Fuels Management

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NPS Photo

Fuels Management at the Natchez Trace Parkway

As leaves, needles, and limbs fall, dead plant material accumulates on the forest floor. Severe weather, such as strong winds, hurricanes, and tornadoes, increase the amount of buildup. These fuels would naturally have been “cleaned out” by wildfires or fires lit by native peoples before historic settlement. Now, since wildfires are suppressed as quickly as possible to provide for public safety (see Fire Suppression), the buildups can be unnaturally large. This increases the risk that a wildfire will be more severe, and potentially catastrophic to the forest and surrounding communities. In order to combat this, alternative methods must be used to control fuel buildup and create a more natural-looking ecosystem. These methods fall under the duties of Fuels Management.


Goals for Fuels Management

There are three main goals for fuels management at the Natchez Trace Parkway.

1. Reduce the amount of fuel on the ground. By reducing this fuel, the threat of catastrophic wildfire is reduced.

2. Restore the historic composition of the forest by reducing the density of small diameter trees through the use of prescribed fire.

3. Increase the cover of native grasses and flowering plants, while preventing the increase of non-native plant species.

In order to reduce the risk of wildfire while attempting to restore its ecological role, areas with large fuel build-ups are identified and treated with a variety of fuel reduction methods. The two methods most commonly used are prescribed burning and mechanical treatments.Wildland areas near communities and towns are referred to as Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) areas. WUI areas are exceptionally vulnerable to wildfires and therefore are often the primary focus of fuel reduction treatments.

Prescribed burn at Twentymile Bottom Overlook.
Firefighters conduct a prescribed burn at the Twentymile Bottom Overlook site.

NPS/Scott Johnson

Working Together to Get Things Done...

In addition to the prescribed burns conducted on the Natchez Trace, the fire crew also assists with burns conducted by other agencies within and outside of the National Park Service. By working together, all of the agencies involved can more effectively work toward common goals. The Natchez Trace fire crew assists with burning approximately 55,000 acres per year--about the size of the acreage within Natchez Trace boundaries. In return, the other NPS and non-NPS agencies frequently assist on Natchez Trace burns.

Non-NPS cooperators include:

  • Tennessee Department of Forestry
  • Tennessee Bureau of Parks and Conservation--Devil's Backbone State Natural Area
  • Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency--Laurel Hill Lake Wildlife Management Area
  • Alabama Forestry Commission
  • USDA Forest Service--Bankhead National Forest
  • USDA Forest Service--Talladega National Forest
  • Mississippi Forestry Commission
  • Mississippi Division of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks--Tishomingo State Park
  • USDA Forest Service--Holly Springs National Forest
  • USDA Forest Service--Tombigbee National Forest
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service--Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge
  • Pearl River Valley Water Supply District--Ross Barnett Reservoir
  • Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks--Turcotte Lab
  • USDA Forest Service--Homochitto National Forest
  • USDA Forest Service--Desoto National Forest

NPS cooperators include:

  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
  • Little River Canyon National Preserve
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Kings Mountain National Military Park
  • Congaree Swamp National Park
  • Stones River National Battlefield
  • Shiloh National Military Park
  • Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
  • Vicksburg National Military Park
  • Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve

Last updated: July 28, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

2680 Natchez Trace Parkway
Tupelo, MS 38804


(800) 305-7417

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