Although most think of Kansas in reference to golden wheat fields, there is another aspect of Kansas that anchors our history as a state – the prairie. That is the ecosystem that was conquered by the plow; it is the native land that was lost as the grasses became farmland and eventually cities. It is that part of Kansas that we are now trying to restore and preserve. The prairie has stolen our hearts.
It is not easy making a living on ranch land, especially if it is done right and with conservation practices to protect the grasses. New sciences now tell us that some of our old practices are destructive and we are trying to both profit and conserve. Dioum, a poet and conservationist, once wrote,
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.”
And so I joined my fellow naturalists this week to learn about the prairie – the biota, the ecosystem, the preservation of the precious root systems while grazed, and the need for pollination. I already love what I have – even if it is only thirty-eight acres of mid and short grass prairie – and now, I want to understand it. It is precious to me, as a shelter for animal and bird life, and as a remnant of the Great Plains Prairie that I am a part of.
The tallgrass prairie is well known and is now a national preserve. There is now a Prairie Discover Center near Junction City ( http://www.flinthillsdiscovery.org/index.php) and there is a Konza Prairie Center (http://keep.konza.ksu.edu/visit/). This weekend I will be a volunteer at the prairie preservation effort of “Symphony in the Flint Hills,” www.symphonyintheflinthills.org), a unique and unforgettable esperience for all who participate.
Our Kansas prairies are a personal interest - I hope we each have one that holds this precious earth as sacred land. My efforts go to prairies, but also all of nature. We hold that responsibility in our hands as earth dwellers. I am enjoying doing my tiny little part to leave a good earth to our children so that they too will conserve because they love - because the understand - because they were taught. Our examples and our teaching are what we have to give.