Partnership Restores Hundreds of Acres in Grandfather Ranger District

 NEBO, N.C., Nov. 14, 2012 – Kristin Bail, forest supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, today announced that a coalition of conservation organizations helped to restore hundreds of acres across the Grandfather Ranger District by treating invasive plants and performing other work over the past six months.

Partners conducted the work as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project, a 10-year project designed to restore 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. The project is restoring fire-adapted forests by enhancing conditions for a variety of native plants and wildlife, controlling non-native species and protecting hemlocks against hemlock woolly adelgids.

Partners completed the following tasks in the first six months of the Grandfather Restoration Project:

  • Hazardous fuels were reduced on close to 4,600 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District through prescribed burning;
  • Approximately 2,600 hemlock trees (spread across 130 acres) were saved from hemlock woolly adelgids;
  • 750 acres were treated to remove invasive land and water species;
  • Approximately 200 acres of forests were thinned or received other forest management treatments to promote the growth of native tree species such as yellow pine, white oak, red oak, hickory, black oak and chestnut oak that are often out-competed by species such as yellow poplar; and,
  • Two miles of hiking trails were maintained.

Grandfather Restoration Project partners include Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, N.C. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Wild South, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, Trout Unlimited, The Southern Forest Network, Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Western North Carolina Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Wilderness Society, Appalachian Design, Friends of Wilson Creek, and The Foothills Conservancy.

“One of the unique aspects of this project is the large number of partners who are involved,” said Bail. “I am grateful for the support our collaborators have provided as part of this important initiative.”

The Grandfather Restoration Project was one of 10 new projects announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in February 2012, under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program. The Secretary announced an initial funding of $605,000 for the first year of the project.

Restoring fire to the parts of the Grandfather Ranger District is a primary goal of the project. Prescribed burns are being considered for the Linville Gorge and Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River areas. By implementing prescribed fires, the Forest Service and partners will promote the growth of native, fire-adapted and fire-dependent plants, including threatened and endangered species.

For more information about the Grandfather Restoration Project, visit:



 Workers with The Wilderness Society restore Hawksbill Trail in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, under the Grandfather Restoration Project. (photo courtesy Bill Hodge, The Wilderness Society)



On National Public Lands Day 2012, Wild South volunteers removed a dozen populations of non-native, invasive plants along trails in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. The effort was conducted as part of the Grandfather Restoration Project. (photo courtesy Wild South)

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  1. Lonnnie Crotts on December 6, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    What are the factors that were used to determine: Hazardous fuels were reduced on close to 4,600 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District through prescribed burning?

  2. Ben Prater on December 6, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Quite simply it amounts to the total number of acres where prescribed fire was used on the District. If you are asking about how they quantify a reduction in fuel loads they use a monitoring protocol to assess change in fuels on plots across the tratment areas and compare pre and post fire fuel loads.

  3. Lonnnie Crotts on December 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Is it true that the use of prescribed burning in the Linville Gorge:
    1. Reduces high risks of catastrophic fire and if so how?
    2. Will elimnate invasive species, and if so how?
    3. Improve the fire adaptive species of the Table Mountain Pine, and if so how?
    4. The listed “partners” received money from the USFS?

    If the “partners” received money, what service was provided?

    Looking forward to your response,
    Lonnie Crotts

  4. Ben Prater on December 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Lonnie,
    1) Yes. Prescribed fire will reduce fuel loads thereby reducing risk of more severe wildfire.
    2) No. Prescribed fire will not eliminate nonnative invasive species. This is why efforts are underway to remove and treat invasive plants in advance and in conjunction with prescribed burning.
    3) Prescribed fire will almost certainly benefit fire adapted species as these species depend on fire as a part of their
    ecology. In the case of Table Mountain
    pine its cones only open to drop seeds when exposed to smoke.

  5. Ben Prater on December 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    4) No partners including Wild South have recieved any funding from the USFS. We are partners in a federal program that provides federal dollars to the Forest Service to promote and accomplish ecological restoratio. As a partner we donate our time, energy, and expertise to leverage federal funds. No partner recieves any financial support from the agency.

