Friday, January 1, 2010

Saving the Prairies

There was a time when much of the land North and West of Springfield was prairie extending as far as the eye could see.  Henry Rowe Schoolcraft looking just west of the James River around what is now Sunshine described it this way in 1818:
"The prairies, which commence at the distance of a mile west of this river, are the most extensive, rich and beautiful, of any which I have ever seen west of the Mississippi River.  They are covered by a coarse wild grass, which attains so great a height that it completely hides a man on horseback riding through it.  The deer and elk abound in this quarter, and the buffaloe is occasionally seen in drives upon the prairies and in the open highland woods."
Almost two centuries later, most of these lands have been developed, plowed or converted to fescue.   It takes a lot of effort to maintain the few remaining prairies in a world of crops and invasive species.  The Springfield Plateau Master Naturalists work with the Missouri Prairie Foundation to preserve these special areas for future generations.

Joe Kleiber and Buck Keagy recently spent the day assisting with a prescribed burn to maintain the Penn-Sylvania prairie in Dade County.   Joe had previously spent an two evenings blackening burn lanes around the edge of Schwartz Prairie, and finished the evening of December 1 by helping with that prescribed burn.  Pictures can't do this justice but we will still try.  For more information on these and other prairies, check out the Missouri Prairie Foundation.

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