Prescribed Barren Burn

For thousands of years, fire was a component of the natural forces that shape our landscape and create opportunities for a diversity of species. The Wabanaki regularly used fire as a tool to improve habitat for hunting and gathering and clearing land for agriculture. As modern towns and residences spread across the landscape, fire has been increasingly suppressed out of concern for human safety and property protection, but this suppression has been to the detriment of certain species and habitat types.

Locally, Brunswick has several naturally occurring habitat types that are now extremely rare, in large part because of fire suppression. Two examples include Pitch Pine dominated forests, such as the remnant stands in the Brunswick Town Commons, and Sandplain Grasslands such as those surrounding Brunswick Landing and the Brunswick High School. As these habitats became rare, species that depend on them became scarce, including a number of lesser-known moths and butterflies as well as songbirds and many plants. But in recent decades, fire is increasingly being used again across Maine to help restore the few remaining examples of these habitats, particularly where it is possible to conduct burns in a safe, controlled fashion.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) worked with the Maine Forest Service and the Brunswick Fire Department in the spring of 2013 to conduct a successful limited burn on northern portions of the sandplain grasslands located on Crystal Spring Farm and visible from the Brunswick High School (accessible from Pleasant Hill Road). BTLT protected this area for its ecological value and potential for blueberry production with contributions from its membership. Since 2013, BTLT has had plans for rotational burns, but due to weather conditions and other variables no more recent burns have been conducted.

This year, BTLT is again working with the Maine Forest Service and Brunswick Fire Department to coordinate a burn on 14-acre portion of thier blueberry barren at Crystal Spring Farm. The area is located south of Pleasant Hill Road and east of Maquoit RoadThe burn will likely be conducted sometime between mid-March and mid-April on a weekday when the Forest Service and Fire Department determine that weather conditions for a controlled burn are optimal. The Maine Forest Service will post signs in the area on the day of the burn, and the trails will be closed south of Pleasant Hill Road on Crystal Spring Farm. 

The Maine Forest Service and Brunswick Fire Department are invaluable collaborators in this project. Their contribution of expertise and personnel are making the restorative burn possibleIn addition, this controlled burn offers a valuable training opportunity for their staff.  

As the owner and steward of Crystal Spring Farm, the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is conducting this burn to ensure that this unique barren persists for future generations (of both humans and other species) to enjoy.  We hope to continue periodic burns in this area as long as we are able to do so safely and efficiently. If you have questions, feel free to call the BTLT office at (207) 729-7694.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, established in 1985, has conserved 64 properties totaling 3,130 acres, and created much loved community resources including the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Crystal Spring Farm, Tom Settlemire Community Garden, and Labyrinth in the Woods.

The Land Trust was one of the first in Maine to receive Land Trust Alliance accreditation and has become a leader and innovator in developing diverse ways to strengthen the community through conservation, robust partnerships, and dedicated stewardship. To learn more or get involved, please visit us at!  

The burn is supported by grant funding from Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund 


“Controlling Fire” – Maine Forest Service and Brunswick Fire Dept ensuring the burn is controlled. 

Active fire  Maine Forest Service and Brunswick Fire Dept. managing the burn