How to save the prairie, acre by acre

Read the full story in the Washington Post Magazine.

The health of the prairie is vital. It maintains the state’s watersheds and supports two major agricultural exports: cattle, and the wheat that becomes the nation’s bread. Once North America’s largest ecosystem, the prairie now is rapidly shrinking: Less than 4 percent of the tallgrass prairie remains, according to the National Park Service, with most of it in Kansas, a state with very little public land.

That means that conserving the prairie is up to private landowners like Harder, along with farmers and ranchers. Harder and her husband, Bob, have made conservation their life mission, spending the last 30 years transforming 40 of their more than 100 acres in south-central Kansas into a native prairie preserve in their backyard. Biology students visit their property to learn about prairie flora, and the local arboretum, the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, depended on Harder’s donated native seed to diversify its offerings. “Few if any prairie plantings in the state have been fully restored using local ecotype seed,” says Brad Guhr, head of prairie restoration and education at the arboretum.

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