A primary goal of the National Park Service is to preserve native plants and animals in the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as the natural processes which perpetuate them. Park managers have learned that fire is one of the natural processes which some plants and animals depend on. For most of the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the National Park Service has suppressed all forest fires within park boundaries. However, extensive research by scientists in the southern Appalachians and elsewhere has gradually proven the importance of fire in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Fire in the Great Smoky Mountains
The two primary goals of prescribed fires are:
In areas of the park where plants and animals (especially rare and endangered species) live that would benefit from fire, the Park Service has elected to conduct prescribed fires. Such fires have pre-determined boundaries and are ignited only under very specific conditions. Limiting conditions include weather, fuel moisture, soil moisture, availability of trained fire-fighting personnel, and air quality conditions.
Low Impact Fire Fighting Methods
Did You Know?
An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001. Elk once roamed the Smokies, but were eliminated from the region in the mid 1800s by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Other animals successfully reintroduced to the park include river otters and barn owls. More...