Sunday, June 8, 2008

Out There in the Great Plains

Connecting with nature on the Great Plains? Yup, and worth doing.

The idea of rewilding the West takes its inspiration from two professors, Frank and Deborah Popper. In an essay written two decades ago in the journal Planning, they suggested restoring the Upper Midwest to its native state, which they called the Buffalo Commons, and largely replacing agriculture in the region with eco-tourism.

While many Western conservationists do not agree with elements of the Buffalo Commons, preservation efforts have taken off. The American Prairie Foundation, a group dedicated to creating prairie wildlife reserves, has been buying up land in Montana and reintroducing wild American bison, which had largely vanished in the region. Another nonprofit group, the Great Plains Restoration Council is helping to preserve open land in South Dakota. Private landowners, too, have been buying land to return it to open space — Ted Turner, who owns some two million acres of Western land concentrated in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota and Oklahoma, has helped restore bison herds on his property.