A New Prairie Ad Campaign?

Nebraska announced its new tourism slogan last week (“Honestly, it’s not for everyone”), which is a self-deprecating approach many people appreciate and many others don’t. Personally, I like it.  If it works, it’ll be a win for humor and gentle self-mockery.  If it doesn’t, it’ll be a win for those of us who don’t want a lot more people crawling around here anyway.  I mean, what if some of them decide they want to MOVE here?  Good grief.

The new Nebraska slogan made me think that prairies probably need a better advertising campaign too.  If you ask most people to envision beautiful natural areas, they’re likely going to think about forests,  mountains, oceans, etc.  Prairies are going to be pretty far down that list, if not absent altogether.  As a result of this, we prairie advocates often feel a little insecure and defensive when trying to explain why prairies might be worth some consideration.

I tried to come up with a promotional approach that captured all of that angst and emotion in one neat little package.  For better or worse, here’s my proposed new slogan for prairies:

Prairies: Forests without all the pesky trees.

My slogan, of course, builds upon the famous saying, “Can’t see the forest for all the pesky trees.”  It’s a profound and thought-provoking saying, though it doesn’t go far enough.  It should really say, “Can’t see a dang thing for all the pesky trees.”

I suppose if you grew up in forests, you’d get used to not seeing sunsets, approaching storms, horizons, or anything else more than a stone’s throw away.  Maybe forest people develop a sense of direction that doesn’t rely on seeing the sun?  They probably take a lot of Vitamin D supplements too.

To those of us in prairie country, forests can feel incredibly confining, and claustrophobic.  There must be some advantages of hanging out where you can’t see past the next tree.  I just can’t think what they might be.

ANYWAY…here are a few examples of the kinds of advertisements we could distribute with my proposed new slogan…

I recognize that this slogan might not appeal to everyone.  On the other hand, I’m providing it for no cost, which is a lot cheaper than Nebraska’s new slogan.  If you don’t like it, you’re free to ignore it.  If you do like it, you’re free to steal it and use it yourself.  Or just share either this post, or individual images from it, with people you think might find it appealing.  Maybe don’t send it to any foresters…

(Regular readers of this blog will recognize that this post is written with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but for the rest of you (especially my forester friends), please be assured I’m not a tree hater.  I’m actually a big fan of trees; just not when they’re in my prairies.  I even enjoy walking through forests – for brief periods – especially when there’s a clear trail to follow so I don’t get lost…)

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

40 thoughts on “A New Prairie Ad Campaign?

  1. This made me laugh, because I recently spent a few days in the piney woods of East Texas, and it was odd at best to not be able to see the sky unless I looked straight up. It’s quite a different world, for sure.

    I happened to read about Nebraska’s new slogan, and really like it. I suppose that’s a sign that Nebraska is for me — whenever I can get there. I like your prairie slogan, too, although I was surprised by ‘pesky.’ I’ve never heard the saying with that word included. It makes your slogan even more amusing.

  2. Brought a smile to my face for sure. I was raised in New Mexico, another “wide-open spaces” region of our great land, and still remember visiting, as a child, both rural Missouri (where the trees literally hugged the edges of the roads and were so dense they were like a wall alongside it) and Chicago (where I could hardly walk down the streets, both because there were so many people AND because I was looking straight up, transfixed by the height of the skyscrapers). “Everything is beautiful in its own way . . . ” :)

  3. Some of us carry Nebraska in our hearts knowing it was for us, and wish we were still there. Beautiful pictures once again and they will be transported to my photos of Nebraska box.

    • Nebraska does not have much in the way of native prairie; but we DO have a crapload of native housing developments! So, if you want to move here and help destroy our state….welcome!

      • What a mean thing to say….she should come to W Nebraska, we have plenty of open space, prairie, grasslands and NO housing developments…we will welcome you at Crawford, Chadron, Valentine etc….pls get in your car and come – you will love it!

        • It’s not mean. It’s the very depressing truth. As for moving to Northwest NE, ….I wish!!!! It is my favorite part of the state. Sadly, the places that are the nicest do not have jobs that make enough money to care for a family. My husband needs his state job so we can have insurance.

          • Sorry about that – I live in Hot Springs, SD 20 miles from the border and 1 hr exactly to Toadstool…I spend most outdoor time in NE and vacationed 2X this year for the birds…NE is my life really! Sorry you are stranded somewhere….jobs suck that is for sure….I am retired…

  4. I had a laugh at the post! I also find the “new slogan” a bit odd, but funny. I like yours better! I also agree, heavens, do we really need more people to move here?
    Just a great post with awesome photos. I love prairies and the wide open spaces.

  5. I spend time in New England, and like it so much better once the leaves fall off the trees and I can actually see something.

    My prairie slogan: “Prairies, where you can actually see the sun set”. A sunset in the Mtns is just never the same. The sun drops behind the mountain when it is still a big ball of yellow.

