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Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Building on a 75-Year Legacy of Land Conservation


Land Stewardship Family Style:
A First-Person Account

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has stewardship responsibility for a vast amount of property: 142 tracts of land across Western Pennsylvania that range in size from a one-acre fen to an 11,000-acre conservation easement. WPC would not be able to accomplish its stewardship goals without the assistance of trained volunteer land stewards who monitor changes in land conditions and identify any threats to natural resources or health and human safety. Our Land Stewards:

  • provide a consistent presence for the organization on the land
  • communicate land use policies and guidelines to natural area visitors
  • assist with land management activities such as dump cleanups and invasive exotic species control.

Members of the Krater family have been land stewards at WPC’s Bear Run Nature Reserve in Fayette County for eight years and have made their volunteer efforts regular family outings. Here, the Kraters provide their account of the life of a WPC land steward family.

Hello from McClellandtown, Fayette County. We have had the good fortune of being land stewards for WPC since 2000. We’ve been trained and are responsible for monitoring a section of the 5,000 acres on the Bear Run Nature Reserve in Mill Run. We say “good fortune” because it has been nothing but a positive experience for ourselves and our three children (Emma Jayne 21, Rita 18, and Wyatt 9), who more often than not join us in our monitoring visits and work days. When we began stewarding the land, Wyatt was a toddler and would regularly ride on one of our backs during monitoring visits.

We signed on for the land steward program after reading about it and felt that it was a good way for us to become more active in the Conservancy. Leslie’s mother had already been trained and was volunteering as a WPC land steward, so we had a pretty good idea of what was ahead for us.

While being land stewards has enabled our family to help the environment and the WPC, we feel each of us has been more greatly enriched for the experience. Our appreciation for nature has grown substantially and we've learned a great deal about our Western Pennsylvania plants and animals from WPC staff and the many knowledgeable fellow volunteers we’ve met along the way. We’ve cultivated strong friendships over the years as well, meeting people who are deeply committed to appreciating and protecting what we have here in Western Pennsylvania. The WPC staff have been wonderful.

Since we are Bear Run land stewards, we have been able to work closely with Sarah Pears, WPC’s land stewardship assistant and the creator of the Bear Run Conservation Plan. It’s exciting to see how the Bear Run Nature Reserve is beginning to benefit in many ways from her efforts on the grounds.

Although our kids tease us that we seem to have a knack for picking days to monitor the Bear Run Nature Reserve that seem to encourage precipitation, we wouldn't trade the experiences we have had being WPC land stewards for anything.

For more information on WPC’s Land Stewardship Program, email Andy Zadnik at azadnick@paconserve.org or call 412-586-2318.