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NCFS

Newsdesk - 2020

April 6, 2020

JOINT NEWS RELEASE
North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
North Carolina Forest Service
USDA Forest Service

Record visitation seen at public lands during COVID-19 pandemic; public reminded to maintain social distance

RALEIGH –Visitation at many state forests in North Carolina is two and three times greater than what is typical for this time of year, which is stretching the resources of the sites and making it harder for people to practice proper social distancing. Visitors are asked to strictly follow social distancing guidelines to help keep public lands safe, available and open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Public lands, including state forests and parks, and national forests are experiencing record-high attendance, making social distancing difficult to achieve," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "While public lands are a great natural resource, we are urging visitors to observe the CDC and public health’s recommendations of 6 feet of spacing between each other, frequent and thorough handwashing and staying home if you do not feel well."

Many public lands have temporarily closed, restricting public access until further notice due to heavy visitation. N.C. Forest Service officials note that some visitors are following social distancing guidelines while others are not. Many state parks, state forests and national forests are experiencing large congregations of visitors in parking areas.

For anyone planning to visit public lands during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some helpful social distancing guidelines to help you recreate responsibly:

  • Stay close to home. Enjoy outdoor recreation in your neighborhood. Faraway places are wonderful but traveling long distances can increase your potential to spread illness.
  • Pay close attention to guidance in your community before heading outside. Acknowledge any guidelines, restrictions or closures mandated by your local or state government.
  • Expect closures. Use the restroom before leaving home.
  • Avoid times and places of high use. Visit early in the day or in the middle of the week.
  • Keep hiking groups to three people or less.
  • Wash your hands and follow CDC guidelines carefully.
  • Be a good steward for nature and the people around you.

To download Social Distancing Guidelines for North Carolina State Forests and for updated information about public access to state forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit this link. For status of North Carolina State Parks, visit the state parks website. For a complete list of closures across the National Forests in North Carolina, please visit this link

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April 3, 2020

Burn ban issued for 32 Western North Carolina counties due to hazardous forest fire conditions

RALEIGH – Due to increased fire risk, the N.C. Forest Service has issued a ban on all open burning and has canceled all burning permits for the following counties in western North Carolina: Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Iredell, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Union, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.

The burning ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice.

"With spring wildfire season on us, coupled with the COVID-19 crisis, we don’t need to take any unnecessary chances with the dry weather and fuel conditions that will exist in the western part of our state during the next several days," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Until we see more greening in western North Carolina, these hazardous forest fire conditions will continue. This open burning ban is a necessary step to protect lives and property."

Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was previously issued. The issuance of any new permits has also been suspended until the ban is lifted. Anyone violating the burn ban faces a $100 fine plus $180 court costs. Any person responsible for setting a fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.

Local fire departments and law enforcement officers are assisting the N.C. Forest Service in enforcing the burn ban.

Answers to frequently asked questions

What is open burning?

Open burning includes burning leaves, branches or other plant material. In all cases, burning trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other nonvegetative material is illegal.

May I still use my grill or barbecue?

Yes, if no other local ordinances prohibit their use.

How should I report a wildfire?

Call 911 to report a wildfire.

How should I report a person who intentionally starts a wildfire?

Call 911 to report a wildfire.

My local fire marshal has also issued a burn ban for my county. What does this mean?

The burn ban issued by the N.C. Forest service does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. Local government agencies have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and has asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. If a fire within a 100-foot area of a dwelling escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.

Are there other instances which impact open burning?

Local ordinances and air quality regulations may impact open burning. For instance, outdoor burning is prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts. Learn more about air quality forecasts at this link

Can I have a campfire when I go camping?

Campfires would be considered open burning and are not exempt from the burn ban. Portable gas stoves or grills are alternate methods for cooking food while camping during a burn ban.

What can I do to protect my house against the risk of wildfire?

Learn about wildfire risk assessments and preparedness and prevention plans on the N.C. Forest Service website at this link

Can I use my fire pit?

If the fire pit is within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling (occupied dwelling=primary residence/your house), call your local fire marshal. If the fire pit is further away from your house than 100 feet, no open burning is allowed during a burn ban.

Can I use a burn barrel during a burn ban?

A burn barrel is considered open burning the same as a fire pit or campfire. No burning is allowed during a burn ban.

My local area received rain. When will the burn ban be lifted?

While local areas may have enjoyed recent rain, the larger area as a whole is experiencing high risk of wildfire. The decision to implement a burn ban is never undertaken lightly and is always done with care and great consideration of many risk factors in light of overall public safety. The N.C. Forest Service continues to monitor conditions. The burn ban will be lifted as soon as conditions allow.

My fire pit is small and has a cover. Can I still use it?

Outside 100 feet of an occupied dwelling, the ban = no burning regardless of fire pit or burn barrel. Inside 100 feet from an occupied dwelling is up to local jurisdiction. Campers, tents, etc. are not considered dwellings.

