Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Few large ecosystems have been as radically impacted as the prairies of the American steppe. And while the shortgrass prairie of the high (western) plains retains some similarity to its precursor (the plant community is different and cattle have replaced bison), the native tallgrass (bluestem) prairie to the east has been all but eliminated by cultivation.

In the Flint Hills, rocky soils made cultivation of crops difficult, and this led to grazing rather than turning the soil. As a result, there remain some small patches of native prairie. Or at least small patches that with much work can be restored to native prairie. Here, just north of Strong City, the Nature Conservancy and The National Park Service are using various techniques, including fire, to recreate the original plant landscape.

I had imagined spending a pleasant hour or two wandering off into the high grasses, but it didn't quite work out that way. First, it was hot, very hot. Second, they were setting up for the upcoming Symphony in the Flint Hills, which meant that I had to walk a long way to get away from the backup beeps and the noise of trucks hauling gear up and down to the concert site.

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