Well, I have bad news and good news.
About a month ago, I wrote about a modified version of The North American Prairie Conference planned for this summer. It was going to contain a weekend of prairie events in Lincoln, a two day workshop on the conservation of fragmented prairies, and some field trips to eastern Nebraska prairies. The bad news is that I was notified this week that the workshop has been cancelled.
Don’t walk away yet, though! The good news is that a few of us have scrambled to put together the same basic workshop on the same days and have just moved it an hour or so west. The weekend of prairie events is still in play, but I’ll let others talk about whether and how that will happen. This won’t be officially linked to the North American Prairie Conference so we’ll come up with a good snappy title for it.
Here’s what’s going to happen with the workshop (July 25-26, 2022). Two organizations, The Nature Conservancy and Prairie Plains Resource Institute, will host the workshop at their respective locations west of Lincoln. We’re going to make it as streamlined as we can to get all the good out of it without making the logistics challenging for either hosts or participants. People will be on their own for lodging and food and we’re not going to have a keynote speaker or formal presentations from participants.
Instead, we’ll have a series of topics we think will be relevant and we’ll have field-based discussions of those topics at a variety of sites. We’ll record the key points and ideas from those conversations and share them with a broader audience through this blog and other means. If you’ve ever attended a workshop of the Grassland Restoration Network, this will have a similar vibe. (I’m planning to attend both this year!) Both meetings are a great way to get to know other conservation folks and to share ideas while looking at sites and projects. You’ll learn from both the site hosts and other participants who chime in with what they’ve experienced and learned from their own projects.
The topics will be within the same theme as the earlier-planned workshop. Here’s how I described it before, which will remain accurate: “It will focus on the many challenges facing tallgrass prairies across the Midwest and eastern Great Plains of North America. Those challenges include daunting grassland stewardship issues that are exacerbated by habitat fragmentation, climate change, and more. However, the workshop will also include discussions about the need to engage the public in prairie conservation and find ways to bring both people and prairies into the future together.”
I want to acknowledge that the Natural Areas Association is hosting a very similarly-themed workshop in Minnesota a week prior to the one we’ll be hosting. The two were developed independently, so it’s clearly subject matter people care about. We don’t want to compete with that workshop, so please visit their website to learn about and sign up for theirs if you like – if nothing else, it looks like it will cover a much broader array of geography than ours. Maybe there will be a way to pull together some lessons from both workshops and build upon each others’ discussions.
Watch this space for the specific details of our workshop within the next few weeks, including an RSVP process, but here’s what you need to know for sure:
July 25, 2022: 12:30pm – 5:30pm at the Prairie Plains Resource Institute’s Whitney Education Center and Gjerloff Prairie near Marquette, Nebraska. Optional evening hikes at other nearby prairies.
July 26, 2022: 8am to 3pm (approximately) at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies south of Wood River, Nebraska. Bring your own lunch.
We will have indoor space (including bathrooms) at both locations but will spend most of our time outdoors, so be prepared for that. Everyone will be responsible for their own lodging and food. There are numerous hotel options in Grand Island, which is located between the two main sites. Hotels, bed & breakfasts, and other options are also available in Aurora and other nearby communities. There are some good restaurant options in Aurora for the evening of the 25th, as well as many more options to the west in Grand Island.
I know there were people already planning to attend the workshop in Lincoln. I hope you’ll be willing to slightly adjust your target location and join us a little to the west. I’m excited about this workshop and look forward to some robust conversations about the shared issues we all face as we work to conserve prairies in fragmented landscapes. Both Prairie Plains and the Conservancy have long experience with conservation in Nebraska prairies and have sites that showcase both some big challenges and some innovative solutions.
The earlier plan for the North American Prairie Conference had also included field trips around eastern Nebraska on Wednesday July 27. We will be reaching out to organizations to see if they’d still like to host field trips on that day and, if so, will provide contact information in our next update. If you’re reading this and are at a site that wants to be included on that list of potential field trips, please reach out to me!