Regarding fire pits, burn barrels, campfires or any other open fire during a burn ban:

  • Outside 100 feet of an occupied dwelling, the ban = no burning regardless of fire pit or burn barrel.
  • Inside 100 feet from an occupied dwelling is up to local jurisdiction.
  • Campers, tents, etc. are not considered dwellings.
  • Remember: Any burn ban issued by the N.C. Forest Service does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. Local government agencies have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service advises county fire marshals of any state-enacted burning bans and asks for their consideration in also implementing local burning bans. If a fire within a 100-foot area of a dwelling escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire. Contact your local fire marshal before burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling.

The N.C. Forest Service will continue to monitor conditions. Residents with questions regarding their specific county can contact their county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service or their county fire marshal’s office.

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April 3, 2020

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest temporarily closed to the public due to overcrowding during COVID-19 pandemic

Raleigh– Effective at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, N.C. Forest Service officials have temporarily closed Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, restricting all public access until further notice. All trails, trailheads, forest facilities, parking areas and Rendezvous Mountain State Forest Game Land are unavailable to the public during this period of closure. This closure includes both Wyatt Rd and Benny Parsons Rd access points for the Game Land.

"Our N.C. Forest Service staff noted that crowds were gathering and remaining in parking areas of Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, which goes against the recommendations of social distancing", said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "We hope we will be able to reopen the forest soon when the threat of spreading the coronavirus has ended. To get there though, everyone needs to do their part in social distancing."

NCFS officials will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the forest and game lands reopen when conditions allow.

For updated information about public access to North Carolina State Forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit this link and follow us on Facebook.

Read the closure announcement for DuPont State Recreational Forest and Holmes Educational State Forest

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March 27, 2020

Residents asked to reconsider burning yard debris due to spring wildfire season and COVID-19 pandemic

Raleigh–N.C. Forest Service officials urge citizens to reconsider burning yard debris through the end of May, which historically marks the end of spring wildfire season in North Carolina. Consider alternatives to burning. Some types of debris, such as leaves, grass and stubble, may be of more value if they are not burned but used for mulch instead.

"In North Carolina, most wildfires are caused by human action and careless debris burning. When left unattended, debris burns can escape, igniting tragic wildfires," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Minimizing the number of escaped debris burns will reduce the risk of wildfires while also reducing the risk of community exposure to COVID-19 by allowing first responders to limit close-contact interactions and maintain social distance."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the N.C. Forest Service continues mission critical work such as wildfire suppression and other emergency response functions.

For tips to protect property, prevent wildfires or to access the Online Burning Permit System, visit ncforestservice.gov.

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March 24, 2020

DuPont State Recreational Forest temporarily closed to the public; public access restricted due to COVID-19 safety concerns

Temporary closure also applies for Holmes ESF

Raleigh– N.C. Forest Service officials have temporarily closed DuPont State Recreational Forest and neighboring Holmes Educational State Forest effective at 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, restricting public access until further notice.

All trails, trailheads and forest facilities are closed until further notice. Parking areas, both designated and roadside, are barricaded in the interest of public safety.

"Closing state forests to the public is a decision I do not take lightly, and much consideration has been given to this decision," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "The bottom line is that these sites are beautiful and treasured places in our state where families and visitors can make positive, lasting memories. These state forests have experienced what many state parks and beaches have, too -- unsafe and overcrowded conditions that tax these resources. This temporary closure to the public is necessary, but rest assured, it is temporary."

NCFS officials note that crowds are gathering in parking areas and trailheads which compromises the degree of social distancing needed to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Forest Service regret that temporary closure of DSRF and HESF is necessary. NCFS officials will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring both forests are reopened when conditions allow.

For updated information about public access to North Carolina State Forests during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit ncforestservice.gov/COVID19.htm and follow us on Facebook.

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March 6, 2020

The N.C. Forest Service is accepting applications for Forest Development Program (FDP) Funding

The N.C. Forest Service (NCFS) is accepting applications for cost-share reimbursement funding through the Forest Development Program (FDP). Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their NCFS county ranger’s office or work with a consulting forester. The FDP helps eligible landowners implement a variety of forest stand improvement, site preparation and tree planting practices. Applications must be submitted to the local NCFS county ranger’s office for initial review. NCFS staff must then send eligible applications to the NCFS State Headquarters during two enrollment periods. Enrollment periods are as follows:

  • "Base Fund" and "Mountain Fund" enrollment periods began March 1, 2020, and will close Friday, May 29, 2020.
  • "Plant-Only Fund" enrollment period will begin on Sept. 1, 2020, and will close Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

To be considered for funding, all FDP applications must be received at the NCFS State Headquarters by the close of business on each of the closing dates. Landowners should apply as soon as possible. Allocation of funding will begin promptly after each enrollment period closes.

FDP cost-share funding requests continue to be significantly greater than available funding. To award funding, the NCFS State Headquarters will continue to utilize a lottery system, using a random drawing process.

Available funding amounts include $250,000 from the "Mountain Fund"; $1.46 million from the "Base Fund"; and, $500,000 in statewide funding from the "Plant-Only" Fund. Landowners may receive no more than $10,000 in FDP cost-share reimbursement funding per fiscal year, and they are not guaranteed to receive a full $10,000 reimbursement payment, especially for projects that are completed underbudget.

