Fire managers in the Great Smoky Mountains are drafting a new Fire Management Plan. These plans are very important to a park with such a varied landscape and rich natural and cultural resources. Fire management plans have to account for human activities such as hiking and driving; wildlife habitat requirements, such as nesting, roosting, grazing, and shelter; and vegetation, such as which plants are fire dependent or where invasive species are growing.
Over the past few years, the Smokies have been very dry compared to average rainfall, which made wildfires (fires that aren’t part of the prescribed burning program). Based on data from weather monitors at Elkmont and Mt. LeConte, precipitation at the Park was about 25% below normal (based on a running average) from January to April. That finally changed in May and June (as any camper attempting to light a fire from soaked kindling can attest). Through May, with frequent heavy showers, the Park went from 25% below normal to only slightly below (8%) at Elkmont, and 3% ahead of what we would expect based on past years’ precipitation at Mt. LeConte. Late July is also turning out to be soggy, which makes wildfires much less likely.
Return to Resource Roundup: June-July, 2009.