Intentionally setting fires on the 293,000 acres of public land managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority may seem at odds with TVA’s mission of environmental stewardship. But the proper use of prescribed burns is actually a valuable tool for protecting and improving natural resources, officials said.
"Prescribed burning offers many benefits to productive and responsible land stewardship,” said R.J. Moore, a senior specialist in TVA Natural Resource Management for the Western Region.
“These controlled fires can help maintain and establish wildlife habitat, reduce leaf litter and ground cover that fuel wildfires, stimulate growth of targeted vegetation and recycle nutrients back into the soil,” Moore said. “This is really a cost effective method to promote quality wildlife habitat."
Burn teams from TVA and local, state and federal agencies prepare extensive plans for each prescribed burn. They identity the types of vegetation to be burned and why, describe the chosen burn method, chart weather conditions and include maps that show possible wind patterns and fire control lines (streams, paved roads and man-made fire lines). TVA receives proper permitting and notifies local, county and state authorities, as well as local residents, before a prescribed burn.
“Safety is the top priority. A prescribed burn, or controlled burn, is supposed to be just that – controlled,” said David Brewster, TVA manager in Natural Resource Management for Western Operations.
“The plans we create and the safety equipment we use are vital to a successful burn, but the trained members of our teams make the difference,” he said. “Once a burn begins weather conditions are regularly monitored and our teams pay particular attention to wind and humidity.”
TVA has safely conducted prescribed burns on more than 250 acres this year, Brewster said.
The final sites scheduled to receive treatment this year are near the Muscles Shoals reservation in Colbert County, Al.; the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility reservation in Marion County, and the Magnolia Combined Cycle Plant reservation in Benton County, Ms.