  6. Lonnnie Crotts on December 7, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Ben, thanks for responding.
    1) Your response seems simple, however, is it conditional? What are the conditions that would reduce severe fire? To elaborate further: the planned burn for the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area states that burns will be prescribed on the same area 2 – 3 times over ten years to achieve the desired results. When an area is burned the first time is severe fire reduced and or the second time? What does it take to reduce severe fire? Is the benchmark for reduction specific to the area or is a generic benchmark used, and if so, what is that benchmark?
    2.) In regard to the Linville Gorge, what invasive species actions were considered in response to the prescribed burning?
    3) Table Mountain pine – is only one of the stated objectives for burning the Gorge for fire adapted species, how would you respond to this academic response to the use of prescribed burn for the benefit Table Rock pine: and are these conditions parallel to the Linville Gorge?
    4.) As you are only a representative of Wild South, please tell me what compensation was afforded to your organization for this project by the USFS.


  7. Lonnnie Crotts on December 7, 2012 at 1:38 am

    Quite simply it amounts to the total number of acres where prescribed fire was used on the District. If you are asking about how they quantify a reduction in fuel loads they use a monitoring protocol to assess change in fuels on plots across the tratment areas and compare pre and post fire fuel loads.

    Are you saying that a 1,000 acres burned = 1,000 acres of reduced fire load? If that is not correct, please provide the specifics.


  8. wsadmin on December 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Hi Lonnie,
    Thanks for engaging in this constructive discussion. Let me also say that one of our core values at Wild South is honoring a diversity of opinion in the decision making process. I have been in numerous conversations with folks like yourself and others in the local communities surrounding the Gorge and appreciate the opportunity to discuss these important issues. That said, I also want to let you and others know that Wild South has received no compensation or any financial gain from any of the proposed work in the Grandfather District including the proposed burning in Linville Gorge. This is an accusation that I continue to see on message boards and in comments. So, I just want to make that perfectly clear. The only money that would exchange hands between the USFS and organizations or businesses in relation to these projects would be if said organization was awarded a contract to conduct some specific task or work. The contracting process is an open bid process and would be transparent to the public. I want to be clear here because it is important for me to express that my personal support of the proposed burning is rooted in what I consider to be the best course of action for the long term ecological resilience and function of the greater Linville Gorge ecosystem. There are no ulterior motives here. In fact, I myself personally have led dozens of volunteers to help remove non-native invasive plants by hand along trails in the Gorge to help reduce the spread of these noxious weeds at our organization’s expense. So, our commitment is not based in any monetary gain from the USFS or taxpayer. Now, I would also like to point out that when it comes to wilderness Wild South is a staunch advocate and we fully recognize the philosophical and ethical conflicts that arise when any management is considered. I believe you will find that Wild South has a long history of both wilderness advocacy and stewardship. So, we are certainly coming to this issue with a strong sense of honoring the intent and purpose of the Wilderness Act. And, let me also say that there are still things that we as an organization are debating and hope to see accomplished in regards to preserving wilderness character over the long term in the Gorge. Therefore we will advocate stridently for a very careful and responsible approach to any management in the Gorge. I’ll try to answer your questions directly in a subsequent post.

