Illinois prairie of yesteryear

All but gone

My bike rides routinely take me to Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, home to a decent swatch of prairie restoration. It’s small lake of the tall grasses, flowers and red-wing blackbirds that once formed an ocean as far as the eye could see across this state.

Today, we have settled the land, replacing the prairie with corn and our homesteads with neatly packed towns. Our yards are short grasses that we try our damndest to keep short.

In the process we’ve compromised our ecosystems, forcing us to rely more on biotech farming and synthetic fertilizer. We’ve watched nutrients be leeched from the soil or washed into our rivers. We’ve taken too much, in our quest to feed our cattle and our cars.

I vote for more returning to native plants, for more prairie restoration, for more preserving land for all creatures; Aldo Leopold saw the problems decades ago when he wrote about riding a bus across Illinois.

And so have countless of other scientists, conservationists, nature lovers and people lucky enough to experience the beauty of Illinois prairie that is now mostly confined to parks and the occasional highway embankment.

Tags: , , , , , , ,