Grasslands are the most endangered and least protected ecosystem on the planet. Ranchers -- who are often, but not always, better stewards of the land -- can convert to row crops and increase their income many times over; this is happening in South Dakota and Nebraska at record paces as highly erodible lands unfit for farming are converted.
|Spring Creek Prairie -- Denton, NE
In 2014 I will be a native plant purist because so much is at stake, because so much is being lost not to hosta or daylily or butterfly bush (though I believe those are all junk plants), but to our lunacy.
It's my goal to be an Aldo Leopold Jr. to the extreme, yo.
Will my wife and I make the leap, find a way to buy an acreage and convert to prairie? Can we start a small nursery, create a display garden featuring only native plants? Will we host weddings, educational classes, and artist residencies down the road?
We've got our eyes set on Iowa for a move, though nothing is written in stone. Land is more available there, incentives are there for prairie and renewable energy, and there's a niche to fill (I can't tell you how many hundreds of websites I've visited). We'll see. It's crazy. We don't have the money. But it balloons my heart and soul and sets my mind on fire.
In my life every big risk I've taken has paid off in phenomenal ways -- going to college 12 hours from home (I am a momma's boy), studying abroad for a semester not knowing a soul, moving even further from home to do a master's degree, moving halfway across the country again to do a PhD. 2014 looks a lot like the word "risk." It feels about time again to feel as alive as I hope to make the landscapes around me.