Planned Prescribed Burn to Help Native Species

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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News item

Planned Prescribed Burn to Help Native Species

Posted: 09/15/2016

For the first time in decades, the City of Knoxville is asking state officials to manage a small prescribed burn of 1.4 acres in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness – a move that will help native plant species regain a foothold against aggressive invasive species.

State Division of Forestry officials will conduct the confined intentional burn sometime this fall in a section of the Baker Creek Preserve near Taylor Road. The date, to be determined by optimal weather conditions, has not yet been set but will be announced in advance.

“We’ve not done a prescribed burn in recent memory, but this could be a very useful land and forest management tool moving forward,” said Kasey Krouse, the City’s Urban Forester. “We are starting very small for this first project with just 1.4 acres.  There are many potential benefits, and afterward, we’ll be assessing the value of this burn and analyzing if there are other circumstances where another similar limited prescribed burn would be ecologically beneficial.”

The 1.4-acre tract is a small part of the 100-acre Baker Creek tract, where at one point logging of hardwoods had occurred.

“On the site where we’re planning the prescribed burn, there’s a lot of debris, and the soil has been heavily disturbed,” Krouse said.

Invasive species include privet, honeysuckle, muliflora rose and English ivy. The fire, Krouse said, will clear the understory of invasive non-native species. By controlling the heat and size of the fire, mature trees won’t sustain serious damage. Nor will wildlife be threatened.

“This will promote diversification of habitat,” Krouse said. “Seed banks have been there for years in the soil and leaf litter, awaiting their chance to germinate. This will trigger that. We’ll see what new plants will come in. We also may want to plant some native shade-tolerant trees that have never had the opportunity to become established. It will be interesting.”

Besides helping native species to get established, Krouse said prescribed burns are important as a fire safety tool.

“These controlled burns reduce the amount of fuel load in a very responsible manner,” he said. “The effect is, if either a man-made or a natural fire occurs, it’s much easier to manage and causes much less damage.”

The Baker Creek Preserve was acquired by the non-profit Legacy Parks Foundation and, later this year, ownership will be deeded over to the City of Knoxville. Legacy Parks oversaw the development of a network of trails through the property, including the dramatic Devil's Racetrack competition-style downhill mountain bike trail that was funded with a $100,000 Bell Helmets grant to the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club.

Questions about the upcoming prescribed burn? Citizens should call Krouse or David Brace, Senior Director of Public Works, at 865-215-2060. Or they may also call the 311 Center.