4,927 acres of National Forest and private land.

Status:
Under Analysis

Management Unit:
Nantahala Ranger District

Purpose:
Fuels management, Wildlife, Fish, Rare plants

Project Contact:
Greg Brooks
90 Sloan Road
Franklin, NC 28734
828-524-6441 x 418

Nantahala National Forest Future Prescribed Burns Scoping Notice

http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=40046

Date: August 17, 2012

Dear Forest User,

The Nantahala Range District on the Nantahala National Forest is seeking comments on a proposal to add eight units in Macon, Jackson and Swain Counties to the prescribed burn rotation, beginning in the year 2013. These units would total 4,927 acres of National Forest and private land. Treatments would be predominantly conducted during the dormant season of the year, generally between October 15 and April 15. Maps showing the burn units are available by clicking the “Land and Resources Management” and “Projects” links on the forest’s web page: http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc.

In most cases Forest Service roads, water bodies, and topographical features would be used to contain the fire. In the absence of those features, fire lines would be established with machinery or hand tools. Qualified personnel from the Nantahala and surrounding Ranger Districts would conduct the prescribed burns, operating with approved burn plans. District personnel would patrol control lines during and after ignition to insure proper containment of the fire. More specific descriptions of the proposed units are given below:

1. Coweeta Fields Units: 12 Acres, no ground disturbance, only pre-existing control lines would be used. Located within the Coweeta Hydrologic Station in Macon County.

2. Finger Lake Unit: 4 Acres, no ground disturbance, only pre-existing control lines would be used. Located between Fontana Lake and Highway 28 in Swain County.

3. Blackrock Unit: 485 Acres, no ground disturbance, only pre-existing control lines would be used. Located on the west side of Panthertown Valley in Jackson County. This burn would be designed to restore table mountain pine in the forest.

4. Little Green Unit: 329 Acres, no ground disturbance, only pre-existing control lines would be used. Located on the East side of Panthertown Valley in Jackson County. This burn would be designed to restore table mountain pine in the forest.

5. Bull Pen Unit: 722 Acres, control lines would consist of 20 feet of hand dug fire line and, all other control lines would be pre-existing. Located on the east side of the Chatooga River north of Bull Pen Rd and east of Whiteside Cove Rd in Macon County.

6. Fire Gap Unit: 1836 Acres, control lines would consist of 1,715 feet of hand dug fire line, and all other control lines would be pre-existing. This unit is a combination of two previous fire units, Jarret Knob and Chestnut Knob. Combining these two units will allow the inclusion of an additional 580 acres. Located north of Rainbow Springs Rd. and south of SR 1310 in Macon County.

7. Split Whiteoak Unit: 844 Acres, control lines would consist of 2,920 feet of mechanically dug fire line, 304 feet of hand dug fire line, and all other control lines would be pre-existing. Located at the north end of Forest Service road 711 in Macon County.

8. Buzzard Knob Unit: 695 Acres, control lines would consist of 20,854 feet of mechanically dug fire line. 20,254 feet of that would be re-grading old road beds, and there would be 600 feet of new construction. While about half of this unit would be located on private land, the majority of the ground disturbance would be on National Forest land. Located along the Rainbow Springs Rd. in the Bryson Branch area in Macon County.

The purpose and need for the proposed treatments include reducing fuel accumulation in order to better protect national forest and adjacent ownerships from wildfire; improving wildlife habitat by increasing the availability and quality of nutritious forage for grazing and browsing animals such as deer, turkey, and bear; reducing undesirable shade tolerant species such as mountain laurel, red maple, and white pine in pine beetle areas to allow for regeneration of desirable species; and establishing burn units in a mosaic pattern to mimic natural fire behavior. Objectives for the treatments include:

1. Reduce 1 hour fuels by 70% and 10 hour fuels by 50%
2. Consume no more than 50% of organic soil layer
3. Create and maintain snags within burn unit for Indiana bat habitat
4. For pine-oak/heath forest types, reduce forest canopy and mid-story layers by 20-25% while increasing the diversity of grasses and herbs to 60-80% of the forest floor
5. For oak-hickory forest types, reduce mid-story white pine component where present and eliminate white pine regeneration; reduce shrub layer by 50% in driest types and increase grass-herb component to provide 50-70% coverage on the forest floor.

The proposed treatment units and the proposed dozer fire lines have been assessed by the forest’s interdisciplinary team and no cultural or biological resources will be negatively affected by the proposed actions.

