National Geographic : 1980 Jan
Vehemently opposed to the park are the Flint Hills ranchers. KEEP THE GRASSLANDS FREE read bumper stickers on their cattle trucks. The ranchers fear government con demnation of their land and the changes an influx of tourists might bring to their thinly populated region. They argue that they're already preserving the prairie-in the form of ranches. The prairie arouses strong emotions. When I survey the world from a prairie hill top, as shadows edge out into wooded val leys and the meadowlark sings its lilting song, what I feel is pure exhilaration. I be lieve my grandfather Dennis Farney must have felt it too, although mingled with fear and loneliness; a Kansas sodbuster in the 1880s, he traded a job in New York City for a sod dugout on a windswept Kansas divide. I grew up three miles from that central Kansas dugout, on a wheat farm that re tained two small prairies, slightly degraded. I own them now. And although I live half a continent away, in suburban Washington, D. C., I work on them each spring. There's something innately satisfying about plant ing seeds in the awakening earth. A growing number of people share my en thusiasm. The 1970s have brought a great surge of prairie preservation and prairie res toration activity, a phenomenon seemingly bound up with some larger national search for continuity and permanence. I examined that phenomenon recently, returning to Can the TallgrassPrairieBe Saved?