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Contact: Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207
Superintendent Dale Ditmanson has announced the release of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fire Management Plan Environmental Assessment (EA) and draft Fire Management Plan. The EA addresses the proposal by the National Park Service (NPS) to update, develop and implement a Fire Management Plan (FMP) for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Park or GRSM). The FMP addresses fire management operations for the entire Park and encompasses a five year program period of those operations.
Two alternatives are analyzed in this document. Alternative 1 is the No Action Alternative and Alternative 2 is the Implement National Fire Management Policy Alternative.
Alternative 1, No Action Alternative -. The No Action alternative is presented as a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act, (NEPA) and is the baseline condition with which proposed activities are compared. This alternative represents a continuation of current management actions; it does not mean an absence of active management of fire and fuels. Under the no-action alternative, the Park would remain geographically divided into three Fire Management Units (FMU), and park managers would develop an "appropriate management response" to all wildland fires. The appropriate management response is currently restricted to suppression actions for all wildfires in FMU 1, an area encompassing the developed areas of the Park and its boundaries, and for all human-caused fires throughout the park, regardless of their location.
Lightning-ignited fires may be managed for resource benefits in the two FMUs in more remote areas of the Park, a practice that has been called Wildland Fire Use. Finally, under the current plan, the Park may conduct prescribed burns and hazard fuel reduction projects in selected areas.
Alternative 2, Implement Fire Management Policy Alternative (Environmentally Preferred and Preferred Alternative) - Under Alternative 2, all fires that could threaten developed areas or are near the Park boundary would continue to be suppressed as they always have. This proposal combines the other two FMUs in the current plan and allows for a "strategic fire response" that would replace the appropriate management response. Unlike adaptive management response, strategic fire response is more holistic and allows for a full range of management options and tactics to be considered and implemented on all wildland fires. Additionally, multiple objectives may be considered on each fire, and those objectives may change as the fire spreads across the landscape. Typically, strategic fire response will range across a spectrum of tactical options (from monitoring fire spread at a distance to intensive suppression actions). Beginning with the initial action to any wildfire, decisions will reflect the goal of using available firefighting resources to manage the fire for the safest, most effective, and most efficient means available while meeting identified fire management unit objectives. Under Alternative 2, the Park will continue to conduct prescribed burns and hazard fuel reduction projects in selected areas.
The environmental consequences of each alternative are very similar, given that Alternative 2 is a logical outgrowth of implementing appropriate management response policies over the years. It is not unexpected that the environmental consequences or impacts associated with each proposed alternative would be similar. Alternative 2 permits a bit more discretion in methods and thus may increase acres burned and therefore slightly increase potential for short -term impacts to air quality and also an increased potential for extended response operations thereby slightly affecting park management and operations. Public access by visitors and the surrounding community would only see a negligible increase in disruption of their uses by fire operations extending.
This environmental assessment will be on public review for 30 days. The Park is inviting comments on the environmental assessment by mail to the address below. The EA is also available for review and comments on-line on the NPS' Planning web site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm. Click on the "Fire Management Plan EA" link. The public can provide comments directly on the project site by clicking on "Comment on document" from the menu on the left. Commenters are advised that their addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or other personal identifying information in their comments ,as well as the comments they post, or submit by mail, may be made publicly available at any time. Commenters may ask that their comments and identifying information be withheld from public release, but the National Park Service cannot guarantee that they will be able to do so.
COMMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY November 9, 2009. Written comments may be received later if postmarked by November 10, 2009. Please address written comments to:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738