A Prairie Anniversary
2013 marked the 20th year since The Nature Conservancy established a program office in Aurora, Nebraska.
December 30, 2013
A letter from Chris Helzer, Eastern Nebraska Program Director
The Aurora office of The Nature Conservancy has been about testing and sharing ideas since the very beginning. Before I joined the office in 1997, Brent Lathrop had that process well underway, with multiple demonstration projects focused on converting marginally-productive crop fields to prairies that were both ecologically and agriculturally productive. When I joined the Conservancy as a land steward, I was strongly encouraged to be experimental in everything I did, and to look for ways that our land management could pioneer ideas others might be able to use. It was a pretty good job for a kid, and I took it seriously.
Download a timeline and photos here.
Twenty years ago, we were experimenting with concepts that are now widely accepted, and that may be the greatest testament to our success. Along with many partners, we have helped to hone and demonstrate the methods of restoring cropfields to very diverse prairie plant communities – and then worked with state and federal agencies to make those methods accessible for private landowners. We were among the early proponents of prescribed fire as a valuable management tool for grasslands (and woodlands) and have helped make that tool more widely accepted. Our most important work may be our experimentation with the use of fire and cattle grazing to create wildlife habitat, suppress invasive species, and – most importantly – to maintain the species diversity and resilience of prairies. We’ve shared what we’ve learned in as many ways as we can, through presentations and field tours, and through books, websites, magazine articles, and the Prairie Ecologist blog. However, the best way to find outmore about our work is to come visit our Platte River Prairies and see for yourself. Join us on one of our annual summer field days or volunteer work days, or just come out and explore our hiking trails through prairies full of diverse wildlife and wildflowers.
I hope to see you on the prairie! -Chris
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org