SCHNECKSVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The crew at Trexler Nature Preserve is committed to the health and natural grown of the park and that means combating invasive plant growth to ensure wildlife and plant life can live together in harmony.
One of the main invasive species that they battle with is Autumn Olive, which is a deciduous shrub that is native to Asia. The Autumn Olive dominates portions of the park and chokes out native plants around it.
The best way to rid the park of this shrub is by using a technique the Pennsylvania Game Commission calls prescribed fires.
Prescribed fires are carefully executed burns that can be used to top kill unwanted plants and shrubbery. The entire process is carefully planned and mapped out prior to the crew even arriving.
The weather conditions have to be perfect, temperature, wind and the amount of sunlight all have to be just right.
"We are using prescribed fire and our drone to run ignition on a 180 acre burn unit," said William Carr, Land Manager with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The ground crews lay a perimeter around their targeted area to contain the fire. In order to safely ignite the center, a pilot uses their specialized drone that drops fire starting pellets into precise targeted areas.
Carr says prescribed fires are an better alternative to traditional methods.
"So we don't get stuck in this endless loop of herbicide and mechanical management, we reset the clock so to speak, with prescribed fire" he said.
Pennsylvania burn season typically runs from August until mid-May as long as conditions are met. These prescribed fires have been taking place for over a decade at Trexler and Carr says they will continue due to the positive results.
Within a few months, these smoldering fields will return to seas of natural, healthy green growth.
Neighbors in the surrounding area are able to sign up for alerts so that they know when a prescribed burn is being enacted.
For more information:
Pennsylvania Game Commission: Prescribed Fires