  9. wsadmin on December 7, 2012 at 11:02 am

    OK…here we go.
    1) Let me first say that I am not a fire manager and I would encourage you to seek other sources who may be able to offer some more specifics here especially when it comes to how fuel reduction is quantified and monitored. But, I will say that fire is a very dynamic disturbance and effects no two acres alike. This is one of the reasons it is such an important natural force because it promotes biodiversity. So, although prescribed fire can reduce fuel loads it is a generality to assert that it does this 100% on every acre. And yes, repeated burns help to reduce fuels over time. One burn is likely to reduce the fine fuels while potentially increasing some medium size fuels. But, a subsequent burn helps to mitigate and moderate any potential increase in fuel loads over time. This is why its important to think about the concepts of “fire return interval” and “fire regime” because fire is not a one shot deal ecologically and the scientific consensus is that Gorge historical burned every two to three years and the proposal reflects that. But, this is not to say that the entire gorge burned at this frequency and any prescribed fire will also be applied at different locations around the system to approximate natural ignitions. Any natural ignitions that do occur under this plan would be allowed to manifest rather than suppressed outright. This will further increase the “mosaic” nature of how fire interacts in the Gorge promoting diversity and aiding fire dependent and fire adapted species.
    2) Right now we are engaged in efforts to reduce the number and density of invasive species along trails in the Gorge. The Forest Service is currently evaluating the targeted use of herbicides in the Linville Gorge to address non-native invasive plants that cannot effectively be controlled by hand. This evaluation is happening concurrent with the proposal to use prescribed fire. Therefore, it is likely that after decisions have been finalized the Forest Service may be able to apply herbicides in advance of a burn to ensure that these plants are not promoted by the fire such as can happen with Paulownia which spread following the wildfires in the first half of the last decade.
    3) Dan Patillo is a respected friend and colleague of mine and I appreciate his opinions on the proposed burning in Panthertown. But, I do not believe an “apples to apples” comparison and be drawn here as the Linville Gorge and Panthertown Valley are two different ecosystems altogether. And I would encourage you to contact Dan personally to get his opinion on the proposed burning in the Gorge.
    4) While I represent our organization I am chiefly responsible for our program work and have been directly involved with the proposed burning for the last two years and am intimately familiar with what is being proposed here as I was one of the principal authors of the original CFLRP proposal that this project is tiered to. But please see last post.


  10. Lonnie Crotts on December 30, 2012 at 12:54 am

    Indeed good dialog. In regard to funding I am sure you are aware that no agency outside of the USFS involved in the design/development/writing of the USFS grant should receive a contract from the USFS, as this would constitute a conflict of interest.

    In regard to “controlled” burning/setting fires in the Linville Gorge Wilderness:

    The CFLRP plan burning for the entire 12,000 acres of the Linville Gorge Wildeness 2 – 3 times in the next 10 years, and an adjacent 4,500 acres of forest is dangerous and invites the very catastrophic fires that the Grandfather Districts’ CFLRP plan proports to reslove, however, setting fires in the steep and mostly inaccessible Linville Gorge will surely cause large out of control fires destroying much of what we know of the Gorge.

    Aside from ignoring the 1964 Wilderness Act states and turning the Linville Gorge Wilderness into a “managed forest”, the conditions of this specific environment that will not allow control once fire is set by officials.
    1. The concept of controlling fire or the use of the phrase “controlled burns” is an oxymoron, and has no place in the discussion of setting fires in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area due to:
    a. Setting fires in terrain as steep as the Gorge creates a high risk of getting out of control burns and remains unpredictable.
    b. Chimney effects where fire in the steep canyons will create its own wind currents, increasing the inability to control the fire
    c. The inability to have men on the ground to work effectively in managing fire.
    d. The duff layer (a peat like layer of organic matter) is known to harbor fire long after it has been ignited and will remain beyond weather predictions, therefore creating risk b. The first “prescribed burn” results in forest that is more fire ready than prior to the use of “prescribed” burning.
    2. With the first burn and its more fire ready state, the risk of wildfire increases to a level higher than before the “prescribed burn”.
    3. This burn plan is experimental.
    4. The plan to burn large tracts of the Gorge in multiple areas, multiple times, increases an already higher risk for out of control fire by another factor of multiples; in the meantime the standing “prescribed” burned forest is more ready for fire and will be in the vicinity of new burn areas so that escaped fire will have a greater chance of igniting.
    5. The concept or use of “controlled fire” in flat terrain is not necessarily controllable, i.e.: the Croatan’s “controlled burn” in which 20,000 unplanned acres were burned when the fire went out of control in this “prescribed” USFS burn.
    6. The “prescribed” burning of the Linville Gorge Wilderness will require ongoing maintenance with funds that may not continue.
    a. If the required ongoing maintenance ends, the suggested outcomes of “restoration” will result in notably increased risks of catastrophic wildfire and invasive species.