    • My friend in Rhode Island came out one year to go to a PowWow in South Dakota and was blown away by our big skies!
      One year, my husband and I went on vacation to Yellowstone and I was feeling so hemmed in by all of the forest. :)

  6. Love your posts, always learn something. This one is so appropriate with the new advertising.
    Prairies are so understated in such a large, lovely gentle giant sort of way I didn’t know how beautiful prairie was until I went away. Just took it all for granted. Growing up in the city of Omaha and hadn’t experienced much of the country except for camp in Blair and that was not prairie, but memorable in its own way. Beautiful wide-open skies and “nothing really special” land. When I went to Colorado/Wyoming/Utah it’s all so beautiful in its own way, but I knew the grasslands were imprinted in my every fiber of DNA when I was driving back and when I started seeing, not tumbleweed, mountains and rocks, but grasslands and open sky, that I was home. We just need more of them. Honestly, you either get prairie or don’t. There’s no in-between. It’s just “grass” to some people.

  7. Love your slogan. I, too, become claustrophobic if I stay too long in the mountains or forested areas – as in, over a couple days, and I like to get back to where I can see where I’m going. “Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairie land,” says our state song (not the UN fight song). Thanks for the wonderful photos.

  8. Nebraska had always been the drive-thru or fly-over state. Indeed, living all my life in a wooded urban area right on the edge Lake Michigan.. if it didn’t have a lake and trees.. it wouldn’t be on my “want to visit” list. Over the years though I’ve visited more inland areas with restored prairies and savanahs, got involved with natural landscaping organizations and converted my own small urban lot into a prairie in the back and savanah/woodland opening in the front.
    I’ve yet to experience though the open expansive prairies you’ve described.
    Your new advertisements in this blog have convinced me to fly-to Nebraska not over.

  9. Love it! We have the same problem here on the prairies of Colorado – they seem to be the Rodney Dangerfield of ecosystems – they don’t get no respect!

  10. Great!!!! Audrey Wiegmann  913-302-2015(c)

    From: The Prairie Ecologist To: audrey.wiegmann@sbcglobal.net Sent: Monday, October 22, 2018 7:55 AM Subject: [New post] A New Prairie Ad Campaign? #yiv9450388102 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9450388102 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9450388102 a.yiv9450388102primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9450388102 a.yiv9450388102primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9450388102 a.yiv9450388102primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9450388102 a.yiv9450388102primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9450388102 WordPress.com | Chris Helzer posted: “Nebraska announced its new tourism slogan last week (“Honestly, it’s not for everyone”), which is a self-deprecating approach many people appreciate and many others don’t. Personally, I like it.  If it works, it’ll be a win for humor and gentle” | |

  11. How did the word “pesky” come to be associated with “trees?” When we saw a grandma live oak being felled for a parking lot expansion here in the South, my brother commented, “Oh, good. They’re getting rid of another one of those pesky trees.” Tongue glued to cheek.

  12. One of the comments mentioned Warren Least Heat Moon’s Prairy Erth. Remember the line, “You know prairie has you when you view a tree as an eyesore.”

  13. I wondered if I could come up with something as clever, Chris.

    Prairie – All flat and flowers.
    Prairie – The Promised Land land for grasshoppers.
    Prairie – Not just for corn and soybeans anymore.

    Nah, yours is better!

  14. I think part of the problem is we don’t market a driving tour of Nebraska’s great remaining prairies, and what makes each of them distinctive. Add to that, much of the land is privately held and not that accessible. There are also not that many amenities to make the trip enjoyable. I might suggest thinking boldly to establish a prairie trail/tour that connects and tells the story of our great prairie landscape, focusing on one or two corridors, perhaps along the Platte or Missouri, linking into the Sandhills, that have the best remaining landscapes, vistas, biodiversity, public areas, and supportive townships to make the trip interesting. Maybe connect it with the migrations of cougars through our state? Perhaps encourage Rewilding along these corridors? Just some thoughts. What I do know is that driving by endless miles of corn is emotionally deadening to me.

    • I love this idea but would prefer to visit prairies within 1-2 hours of an airport served by a major airlines. My days of static sitting all day in a car are over!

    • I appreciate your feedback. I hope tourism promoters, community activists, locavores, and conservationists are reading this. Dream big. Make it happen. Nebraska is a big, bold, beautiful, state with amazing potential and unfortunately conventional thinking.

  15. Ironically, the last big vacation I took was to Nebraska. I now live in Illinois. I wanted to show my wife things like the Platte River, Chimney Rock, Wildcat Hill Recreation Area, Fort Robinson, Toadstool Geologic Park and other places I had visited when I was a kid. In the next couple of years I will probably take my children to visit these places.

    • Prairies: Forests without all the pesky trees
      Without all the trees, you don’t have to worry as much about something falling on you

  16. This was so timely! I just had to answer yet another question about why we don’t mow that “weed-infested field.” (Our little virgin prairie remnant is in the middle of a bustling suburb.) I’m about to give a presentation answering that question. I think I may lift one or two of your prairie ads to add a bit of humor to my talk, if that’s okay. For some reason, most who live here seem to think this area was all forest and the trees got cut down for development. It doesn’t make them nearly as sad to realize that it was actually the most endangered ecosystem in the U.S. that was dug up, with lots of “invasive” trees planted in those yards in place of prairie grasses and wildflowers.


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