A close up shot of an orange monarch butterfly sitting on small lavender-colored wildflowers with yellow centers.

caring for nature

We love saving land, but we think it’s just the first step. In fact, our commitment to caring for nature is one of the reasons why Natural Lands owns so much land (and are always acquiring more)… so we can actively enrich and restore our preserves, balancing the needs of nature and her visitors.

And there’s a long history behind the stewardship work we do; techniques and timing, skill and science. After 60+ years and 22,000+ acres, we’ve learned quite a bit. Nature is an excellent teacher.

Two raccoons peek out from a lush cover of green leaves.

growing a forest

When Europeans first explored Pennsylvania, trees covered 90 percent of the territory. By 1850, millions of acres had been cleared for farming, timber, and firewood. Today, we continue to lose our forests to development. This loss of forest has a devastating impact on the wildlife that depend on them for shelter, food, and breeding.

On many of our preserves, we are returning former farm fields to forests by planting trees—thousands of them! As they grow, they will prevent erosion and provide critical forest habitat for birds, bugs, and beyond.

Water falling over rocks in a stream.

by the water's edge

Even the smallest creeks are part of huge interconnected watersheds that are vital to both nature and people. The Delaware River Watershed alone provides drinking water for nearly 1.5 million residents!

One of the ways we work to improve water quality of the creeks that meander through our preserves is to take better care of the adjacent land, known as the riparian buffer. By planting trees and shrubs in this area, we can “buffer” the stream from anything that flows into it, including polluted water, eroding soil, or toxic chemicals. The plants’ roots also help stabilize the creek banks, which helps to control erosion.

A person holding a can of fuel walks next to a fire line in a feild.

controlling invasives

Ever since people started to arrive in America, they’ve carried along trees, flowers, and vegetables from other places. Now there are so many of those plants, they are crowding out the native ones that were here from the start. Fewer of the right plants mean fewer bugs, and fewer bugs mean fewer birds and other animals.

Exploring and employing an array of techniques to control the spread of invasives on our preserves is one of Natural Lands’ priorities.

One effective approach is the use of fire to control woody invasives, like multiflora rose and Oriental bittersweet, in our meadows. Prescribed burning controls non-native plant species, removes leaves and other organic matter, and creates soil conditions that favor native species.

Tall grasses against a setting sun.

sowing seeds

In the early 20th century, changes in agricultural technology and population growth caused a decline in grassland meadows. At many of our preserves, we have been working to re-establish these once plentiful habitats by transforming retired farm fields to grasslands.

Native warm- and cool-season grasses are particularly valuable as nesting areas and food sources for birds such as Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Eastern Bluebird—all of whose populations have been in decline nationally due to loss of habitat but are thriving on Natural Lands’ preserves.

A hand holds a branch with green leaves.

we wrote the book on caring for land

Learn from Natural Lands experts and improve the health of your own backyard habitat. Decades of natural resource management experience are captured in this handy resource, which is available for download or purchase.

learn more