In The Field

Preparing to meet the prairie chicken

The prairie was once one of the iconic ecosystems of North America. An undulating expanse of grasses, grazing bison and periodic cleansing fire stretching across hundreds of miles, it was called by “the inland sea” by James Fenimore Cooper. The prairie was also an obvious place to farm by removing a bouquet of native grasses and replacing them with rows of grasses dear to human stomachs—our domesticated grains. “Habitat loss” is too puny a term for what happened to the prairie. Only 4% of the original tallgrass prairie – the ecosystem most closely associated with the prairie chicken – remains. 

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