  11. Ben Prater on January 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Lonnie,
    In relation to the CFLRP there is no conflict of interest in having partners and collaborators involved in the implementation of CFLRP goals and objectives. Most partners are volunteering their time and expertise. But if a partner seeks a contract it would be an open bid so there is no conflict if the most qualified agency receives a contract for services. There are multiple examples of contracts received by qualified partners working with the USFS whether its work done by loggers, wildlife agencies, NGO’s, or private businesses. How could work be done if folks lending expertise to a project were automatically barred from doing the actual work? I’m sure you would agree that qualified experts and practitioners should be the ones carrying out management of our public lands. Prime examples of contracts that could be carried out by partners in relation to a CFLRP are ecological monitoring, or providing university staff to consult or manage a project.

    And as for your list of concerns about prescribed fire / controlled burns in Linville Gorge I would encourage you to list these in your official comments to the Forest Service. I understand and recognize your concerns. And while I may not agree with you assertions about prescribed fire and its ecological impacts and consequence for wilderness I do hope you will continue to engage constructively as the project is developed.


  12. Lonnie Crotts on January 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    If individual or organization outside the USFS participates directly in the writing and development of a grant and then seeks a contract for the very same work it creates an appearance of impropriety, and remains very questionable.

  13. Ben Prater on January 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Lonnie,your continued insistence that all of the well respected and trusted groups engaged in the collaborative are somehow party to some scandal is ridiculous. Your accusations are unfair, unfounded, and simply a waste of everyone\’s time.

  14. Lonnie Crotts on January 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Please note that I have not said that \”all of the well respected and trusted groups engaged in the collaborative are somehow party to some scandal\”, just those participate directly in the writing and development of a grant and then seek a contract for the very same work are suspect. I will also say that advocating for setting fires in the Linville Gorge Wilderness is not recognizing the value of Wilderness.


  15. Ben Prater on January 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Lonnie, all I have left to say is that your suspicions are baseless. While your passion of Wilderness is appreciated your knowledge of the contributions of Wild South and other groups involved in the CFLRP is limited at best. And your implication regarding our support for Wilderness is insulting.

  16. Lonnie Crotts on January 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

    This proposal is a major federal action significantly affecting the environment of the LGW and, as such, should have the full analysis of an EIS rather than an EA. Is WildSouth asking for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this project? All I hear from WildSouth is that this is the right thing to do, and from what I have seen, this proposal is mostly a copy and paste job.

  17. Ben Prater on January 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    An EA is used to determine whether an EIS is necessary. Wild South will be releasing our position statement next week. Then you are welcome to critique. And I find it odd that you think the proposal is a copy and paste job….from what source? Is there nothing in the proposal you agree with?

  18. Lonnie Crotts on February 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    How can an organization establishing their mission to be wildlands not require due diligence if advocating an action such as setting fires in wilderness? Due diligence requires fuel load and fire risk analysis prior to proclaiming that setting fires in the wilderness is necessary. There has not been a fireload study or fire risk analysis in the case of the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

  19. Ben Prater on February 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    The environmental analysis is currently underway.

  20. Lonnie Crotts on April 16, 2013 at 12:05 am

    Come join us at 2:00 on April 20th for merriment and a serious message to stop the US Forest plan to burn the Linville Gorge Wilderness! US Forest Service Supervisor’s Office 160 Zillicoa St. , Asheville, NC 28801

  21. Mike Locke on November 9, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Kudos to the people here for their patience in the internet assault by Lonnie Crotts. If you haven’t realized it by now, he has a vacation home near the Gorge and his motive is protecting his personal real estate investment. He constantly cuts and pastes snippets of articles about prescribed fire to frame whatever viewpoint he currently holds which is not based on any scientific fact. The Gorge was burning long before your vacation home was built near it. The fact is that you are profiting from federally and locally subsidized fire control to protect your house built in the wildland urban interface of an area that receives some of the highest frequency of dry lightning strikes in North Carolina.