Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Sarah’s Advertisements of the Week

This post was written by Hubbard Fellow Sarah Lueder. She’s been playing with prairie slogans and asking other staff to help. In this post, she brings you into that world too. Enjoy! – Chris

Anyone who is open with their love for prairies is bound to be met with a less than enthusiastic response occasionally. I am guessing that is why Chris’s recent post, The Tribulations of a Prairie Evangelist, resonated with this audience. Inspired by the poster at the end of the post, I wanted to create more visuals that leaned into the fact that the uninitiated might have low expectations for prairies. I asked some of the Nature Conservancy staff to come up with some tongue-in-cheek slogans to help with this. Here are some of my favorites, made into very motivational posters.

Ok, admittedly, not everyone is even going to agree with this one. Some people are just going to like a short, cropped monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass more than a prairie. BUT, I would like to see them look over a field of waving big bluestem and Indian grass at sunset while a meadowlark sings nearby and a crisp wind rolls across the plains and tell me that a lawn is better. Maybe it still would be to them. If they liked being wrong.

This reminds me of a quote from Suzanne Winckler’s Prairie: A North American Guide (2004): “A prairie requests the favor of your closer attention. It does not divulge itself to a mere passerby.” Very wise, Winckler, and might I add, “Unlike forests, the most divulging of the ecosystems.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a forest! Just like the next person.

We all had our own path to prairies. Maybe it was an introduction from a friend, a meaningful moment on a hiking trail, or a class that turned your attention towards them. But I think it’s time that we champion a new prairie species to bring people in. That’s right… ticks! When it’s tick season they will be sure to do their best to welcome you with a hug and be right by your side as you explore. Admittedly, they can be a little clingy, but they were the most eager volunteers.  

I could amend this one to say “Prairies: the Midwest yard you don’t have to mow… but you can if you think that will bring you closer to your management objectives… or you can light it on fire if you want… or graze it… or do a combination of those things… just make sure you have some type of disturbance though.” However, for the sake of graphic design, I will leave it as is.

How do you draw people into prairies? Botanical accuracy! Just kidding. I don’t want to scare people away from prairies by throwing words like “forb” around. It’s all about meeting people where they are.

That’s the last of them, and now that you are filled to the brim with inspiration, I am sure you are wondering how to put it to use. To that I say, keep spreading the good word about prairies, however irreverent and sardonic it may be. To start, you might create your own slogan, and leave it in the comments!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

11 thoughts on “Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Sarah’s Advertisements of the Week

  1. Loved the “Come out and play–Ticks” slogan. Several years ago we spent May to September near Minot, ND. Every couple weeks we would take our bikes to Lostwood NWR and ride the hike/bike trail enjoying the quiet and the changes in the vegetation, and watching the birds raising their families. Our routine when we got back to the truck was to take off all our clothes, then remove all the ticks from the clothes and ourselves before getting the vehicle. Even with careful tick checks, on many drives home I would catch a little movement from the corner of my eye. Yes, there would be a friendly tick that we had missed wanting to become a close buddy. Happily, they didn’t discourage us from continuing to visit that special prairie.

  2. Watching my pasture slowly revert back to prairie, I’ve come to realize that, like fine art, some knowledge of the background and the players helps in appreciation.

    I’m a big fan of nature walks and detailed signage — the educational art show.

    But there are certain scales that the prairie just doesn’t do well. At the macro level Chris’s closeups of bugs and bees and flowers show a that only the photographer, or person equipped with a hand lens sees. At the landscape level, the prairie can provide a fitting frame for a summer stormy sky. At sunset, long shadows from the land’s low relief extend pools of contrast

    But a lot of the prairie is just grass. And to many people, grass isn’t that interesting, especially from a distance, where the details of the seed heads. Yes there are forbs that bloom, but their flowers are small compared to the showy things bred for our garden, and they scurry through the life cycle in the hurry to make seeds, instead of pleasing horticulturalists.

    ***

    A new way is available for self guided nature tours now: The QR code. Put up a walk, a path. The sign at the station has illustrations, and a QR code. Most phone browsers now allow you to take a picture of the QR code and go to the website. AT this point you can have a narration about what people are seeing.

    This is MUCH easier to update with the seasons. Just a matter of dictating a new audio track, and uploading to a website.

  3. I guess I am starting to feel jaundiced about trying to get the general public to appreciate the nuances and subtleties of the natural world around them. I enjoy those posters. Not sure how to break through the fog of data that comes at people these days.

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