This week, one of my favorite organizations turned 40 years old. Prairie Plains Resource Institute came to being through the vision of Bill and Jan Whitney. The two of them, along with a group of friends, had a big vision and the courage and persistence to make it a reality. The result is a terrific non-profit conservation organization that is focused on protecting local prairies, conservation education, and prairie restoration.
Most of the high quality prairie restoration work happening in Nebraska can be traced back to the pioneering work of Bill Whitney. That absolutely includes the restoration work I’ve done. One of the most fortunate aspects of my career is that I got to spend a lot of time learning from Bill during my first several years as a professional. Several years ago, Prairie Plains passed the 10,000 acre mark for their restoration program. That’s not too bad for an effort that started with a coffee can full of seed and a dream.
The conservation education work done by Prairie Plains has also been very influential around the state, but has especially been valuable for the hundreds of local kids (including mine) who have gone through the SOAR summer program, as well as many others. Jan, Bill, and a large group of staff and dedicated volunteers have set a very high standard that others tried to emulate. All the kids that have interacted with Prairie Plains have come away with not just a better understanding of nature, but a better understanding and connection to the history and culture of the landscape they are growing up in.
Perhaps most important, however, are the local community prairie preserves established and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute. Especially in east-central Nebraska, there are high quality prairies that exist today only because Prairie Plains stepped in to save them. Even better, they make those prairies available to those of us who live nearby. This part of the state is heavily dominated by row crop agriculture. It’s a productive use of the land, but it’s also important to retain the remnants of prairie we still have, both for the ecological value of those sites and for our own recreation, connection to place, and emotional health. I’m beyond grateful to have the good fortune of living very near several Prairie Plains prairies.
In that vein, today’s post highlights some of my favorite photos that have come from prairies owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute. I have many thousands of images taken from those sites, including all the images from my recent Square Meter Photography Project, which was located at Lincoln Creek Prairie, right here in Aurora. I hope you enjoy this small selection of what Prairie Plains Resource Institute has helped conserve. If you’re not aware of the organization, please check out their new website to learn more. Bill and Jan recently retired from the organization, but their new director and the incredible staff are continuing to sustain the very important mission and activities of the organization.