If you see smoke billowing out of Tallulah Gorge Wednesday, April 7, it's nothing to be alarmed about. Officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are conducting a controlled burn on more than 1,300 acres in and around the Gorge.
According to information released this week by the U.S. Forest Service, the prescribed fire will cover more than 1,300 acres of Tallulah Gorge State Park and adjacent state-owned wildlife management property, as well as Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests and Georgia Power lands on the gorge’s north side. Areas near heavily used sites such as the park’s campground and interpretive center will not be burned.
Prescribed fires, also called controlled burns, are not only an effective tool for conserving fire-adapted habitats and rare wildlife, but also they reduce flammable fuels, lowering the risk of wildfire.
Nathan Klaus, a senior wildlife biologist with Georgia DNR, said burns in the past decade have restored much of a rare ecosystem nearly lost from the park – the table mountain pine/pitch pine ecosystem, noting that the forest in the area actually needs fire to thrive. The regular sweeps of fire that used to occur naturally keep trees thinned and healthy, and competing brush at bay. Fire is also needed to melt the resin and open the cones of both pine species to seed.
Klaus said officials have already spent several days planning for the prescribed burn, and the goal is to begin the work around 8 a.m. on Wednesday with as many as 40 firefighters participating in the task. If the weather cooperates, then smoke from the prescribed burn will be visible starting around noon.
The Forest Service and Georgia DNR’s Wildlife Resources and State Parks & Historic Sites divisions will conduct the burn. Participants will also include the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Power and The Nature Conservancy.
Follow this link to see a video featuring DNR senior wildlife biologist Nathan Klaus.