To find contact information for your local NCFS county ranger, visit the N.C. Forest Service website.

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March 4, 2020

Urban and Community Forestry grant applications available March 1

The N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program will be accepting applications for its annual grant program beginning March 2, 2020. The deadline for submitting applications is 5 p.m. EST, April 30, 2020. These grants provide funding for projects that will enhance the benefits and sustainable management of urban forests in North Carolina communities.

Projects that will be considered include:

  • Tree Inventories & Canopy Cover Assessments
  • Management Plan Development
  • Ordinance Development
  • Professional Staff & Development
  • Education & Training
  • Advocacy Group Development

The grants are open to local and state government entities, public educational institutions and nonprofit 501(c)(3) and other tax-exempt organizations. Applicants can request from $2,500 to $15,000 in grant funding. The grants provide 50% of project costs and require matching funds or in-kind efforts. Projects should encourage citizen involvement in creating and sustaining urban and community forestry programs. Projects must be completed within an 11-month project schedule beginning September 2020 and ending July 31, 2021.

To learn more about the NCFS Urban & Community Grant Program and to access grant application instructions and a copy of the Request for Proposals, visit the North Carolina Forest Service website.

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March 2, 2020

Restoration of Linville River continues; seedling planting and trout stocking to be in next phase

CROSSNORE - The N.C. Forest Service and partnering agencies have restored 2,450 feet of the Linville River channel as it flows through Gill State Forest and beyond Crossnore Mountain Training Facility and Linville River Nursery.

Additionally, the NCFS has enhanced 500 feet of an unnamed stream that discharges to the river by planting understory growth that will eventually shade the stream.

In the next phase of the project, tree seedling planting and trout stocking will begin in March. Forest Service staff have already placed signs on river and stream banks advising fishermen and visitors of the new understory vegetation already planted and of the future tree plantings.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will stock the restored river reach for opening day of trout fishing season, the first Saturday in April. Due to restoration construction, the Commission suspended stocking of hatchery trout in the summer of 2018. According to Commission officials, this portion of the river will be stocked with trout in March; restocked twice during April and May, and once in June and July.

The improved aquatic habitat means more places for trout to call home and a sustained fishery throughout the spring and summer," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "We restored the river in the fall and winter months to minimize impacts on fishing and other recreation that occurs at Gill State Forest."

For fishing and hiking enthusiasts, visitor parking is available just off Linville Falls Highway, adjacent to the high-water bridge. This summer, a river trail and self-interpretation kiosks will be established to inform forest visitors about the many benefits of river restoration. You can learn more about the restoration by visiting the N.C. Forest Service website.

Read the closure announcement for DuPont State Recreational Forest and Holmes Educational State Forest.

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Feburary 7, 2020

Remember safety first when cleaning up storm debris

RALEIGH – Recent severe storms resulted in damaged and downed trees and a lingering threat of wind and flooding. The N.C. Forest Service is encouraging homeowners and anyone looking to clean up after a storm to exercise caution and think safety first. "Everyone should be extra cautious when assessing storm damage," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler."If you’re a landowner concerned about your woodlands, talk to your county ranger or a consulting forester who can help you determine if you need a plan for managing damaged timber."

Unless a damaged tree is a safety risk, tree removal decisions can come later after the storm cleanup. After a storm, hasty or emotional decisions about damaged trees can result in unnecessary removals or drastic pruning decisions. The following are some basic guidelines:

Debris cleanup
  • Cleaning up downed debris presents many safety risks, including a debris field making for poor footing and potentially downed electric lines. If electrical wires are an issue, do not attempt tree work. Contact your utility company and let them remove the electrical wires. If you use a chainsaw, do so in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Work only on the ground and always wear personal protective equipment such as a hard hat and hearing and eye protection. Be aware of cutting any branches under tension or pressure.
Perform a general safety inspection of your trees
  • Is the soil around the base of the tree lifting or cracking? This may be an indication the tree may be falling over. Saturated soils and high winds can lead to uprooted trees. Long periods of standing water can cause additional stress and mortality.
  • Look up into the canopy of the tree. Are there any cracked, split or broken hanging branches?
  • These problems will need to be inspected and addressed by a qualified arborist.
Tree Pruning vs. Tree Removal
  • Trees that have lost branches and are not an immediate hazard may be preserved with corrective pruning. This decision does not need to be made immediately and should wait until after the cleanup. Again, a qualified arborist should inspect the tree to assist you in making your decision.

Choose a qualified and insured tree service or consulting arborist. To find qualified arborists in your area, visit The International Society of Arboriculture at www.treesaregood.com, the American Society of Consulting Arborists at www.asca-consultants.org, or the Tree Care Industry Association at www.treecareindustry.org.

You can get more information and advice on proper tree care and tree assessment following a storm on our site and following the links to storm recovery under forest health. Additional advice on proper tree care can be found on the N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program webpage or by calling 919-857-4842.

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