The U.S. Forest Service and a spectrum of partners collaborated to help restore close to 6,000 acres in the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, through the Grandfather Restoration Project over the past year.
“I commend our partners for their ongoing hard work and dedication to the Grandfather Restoration Project,” said Grandfather District Ranger Nick Larson. “This year’s accomplishments illustrate the power of leveraged resources and how great things can be achieved when diverse partners collaborate in a single landscape.”
The Grandfather Restoration Project is a 10-year effort that increases prescribed burning and other management practices on 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District. The project is restoring the fire-adapted forest ecosystems, benefiting a variety of native plants and wildlife, increasing stream health, controlling non-native species and protecting hemlocks against hemlock woolly adelgids. The project is one of 10 projects announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in February 2012, under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program.
In fiscal year 2014, the Grandfather Restoration Project established forest vegetation on 44 acres, improved forest vegetation on 339 acres, restored or enhanced 5,345 acres of terrestrial habitat and 2.5 miles of stream habitat. The Project also treated for invasive species on 135 acres, restored watershed health on two acres, maintained or improved 50 miles of trails, and reduced hazardous fuels on 3,439 acres.
Project partners provided the following contributions in fiscal year 2014:
- The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission improved early successional habitat (young forests) by mowing 648 acres, treating 44 acres of invasive species, conducting 13 different surveys for land and water species, stocking 3,000 brown trout , clearing 1.5 miles of fire break, performing prescribed burning on adjacent lands, and collecting data on black bears.
- The Wilderness Society provided 672 hours studying the fire ecology of the Linville Gorge, 20 hours on shortleaf pine restoration planning, and 651 hours on a variety of trail work.
- The N.C. Forest Service assisted with prescribed burns on the Grandfather Ranger District and conducted burns on adjacent private lands.
- Western North Carolina Alliance provided 39 hours for shortleaf pine restoration project development, 48 hours in vegetation monitoring and 50 hours in invasive species monitoring.
- The Nature Conservancy spent 26 hours assisting with prescribed burns, 40 hours on public outreach, and 97 hours on project development for shortleaf pine restoration.
- Wild South volunteers spent 600 hours removing, by hand, non-native species in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.
- N.C. Department of Transportation provided funding for bridge replacement at Catawba Falls recreation area.
A critical component of the Grandfather Restoration Project is monitoring the effectiveness of restoration management practices. Partners monitor all aspects of the project, from prescribed burning to invasive species treatment effectiveness. Monitoring efforts following prescribed burns show a 90 percent reduction in evergreen shrub cover (hazardous fuels), as well as an increase in wildlife use and diversity. Invasive species monitoring shows 70 percent average effectiveness in killing target plant species during initial treatments.
“The Grandfather Ranger District and its partners are making great progress toward our restoration goals, treating more than 18,000 acres since the start of the project,” said Larson.
Additional partners involved in the project include: Foothills Conservancy, Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network, North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Land of Sky Regional Council, National Wild Turkey Federation, Southern Research Station, National Park Service, Appalachian Designs, Western Carolina University, Trout Unlimited, Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Wilson Creek, Forest Stewards, Quality Deer Management Association, and the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.