I encourage your participation during this 30-day notice and comment period. Following the comment period, I will be publishing a decision for the project. Please make your comments as specific as possible, and you must provide the following information: (1) your name and address; (2) title of the proposed action; (3) specific substantive comments (215.2) on the proposed action, along with supporting reasons that I should consider in reaching a decision; and (4) your signature or other means of identification verification. For organizations, a signature or other means of identification verification must be provided for the individual authorized to represent your organization.

In accordance with 36 CFR 215.6(2)(4), comments must be postmarked or received within 30 days beginning the day after publication of this notice in The Franklin Press. Oral or hand-delivered comments must be received within our normal business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Comments may be sent electronically, in a common digital format, to: comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-nantahala@fs.fed.us. Comments may also be sent by regular mail to: Nantahala Ranger District, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin NC 28734 or faxed to 828-369-6592.

Please contact project leader Greg Brooks at 828-524-6441 x418 or at gbrooks01@fs.fed.us if you have questions concerning this proposal. Thank you for your continued interest in the management of the National Forests in North Carolina.

Sincerely,
/s/ Michael Wilikins

Michael Wilikins
District Ranger

Please make your comments as specific as possible and provide the following information:
(1) your name and address
(2) title of the proposed action: “Nantahala National Forest – Future Prescribed Burns”
(3) specific substantive comments on the proposed action, along with supporting reasons that the Ranger should consider in reaching a decision
(4) your signature or other means of identification verification. For organizations, a signature or other means of identification verification must be provided for the individual authorized to represent your organization.

Send comments to:
comments-southern-north-carolina-nantahala-nantahala@fs.fed.us

Or mail your comments to:
Nantahala Ranger District, 90 Sloan Road, Franklin NC 28734

Or fax your comments to:
828-369-6592


The Sylva Herald

Read a related article in The Sylva Herald newspaper. Thursday September 13 edition.

Smoky Mountain News

Read a related article in Smoky Mountain News. Wednesday September 19 edition.



Responses

  1. A Case Opposing Controlled Burn Proposal for Panthertown Valley
    J. Dan Pittillo
    7 September 2012

    The USDA Forest Service is proposing a controlled burn for Little Green Mountain and Blackrock Mountain of Panthertown Valley, a significant State Natural Heritage Area in southern Jackson County, North Carolina. The basis for the controlled burn as stated in the USFS letter for response is “This burn would be designed to restore table mountain pine in the forest.”

    I have significant questions of the value for this activity. There is little in the way of table mountain pine trees except for the shallow-soiled rock outcroppings of southwestern slope of Little Green Mountain and there may not be any on Blackrock Mountain. For this small population, a controlled burn may do more harm than good to help to propagate the pines. Most of the pines occur in shallow, organic rocky pockets of the outcrops. If fire did get into these organic soils and it was dry enough, burning the soil would reduce the available habitat for the pine seeds. I would imagine the value of carrying through with the controlled burn would be costly and likely not result in new trees in the process.

    A second reason that burning here would have a negative impact would be to reduce the pinkshell azalea, maybe destroy the southeastern Appalachian endemic population of twisted-hair spikemoss, sandmyrtle, purple and Carolina rhododendron, and blueberries. This would be a negative impact on the existing botanical diversity as well as rare species such as the pinkshell azalea.

    A third reason is that burning does not speed up organic debris decomposition for this humid region. Unlike the drier western ecosystems where woody fuel accumulates due to the lack of decomposers, our organic debris more quickly breaks down due to the abundance of fungi and bacteria in our moist ecosystems.

    Perhaps the only positive value of such an experiment would be to set back the succession of vegetation, maybe increasing the forage for some early successional animals. While this might be argued from a wildlife point of view, it needs to be balanced with the value that would be lost if the soft mass, such as blueberries, were lost from the ecosystem.

    [Dr. Dan Pittillo, A.B., M.S., Ph.D., Biology and Botany, a member of the Friends of Panthertown Board of Directors, taught plant science and ecology at Western Carolina University for four decades, directed the Western Carolina University Herbarium from 1970 to his retirement in 2005. He is a retired Professor of Biology from Western Carolina University (1966 – 2004) and served as the Editor of the Chinquapin newsletter for the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society (1993 – 2012).]

  2. We believe it is important for the public to have an opportunity to learn more and share their thoughts about the proposed plan. Friends of Panthertown represents many stakeholders with diverse opinions. We are in support of whatever is best for Panthertown Valley. At this time we are consulting with ecologists from several organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service, for their input before forming an official position.

    Jason Kimenker
    Executive Director
    Friends of Panthertown


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