EBCI Natural Resources is embarking on a three-year project to restore forest conditions on a 221-acre tract of Tribal Reserve near Bigwitch Gap.

The project is part of $85,000 in forest restoration and development funding obtained from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). At the Bigwitch site, we will be conducting a prescribed understory burn, planting white oak and native pine, and using targeted thinning to help existing trees flourish. We will also be working to thoroughly document forest conditions before, during, and after the work — from timber to cultural plants to breeding birds.

The funding also includes money for treatment of invasive plant species on three possessory holder parcels. Invasive plants such as bittersweet, multiflora rose, and kudzu are capable of choking out native vegetation. Their removal can help with forest regeneration and create more habitat for key cultural plants.

A legacy of high-grading and fire suppression has left poor-quality timber and wildlife habitat across much of the Qualla Boundary. The EBCI Forest Resources Office has worked over the last few years to assemble a series of forest management plans to guide restoration and development. Now, with these projects, we’re starting to implement these plans — restoring both commercial and ecological value to EBCI’s forested lands.

Are you a possessory holder with forested land? Contact Maria Dunlavey to find out more about opportunities to do this kind of work on your land: maridunl@nc-cherokee.com / (828) 788-3628.