Prescribed Fire and Family Forest Landowners in the Cumberland Plateau (TN/KY)

Written by Nick Biemiller 

This spring, the Guild hosted two learn-and-burn events with our partners at Berea College, University of the South, and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation to increase capacity for prescribed burning on the Cumberland Plateau. The events took place at the University of the South’s Forest in Sewanee, TN and the Berea College Forest in Berea, KY. The events welcomed family forest landowners and resource professionals to learn about prescribed fire and gain practical experience participating in a live demonstration burn. 

Family forest landowners own about 70 percent of all forestland in Tennessee and Kentucky. Prescribed burning has the potential to meet the diverse goals of landowners, and many are supportive of the practices. However, significant barriers exist, including perceived liability and risk, narrow burn windows, lack of resources, laws and regulations, and negative public opinion.  

These learn-and-burn events represent a significant movement towards increasing family forest landowner capacity for prescribed burning, by increasing landowner awareness, training, and experience. The day started off with a series of indoor presentations that “set the stage” for the outdoor demonstration burn, providing landowners information about shortleaf pine restoration, prescribed fire law, wildlife habitat enhancement, prescribed burn associations, and cost-share assistance programs.  

During the outdoor live demonstration burn, landowners had the opportunity to either observe the burn from control lines or actively participate in the burn with assistance from a “burn mentor”. With drip-torch in hand, interested landowners gained experience laying a fire line and learning what the application of good fire to the landscape means. Landowners left the event excited about prescribed fire and empowered to take the next step towards introducing fire to their woodland.