Marek Smith

Our People

Marek Smith

Director of North America Fire Initiative

Durham, North Carolina

  • Areas of Expertise

    fire ecology, land stewardship and restoration, networks, systems thinking, collaboration

Biography

With help from TNC staff and partners from across the United States, Marek directs support for several networks of site-based practitioners, scientists, traditional ecological knowledge keepers and communities who are working together to improve their relationship with fire.

Marek’s team leads TNC North America Region’s Living with Fire priority strategy and administers the Promoting Ecosystem Resilience and Fire Adapted Communities Together Phase II: Collaborative Engagement, Collective Action and Co-ownership of Fire (PERFACT II) Cooperative Agreement between TNC, USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior agencies. This agreement supports the Fire Learning Network, Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX) and Indigenous Peoples Burning Network.

Marek previously served as TNC’s U.S. Fire Learning Network Director and spent nearly a decade with the Virginia Chapter as the Allegheny Highlands Program Director, overseeing the organization’s conservation work in the western mountains of Virginia and serving as co-lead of the Central Appalachians Fire Learning Network. Before joining the Conservancy, he spent 11 years with Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, working as Environmental Education Supervisor and Natural Resources Coordinator. He grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, and earned a bachelor’s in biology from Virginia Tech and a master’s in biology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

Marek’s studies and early experiences helped him appreciate the tremendous degree to which indigenous peoples shaped vegetation in the U.S. and around the world. Today the Conservancy is partnering with tribes and other indigenous peoples to bring healing fire back to the people and places that depend on it. 

“Through our networks and related initiatives, we are building a movement of people – a movement that emphasizes fire as an essential ecological and cultural process that has shaped the diversity of life on this planet for millennia,” Marek says. “And we’re showing that it’s possible to enhance the health of forests, watersheds and grasslands, protect communities, create safer conditions for wildland firefighters, and boost local economies.”

Read more about our transformative strategy around fire.

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