Sunday, September 28, 2008

All conservation is local

A few items of local interest:

The National Audubon Society, which manages the Spring Creek Prairie near Denton, has requested that portions of two dirt roads (total mileage: 1.1) along the edge of the property be vacated. This is, in my opinion, an entirely reasonable request. With over 98% of the original tallgrass prairie gone, we should do everything we can to save and enhance what is left. The county engineer, however, foresees a time when this portion of SW 86th Street might be needed for an arterial highway. A highway, here?!? I don't make it out to Spring Creek as often as I should—the last time, I think, was last summer, when Ellie and I participated in a butterfly count—but it's one of the best (and one of the very few) remaining tallgrass prairies in the Lincoln area. If we can't work around a gem like this, we've really screwed the pooch. Here are links to an article and an editorial from the Journal Star.

National Geographic photographer (and Lincoln resident) Joel Sartore—whose website I highly recommend, by the way—makes a good case in the Prairie Fire newspaper for saving the critically endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle, which is endemic to a constellation of small sites just north of Lincoln. This spring, the city of Lincoln was awarded grants for habitat conservation and restoration by the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Still, there is a lot of local opposition (notably from those with commercial real-estate interests) to protecting "just a bug", even when it's explained that the beetle is emblematic of an entire unique ecosystem. Like Lincoln isn't expanding too rapidly already...

Moving slightly farther afield, and on a happier note, an easement agreement will preserve Pahuk Hill near Fremont, a site of both natural and cultural importance. Dave Sands, executive director of the Nebraska Land Trust, describes the location as "where the west begins" since this bluff represents the westernmost occurrence of several trees and other plant species. In addition, traditional healers of the Pawnee Indians long revered Pahaku (sometimes Anglicized as Pohocco) as the site of an animal lodge, where herbal medicines were revealed by animal spirits to the healers.


Henry Chappell said...

Nice post, Mark. We have a similar situation here in North Texas, where our tallgrass prairie - known as the Blackland Prairie - has been reduced to a few remnant plots. It's very depressing.

As for the "just a bug" argument, I'm afraid this clash of values is going to get a lot uglier.

mdmnm said...

What a great thing to have (and preserve!) a spot "where the West begins". Hope the battle over the road closures goes well.