Environment: A Preserve of Splendid Grass

The Park Service faces a battle to save the prairie

"At first, when we were told of these treeless lands, I imagined that it was a country ravaged by fire, where the soil was so poor that it could produce nothing. But we have certainly observed the contrary; and no better soil can be found, either for corn, or for vines, or for any fruit whatever."

When Louis Jolliet wrote these prophetic words, after a 1673 voyage on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, the great tallgrass prairie of central North America covered a quarter of a billion acres, a shimmering sea of grass stretching from what is now Indiana to Kansas,...

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