trial by fire.
Prescribed burning is an ancient land steward-ship technique that mimics the process of natural wildfires. Many landscapes—including native grasslands, oak-hickory forests, and serpentine barrens—depend on periodic fires to maintain native plants and keep invasive vegetation at bay. These fires are referred to as “prescribed burns” because they act like medicine for areas whose health—including the animals and insects that live in them—is threatened by the aggressive growth of non-native plants.
For more than two decades, fire has been part of Natural Lands’ comprehensive approach to land stewardship. Our staff members receive rigorous training in wildland fire behavior, firefighting techniques, and fire safety protocols.
Natural Lands’ program integrates with the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the
Bureau of Forestry, and the Pennsylvania Prescribed Fire Council Steering Committee.
The crew, which includes six women, is recognized as one of the most experienced and skilled wildland fire teams in the region.
“When I participated in my first controlled burn in 2018, I was one of just two women on the crew,” said Preserve Manager Erin Smith. “Women are underrepresented in the land management industry, so I appreciate Natural Lands’ efforts to provide career pathways for women in stewardship.”
Added Erin, “My male colleagues are fantastic and have fostered an environment of safety and communication. It’s great to be a part of a more diverse crew. Like in nature, diversity makes