- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A new initiative is seeking to improve forest health across the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

International Paper and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently announced $743,000 in funding to improve the region’s forest health by restoring shortleaf pine forests and treating hemlock trees against an insect pest that is spreading rapidly through the Cumberlands.

The foundation, which was formed by Congress to distribute conservation grants, formed the initiative with International Paper in 2013, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/1B9SeoJ ).

A major part of the effort is restoring short leaf pines, a species that has sharply declined due to modern wildfire control. Grant money will be used to conduct prescribed burns and selective harvesting on the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky and the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area in Tennessee.

Alex Wyss, East Tennessee conservation coordinator for The Nature Conservancy, said the mixed oak-pine forests that once dominated the Cumberland Plateau were more open than the pure hardwood stands of today.



“Over the last few decades our oak-pine forests have declined by a little more than 50 percent,” Wyss said. “Some of that is due to the southern pine beetle, but it’s also due to a lack of fire in these systems. We’ve almost done too good of a job with fire control.”

The Tennessee Division of Natural Areas is also receiving funding to treat hemlock with herbicides on 120 acres at the Colditz Cove State Natural Area and on 60 acres at the Rugby State Natural Area.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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