Courtesy of the Missouri Prairie Foundation
By Martin W. Schwartz
Back in the early 1800s—about the time that Missouri was becoming the twenty-fourth state—tallgrass prairies covered more than fifteen million acres in the Show-Me State. Today, fewer than ninety thousand scattered acres of prairie exist here.
For forty-nine years, the Missouri Prairie Foundation has been working to protect and restore prairie and other native grasslands. This summer, the foundation dedicated two prairies that it purchased this past fall: Linden’s Prairie in Lawrence County and Pleasant Run Creek Prairie in Vernon County. With these acquisitions, the Missouri Prairie Foundation now owns more than three thousand total acres of prairie in eighteen different tracts for public enjoyment and nature conservation.
“We have less than one-tenth of one percent remaining of that fifteen million acres in Missouri, and we know that temperate grasslands globally are one of the least conserved, most threatened major terrestrial ecosystems in the world,” says Carol Davit, executive director of the foundation. “Every piece that we can protect in Missouri not only has statewide significance, it also has national significance and even global significance.”
Prairies support hundreds, if not thousands, of different life forms above and below ground, many of which directly benefit humans, Carol says. For example, many of the pollinating insects found on prairies also pollinate our food crops. Prairie roots are also excellent mechanisms for storing carbon to help offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
For more information on the new prairies or to help support Missouri Prairie Foundation, go to moprairie.org.